Volunteers at work planting
Volunteers at work planting

News Release

May 25, 2012


Foundation grant helps put Riverview Gardens on the grow

APPLETON, Wis. – The conversion of the former Riverview Country Club into an extensive garden to feed those in need will be able to buy planting necessities and hire staff after receiving a $120,000 grant, half each from a national advocacy group for sustainability and the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region.

Riverview Gardens, currently a division of COTS, a nonprofit service provider for the homeless, will use the money to buy seeds, fruit and nut trees and equipment, as well as to support two full-time managers and a part-time crew leader. The grant was awarded by the Florida-based Funders Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities in response to a joint application by the Community Foundation and the City of Appleton.

John Schmidt, board chair at COTS and president and CEO of U.S. Venture Inc., said the COTS board and staff are “thrilled” with the news. He described Riverview Gardens as “an inclusive, socially innovative and replicable community outreach model that changes the paradigm for addressing poverty, homelessness and unemployment in the Fox Valley.”

The network’s “Local Sustainability Matching Grant” required a local 1:1 match and that applications come from a local foundation and the sustainability director of a municipality that has adopted a sustainability plan. The Community Foundation is providing the $60,000 match.

Appleton has a sustainability plan approved in September of 2010 and has designated as its sustainability director Dean Gazza, director of parks, recreation and facilities management. Other grant winners are in Chattanooga, Tenn.; Cincinnati, Ohio; Miami-Dade County, Fla.; and Salt Lake City, Utah.

“We are happy to be able to provide the match for such an innovative and important project for the Fox Cities,” Curt Detjen, Community Foundation president and CEO, said. “COTS and its partners are literally planting the seed for a self-sustaining source of support for a whole continuum of care providers for the homeless and hungry in our community.”

“We are excited that this project is happening here in the City of Appleton,” Gazza said. “The project aligns with the several goals specified in the city’s Sustainability Plan and with the city’s mission statement in meeting the community’s needs and enhancing the quality of life for current and future generations.”

Riverview Gardens is transforming the 70-acre former private golf course into gardens to produce fresh vegetables, fruits and nuts, while providing valuable work experience and training for homeless clients and community volunteers. The property was acquired last December using $2.6 million in donations.

Surplus food not needed to feed clients of local programs for the homeless will be sold through community supported agriculture memberships and at farmers markets to produce revenue for the nonprofits involved.

The project plan calls for having within four years:
•    40 hoop houses for growing plants year-round.
•    5,000 perennial fruit and nut trees and shrubs.
•    40 acres of native prairie, woodlands and wetlands for the general public to hike, bike, ski, snowshoe and enjoy nature in the heart of the city.
•    Workshare opportunities for 150 individuals and families annually.
•    150 people receiving job training annually.
•    Volunteer opportunities for 1,400 individuals annually.

Riverview Gardens is a socially innovative, self-supporting venture utilizing community greenspace to cultivate and market locally grown produce to help fight the root causes of poverty, homelessness and unemployment in the Fox Cities.

The Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region, a Fox Cities-based nonprofit founded in 1986, helps people provide long-term support for favorite charities through endowments and other charitable funds. It has awarded more than $150 million in grants since then. The Foundation is the second-largest certified community foundation in Wisconsin. Affiliated community foundations are located in Chilton, Clintonville, Shawano and Waupaca. To learn more, go to or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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