Evolution of an Investee: Reflection on Investee GrowingGreat

August 6, 2013

Get Healthy with GrowingGreat!An SVP Investee since late 2009, GrowingGreat’s mission is to inspire children and adults to adopt healthy eating habits through innovative classroom nutrition lessons, school gardens and community events.  Here’s what Lead Partner Lance Tendler had to say about working with GrowingGreat.

Q: What attracted you to volunteering with GrowingGreat?
I was a coach for the 2009 Social Innovation Fast Pitch, and GrowingGreat was one of the organizations participating. Co-founder Peggy Curry was representing GG. Her energy is very infectious and I was quickly won over by her presence, and her passion for the cause of nutrition education and inspiring healthy eating habits. LASVP Partner Steve Raymond was guiding GrowingGreat through the process of applying to be an Investee of LASVP, and was looking for a co-lead Partner, and I quickly agreed. GrowingGreat’s work is universal – it’s a cause that is relevant to all of us regardless of economic status, race, or creed.

Rita with lettuce_smallQ: Where do you think LASVP Partners have added the most value to GrowingGreat?
The Board of GrowingGreat is small but competent, and the organization had a history of relative success prior to allying with LASVP. Early on Steve led a technology initiative relative to rebuilding the GG website, and the migration to a web delivery model for GrowingGreat’s classroom content and teaching plan. But generally, I would say that the greatest value came at a high level such as strategic planning, governance and board development, which is helping them evolve from a very volunteer-based organization to one with experienced professional staff. LASVP helped facilitate an intensive strategic planning initiative, and LASVP sponsored GrowingGreat’s participation in the Annenberg Alchemy program which focuses on Board Governance and best practices.

ggbuild2Q: What’s next for GrowingGreat?
The organization is making an important transition in terms of service delivery. Initially a lot of the food handling, documentation delivery, teaching and instruction was organized and provided directly by GrowingGreat volunteers and staff. The classroom lessons and content are loaded onto the site now, which creates an opportunity to deliver GrowingGreat value to a significantly larger footprint. By emphasizing the content, and phasing out the physical delivery, GrowingGreat really becomes a national force.


Celebrating SVP and Looking Forward to 2013

February 6, 2013

LASVPIt was great to see everyone at the first Partner Meeting of the year on January 31st. It was a good follow up to our New Year’s Resolution Party as we’re all looking for ways to share our ideas and talents to make a difference together.

We kicked off the meeting by taking a look at the highlights from 2012, including:

    • Welcoming 11 new Partners
    • Completing and gaining board approval for our new strategic plan
    • Approving our final reinvestments with GrowingGreat and Synergy Academies
    • Helping our 3 Investees strengthen their organizations and serve more LA-area residents
    • Successfully organizing and hosting our 5th Annual Social Innovation Fast Pitch
      (Watch the highlight reel.)

We recognized our Founding Partners for their years of dedication and support in building stronger communities with Los Angeles Social Venture Partners. We’d like to thank the following Partners for all they’ve done and all they continue to do to support LASVP:

Additionally, we recognized those Partners who have been part of the LASVP family for five or more years. Their continued commitment to LASVP and belief in the potential of Los Angeles is exactly what makes our Partnership great. Thank you:

We are also very proud to recognize Betsy Densmore as the LASVP Partner with the most reported volunteer hours in 2012! Betsy is a member of the LASVP Board of Directors, was the Lead Partner on the Social Innovation Fast Pitch, represented Los Angeles at the SVP Conference, and aided in recruiting efforts. But maybe the most amazing part is… Betsy does all this while living in Orange County! We are tremendously lucky to have such an outstanding and dedicated person in our Partnership.

Looking forward to 2013, we received an update about our Investees and opportunities for Partners to volunteer with them.

GrowingGreat is looking for Partners to identify 5 new schools to receive their healthy eating education program in the 2013-2014 school year, and to work with them on business development, school launch plans, and a long-term geographic expansion strategy. LA Diaper Drive is looking for connections to sources for diaper donations and aid with their governance and operating policies and procedures. With Synergy Academies, we’ll finish up the projects we have underway and support the ramp up of longer-term HR projects to make sure they’re well-positioned as we wrap up our investment in 2013.

We’re also very excited about our upcoming Education Investment Cycle! For the last two months, the Education Investment Committee has been doing some fantastic and fascinating exploration in the education arena of Los Angeles. Taking a look at STEM Education (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), Early Childhood Education, Advocacy, and Collective Impact, the team found a variety of opportunities for LASVP and shared their new knowledge with one another.  And, after some debate, they have recommended that for this upcoming cycle we should focus on a Collective Impact approach to issues in education. (See the slide deck for further detail.)

We still have several key questions to answer about how we’re going to make investments using the Collective Impact approach, but we’re excited to dig in and learn all we can. LASVP Partners can join the team anytime.

We’re off to a good start this year! We have some fun projects and interesting learning opportunities on the horizon. We have great people in our Partnership and we’re hoping to find more.  2013 is our year, SVP!

Partners Only: If you missed the Partner Meeting and want to know more, you can view the slides from the meeting here, take a look at the master calendar here, or contact Diane or a member of the Education Investment Committee with questions.

GrowingGreat Has New Energy

January 8, 2013

Get Healthy with GrowingGreat!GrowingGreat‘s mission is to inspire children and adults to adopt healthy eating habits through innovative classroom nutrition lessons, school gardens, and community events. The organization has been an LASVP investee since late 2009.

GrowingGreat has a new team, which is bringing fresh energy to take the organization to the next level. Executive Director, Burgandie Onekea officially started at the end of May, and has been driving positive change to advance the mission of GrowingGreat. Burgandie is a seasoned, skilled, and accomplished nonprofit Executive leader who has dedicated her career to improving the health and lives of the people and their communities for over 15 years. Burgandie expressed: “It is a privilege and joy to work for an organization whose mission focuses on education, driving change in behavior in children & adults as we inspire healthy eating habits. We have a dedicated team of staff and volunteers who are passionate about nutrition and prevention, educating our youth and adults to join us in making a true difference in our communities through our mission, and decreasing the risk of obesity and disease.”

Burgandie is originally from Honolulu, Hawaii, and has a personal passion for healthy living and the mission of GrowingGreat. She is happily married with two children and enjoys sharing her life and faith, and making a difference in the lives she has the privilege to touch.

GrowingGreat also welcomes Jill Coons, Program Manager who joins GrowingGreat’s staff after serving as a longtime volunteer and contributor. Jill is a strong businesswoman with a extensive background in Event and Program Management. She is skilled in sustainable gardens, nutrition, and volunteer management. Jill is a graduate of the University of Arizona with experience in Agriculture and an emphasis in Landscape Architecture.  She is a dedicated wife and mother who loves spending her free time with her husband, David, and her three wonderful sons. As the very first volunteer for GrowingGreat, Jill has dedicated herself to the GrowingGreat mission for over 9 years and now she has transitioned to a lead staff management role as the new Program Manager. Jill’s passion, experience, and expertise allowed for a seamless transition and we foresee a stronger Program Department as she continues to further expand GrowingGreat’s outreach.

Last, but certainly not least, Kristy Gump, Community Development Manager, focuses on developing stronger partnerships throughout the community. As a part of her role, she will be building a Development Department with emphasis on income development, marketing and communications. Kristy joined GrowingGreat in January and is passionate about the GrowingGreat mission. She is originally from a small town in the Sierra foothills and moved to Los Angeles to attend Loyola Marymount University, graduating with a B.A. in English. She worked with the Long Beach Opera and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra in development and administrative capacities, before shifting her focus to education and her true passion – nutrition and healthy living. She also held fundraising and management positions with The Oaks School in Hollywood and New City Public Schools in Long Beach. While at New City, Kristy helped manage the creation of the New City School Farm – one of her most valued accomplishments. She loves to cook for her husband, garden on her little patio, and shop at the local farmer’s market over the weekend.

To learn more about GrowingGreat’s mission and accomplishments, visit their website at www.growinggreat.org.

Partner Q & A: Amy Friedman Cecil

October 5, 2012

Amy Friedman CecilAmy Friedman Cecil has been an LASVP Partner since 2011, and she’s doing it all. From Fast Pitch to investees to Partner education, Amy’s there!

Q: How were you introduced to LASVP?

Amy: I was introduced to LASVP by my good friend Nancy Hammerman.  She took me to a open house event where I heard many people speak about the organization.  I was really impressed with the impact LASVP had on both its investees and its partners.  I was also excited by the diversity and energy of the partners.  By the end of the afternoon I had committed to LASVP and am very glad to have made that decision.

Q: What is your favorite part of being involved in LASVP?

Amy: My favorite part about my LASVP involvement is the range of experience it offers.  Since joining last year I have consulted with GrowingGreat and have led a focus group to get input on a new service delivery module. I am part of the Fast Pitch planning team and have participated in the pre-screen and full application review and selection and am assisting at the Fast Pitch coaching sessions (yes- that was me with the camera).  I am also part of the Partner Education committee along with Amy Johnson and Ellen Sloan.  This is a wonderful opportunity to work with two very intelligent women at very different trajectories of their careers and to create a curriculum which will have a broad and deep influence over how and what partners can learn through this organization.

Q: What inspires you to make a difference?

Amy: I have been a volunteer since my childhood.  What I have learned is how very little it takes to change someone’s life for the better.  You don’t need much experience, or much time, money or effort to make an impact.  But with a greater investment of any or all of the foregoing, magical things can happen. I am constantly amazed by the way in which the process of working with others is so rich and rewarding.

Q: What do you listen to when you’re stuck in traffic?

Amy: My traffic distraction really depends on my state of mind.  If I am calm I can listen to KCRW/NPR or KPFC, although the broadcast material itself might get me upset.  If the traffic is really bad I may have to blast Ben Folds or the Decemberists to keep me going. If I am in need of soothing, it is a toss-up between classical or Joni Mitchell on CD.

Q: Who was your favorite teacher in school?

Amy: My favorite was Mrs. Hibblein, my first grade teacher, because she was so supportive and kind.  This is my best memory of her: We were sculpting an animal to go with a book we had been reading and I was trying to fashion wings for my swan. I could not get the wings to stand up because the dough was too heavy.  She came over and told me not to give up, but rather to imagine what the swan looked like in many positions.  She said she knew I could make it work (shades of Tim Gunn).  When she came back, I had carved lines on the swan’s back and told her that his wings were folded.  She was so delighted at the way I solved the problem that even at that age I felt empowered.  That first grade swan still sits on my desk.

Q: What do you think is the biggest barrier to creating social change?

Amy: Imagination and implementation.  There are so many barriers: financial, partisan politics, lack of time, a lack of hands and help, the incredible magnitude and complexity of the problems which need to be addressed. It sometimes seems that large-scale social change is impossible and this is disheartening.  But then someone imagines a better life and has the courage to implement their idea and things happen.  It takes imagination to see that change is possible, to craft a shape it can take, and then to see it to fruition.

You can learn more about our Partners, here on our website. 

Did You Know? 5 Facts from GrowingGreat

July 27, 2012

Get Healthy with GrowingGreat!GrowingGreat‘s mission is to inspire children and adults to adopt healthy eating habits through innovative classroom nutrition lessons, school gardens and community events. The organization has been an LASVP investee since 2010.


1.   65% of the schools GrowingGreat serves are Title 1 Schools, which means that at least 40% of the school’s students come from low-income families.

2.   Studies show that every dollar spent on nutrition education saves $4-$8 in health care costs.

3.   When kids grow their vegetables, they eat their vegetables.  A 2011 study found that students who participated in garden-based learning significantly increased their preference for vegetables.

4.   To help accommodate schools that don’t have the extra space for a traditional garden, GrowingGreat partnered with Wooly Pockets to create curriculum that is adjusted to a vertical hanging wall garden.

5.   GrowingGreat reaches out to educate parents as well as children.  After each lesson, students receive a parent education handout to take home and share with their family that contains a lesson outline, enrichment activities, recipes and coupons.

Click here to find out the different ways you can help GrowingGreat!

More Vegetables, Please: Helping GrowingGreat Grow

May 4, 2012

Like most nonprofit Executive Directors, Sarah Gelb always has something to keep her busy.  “It’s always a challenge to get done what you need to get done in a day, and to get the funding and support we need to put on our programs and continue to grow,” she says.  The stress that must come along with the job doesn’t seem to have worn down her enthusiasm, though—maybe that’s one benefit of the healthy lifestyle that GrowingGreat advocates.

Sarah has been at the helm of GrowingGreat, an LASVP Investee focused on bringing nutrition education to kids in public schools, since 2009, and was a long-time supporter before then.  An athlete with a background in education, GrowingGreat unites Sarah’s passions.  “GrowingGreat gives [students] the tools to live longer and live happier, and will be the foundation that makes them successful, healthy adults.”

GrowingGreat clearly has an impact on the kids they reach.  According to Sarah, one third-grader told his mom that he wouldn’t go to bed until she bought the healthy cereal he had sampled in a GrowingGreat lesson that day.  Other young food activists are less extreme in their methods, but just as fired-up about having healthy choices—at one elementary school, students asked the administration to provide more Swiss chard in the cafeteria.  Kids demanding more vegetables?  GrowingGreat is clearly doing something right. And thanks to Sarah, the rest of the team at GrowingGreat, and the help they’ve received from LASVP Partners, the organization is expanding to reach even more students.

“We’re so fortunate to have LASVP as part of our team.  They have definitely helped us create the systems and the foundations that have allowed us to grow as effectively as we have the last three years.”  One project that LASVP Partners lent a hand to was creating a web model that will allow GrowingGreat to share its program online and spread quality nutrition education far beyond LA County.   “To build this online model has been one of my biggest accomplishments,” says Sarah, “because now the organization is in a position to scale and bring this really incredible curriculum and training to anyone who wants it.”

Sarah is definitely leaving a great legacy of accomplishments behind her.  While GrowingGreat will be sad to see her go, she has helped build a foundation for future success that the organization will continue to build on.  “It’s been exciting for me to be part of the growth and change as the organization moves forward,” says Sarah, “and LASVP has been a really huge asset in helping us do that.”

If you want to do something for GrowingGreat, you can:

Volunteer your time with LASVP.  Contact Sarah at sarah.hill@lasvp.org to find out  more about current GrowingGreat projects.

Become a GrowingGreat board member.  Contact Kristy at kristy@growinggreat.org to learn more.

Bring GrowingGreat to your child’s school.  Click here to learn how.

Growing Relationships, Growing Boards, GrowingGreat!

May 2, 2012

Our investee GrowingGreat is searching for new board members and on April 25th they were able to host a Meet & Greet for prospects and volunteers with the help of LASVP Partner Lance Tendler. With all of GrowingGreat’s current board members and staff in the room, the eight new potential supporters in attendance were introduced to the organization’s history, growth, and need for passionate and strategic leadership by board chair Marika Bergsund.

“I was really impressed by how strong and committed their board is, as well as the amount of impact they are able to make on their budget,” said LASVP Partner Kathy Yeung. “[They serve] 16,500 students on a budget of approximately $200k per year.”

Guests were given a glimpse of GrowingGreat’s amazing program though a condensed lesson on “higher quality” foods by Program Manager Lindsey Ludwig. The move toward “higher quality” foods, meaning closer to whole and closer to the source, is important to their programs as the word “healthy” can turn kids off and allows a variety of diets to be represented. “Higher quality is relative statement, and speaks to the diverse community served by GrowingGreat.  They may have very different diets, but can all move toward higher quality,” said LASVP Partner Sam Rotter.

Executive Director Sarah Gelb said the eight prospective supporters seemed “engaged and interested in getting involved,” and that they will be following up with each person individually to discuss their interests and expertise. And special thanks go out to LASVP Partners Lance Tender, Sam Rotter, and Kathy Yeung for their help.

Our investee is looking to add three to five new board members to their team this year and through their personal commitment and LASVP support, GrowingGreat can continue to live up to their name.

If you are interested in joining the GrowingGreat board, or would like to find out more about getting involved, contact us at info@lasvp.org or 310-281-7509.