Sarah Calderon: Changing Places, Changing Lives – Groundwork Richmond

blogimage.jpgI’m very lucky to live and work in Richmond, a community where nonprofit organizations work collaboratively with the community, government and schools to improve our local environment. More importantly, I get to work with young people and neighbors who care about our community. While there is so much to be done to overcome poverty, social injustice, and violence in our communities, I think it’s important to celebrate every little success and build upon them. I’ve seen our community come together to build parks, plant trees, clean neighborhoods, and take back the streets. My organization, Groundwork Richmond, is just one of many mobilizing people to effect change.

What is Groundwork Richmond? Founded in 2010,  Groundwork Richmond (GWR), is one of twenty groundwork sites throughout the country.  An environmental organization working on increasing the urban tree canopy and maintaining the Richmond greenway, GWR also provides leadership and job skill opportunities for our youth group we call our Green Team. 

Groundwork Richmond Board of Directors is led by Chairperson, Nancy Baer, who worked with local agencies and the city to establish tree-planting, the Richmond Greenway, and the Green Team as priority programs for GWR.  GWR partners locally with the Rosie the Riveter WWII Historical National Park (RoRi) and Straight Talk on Prison (STOP) to provide our Green Team, local high-school students, with a well-rounded program which includes 1) service-learning opportunities (GWR) 2) academic support (STOP) and 3) an environmental curriculum (RoRi).

2.pngIn 2014, our Green Team and adult volunteers planted more than one hundred and fifty trees in the Santa Fe, Coronado, and Iron Triangle neighborhoods, Booker T. Anderson Park and Parchester Park. The Green Team maintains two greenway sites by cleaning, weeding and mulching. In 2013, the Green Team partnered with EarthTeam and the Green Screen to install a twenty-panel mural on the greenway at 42nd St. 

A core group of twenty-five high-school aged youth, the Green Team, participates in service-learning projects that help them gain leadership skills, practical skills, and learn the value of giving back to their community. Our youth are eligible for internships, scholarships, stipends, travel and job opportunities. We also provide STEM support to help youth prepare for college and future employment in the environmental sciences within the park service or similar agencies. In 2014 our first Green Team members graduated high-school and are now attending colleges including Jose State University, UC Santa Cruz, SF State, and Contra Costa College.

1.pngGWR is led by an eight-person board of directors, Executive Director - Sarah Calderon; Javier Ochoa Reyes - Project Coordinator; Lorenzo Plazola, Jr. - VISTA volunteer; and our Green Team. GWR also partners with volunteers, the City of Richmond, Friends of the Richmond Greenway (FORG), STOP, RoRi, YouthWorks, The Green Screen, Sunnyside Organics, The Watershed Project, Richmond Trees, and Pogo Park on numerous environmental projects that are transforming Richmond.

Groundwork Richmond became the twentieth trust of Groundwork USA, a national network of independent nonprofits dedicated to creating healthy and safe communities. Committed to improving vacant lots, polluted waterways, abandoned parks and trails the City of Richmond was a natural fit for the Groundwork program. After a year-long strategic-planning process with the city, FORG (a collaboration of nonprofits that maintain the greenway), and the National Park Service’s Rivers Trails and Conservation assistance program, Richmond was selected as a site.  

Groundwork Richmond is funded by the National Park Service, Cal Fire and local foundations. As an independent nonprofit, we rely on individual donations too. Just $5 buys snacks for a tree-planting event, $10 buys a tool for our kids to use while planting, $25 sponsors one youth for one day, $50 buys a tree, $250 buys trees for a park, $500 sponsors a youth for a summer internship. To learn more about GWR or donate to us visit


2014 Highlights

MLK Day Tree planting

President’s Day Tree Planting

CSU East Bay’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Institute’s Third annual Career Awareness Day

Tree planting at Booker T. Anderson Park

Farm project at Sunnyside Organics

Yellowstone National Park Restoration project

Arbor Day – Parchester Park

North Richmond Shoreline Festival

Greening Richmond Together – GWR event at the Craneway Pavilion

Groundwork USA Youth Summit:









Opening at Point Molate Beach: 





Mulching on the Greenway:







International Costal Clean Up Day:







By: Sarah Calderon, Executive Director of Groundwork Richmond

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