Who We Are
The Hansberry Garden and Nature Center (HGNC) is a community garden and resource for environmental education in the heart of Philadelphia’s Southwest Germantown, located on the corner of Wayne Avenue and Hansberry Street at 5150 Wayne Avenue.
We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization invested in our community through organic gardening, the City Harvest Program of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, and educational programs for children and adults. Members are residents of Southwest Germantown.
History, Mission, and Leadership
The history of HGNC began in 1981 with a demonstration garden at 5150 Wayne Avenue funded by a federal grant from the Neighbors Community Program.
In the 1990s the City of Philadelphia razed the house at 5148 Wayne Avenue, making the garden at 5150 impossible to use. Former garden members and neighbors joined in 2001 to develop a vision of a community garden and nature center that would serve the Germantown community. In 2002, the Hansberry Garden & Nature Center Steering Committee was formed and began clearing the land, organizing, and fundraising.
Later that year, Philadelphia Green put up a fence, and raised beds were built with funds from Community Gardens Project. The Hansberry Garden & Nature Center, Inc., became designated a 501(c)(3) organization under federal law in July of 2004. In 2008, 5148 Wayne Avenue was purchased by HGNC, and the city recently turned over the deed to 5148.
The Hansberry Garden and Nature Center will be an educational community resource center for environmental education in the Wayne/Hansberry region of Germantown. The mission of the nature center is to:
- Promote awareness and appreciation of the natural world;
- Promote understanding of the natural cycles and behavior of plants and animals;
- Engender the values and attitudes among people that foster responsible stewardship of our urban environment.
- Construction of a facility at the corner of Wayne and Hansberry that will include an office, classrooms, meeting or work space, and a greenhouse;
- Development of themed “teaching gardens;”
- Presentation of quality programs in environmental education for children and adults (after-school, weekend workshops and/or summer day camp programs);
- Development of programs that will include environmental and community development-related work skills;
- Promote community recycling and litter control;
- Community organization/mobilization around environmental issues that affect our neighborhood;
- Science enrichment programs for school classes;
- Protection of wild/natural areas (these are not “waste areas).
*Adopted at the January 16, 2002 Board of Directors meeting.
Claudia Ginanni, President
Claudia Ginanni has lived in Southwest Germantown since 2004, joined Hansberry Garden and Nature Center in 2013, and has learned a great deal about raised-bed gardening from fellow gardeners. She takes pride in raising vigorous tomato seedlings with big, fat, hairy stems. An enthusiastic cook who loves heirloom vegetables, she enjoys experimenting with various kinds of home fermentation. In 2022, she became a founding member of HGNC’s Gardening Collective.
Dennis Barnebey, Vice President, Co-chair of Land Use Master Plan Committee, and Kelly Green Project Lead
Dennis Barnebey is a 40-year resident of southwest Germantown. After 32 years at the Philadelphia School District, Dennis spent seven years working for the child-advocacy organization Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY), focusing on education issues. In 2010, Dennis became an active member of HGNC and is currently chairing the Kelly Green initiative.
Hillary Van Anda, Secretary and City Harvest Chair
Hillary has been a member of the garden since 2018 and the chair of the City Harvest Team since 2019. She and Kirk have one child, Olive, who is 2 and is already on track to be an avid gardener. She has been teaching science and math in the school district of Philadelphia for 12 years. Outside of the gardening season, she spends time cooking, baking and sewing.
Sarah M. Getz, Treasurer
Sarah Getz, who identifies herself as the Hippie Accountant, is a veteran of the nonprofit universe with over 25 years of experience in finance, human resources and bookkeeping for the greater good. A longtime resident of Germantown and an avid gardener, she has recently moved to a house within walking distance of Hansberry Garden. She looks forward to tending its books with the same care she lavishes on the cherry tomatoes she plants in front of her home to share with passersby.
Janet Peterman, Membership Chair
Janet, who takes on a new role as Membership Chair for gardening season 2019, came to Hansberry to have a sunny plot to grow her tomatoes — and that’s still what occupies her imagination over the months when it is too cold to garden. She is one of Hansberry’s more experienced gardeners, has worked for years with the City Harvest program, and often encourages new and developing gardeners with formal and informal mentoring. Ask her about those Walls o’ Water to extend the tomato growing season!
Kirk Raper, Board Member and Landscape Chair
Kirk Raper is the current and outgoing Chair of Landscape and Maintenance (the CLaM). He inadvertently joined Hansberry Community Garden with his wife Hillary Van Anda back in 2017. In 2019, they became the first couple to wed in our amphitheatre! Kirk believes in keeping the space open and welcoming for everyone. He began gardening in 2007, by digging up a small plot and was delightfully overwhelmed with a bounty of cucumbers. His past education and experience includes natural interpretation, wildlife management, analyzing water quality, and coastal wetlands studies. He now works for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection as a Research Scientist.
Lauren Divinagracia, Communications Chair
Lauren is a relatively new member of the garden, having joined in the middle of the pandemic in 2020. She is currently a marketing graphic designer for a behavior non profit in New Jersey, where she also had a previous life as an architectural designer. Her partner, David, also joined the garden when they got married in 2021 and now she’s trying to not kill all the plants they are trying to grow together. She believes in more green spaces in urban landscapes, porous and permeable pavers, and increased usage of rehab/reuse spaces.
Laura Thomae, Board Member and Events Co-Chair
Kathy Miller, Board Member and Co-chair of Land Use Master Plan Committee
Kathy Miller was a board member for the first 10 years of HGNC, six as secretary and three as president. For several years she has served as co-chair of the Land Use Master Plan Committee, which was commissioned to redesign our garden space to be more useful and beautiful. She is rejoining the Board in gratitude for the wonderful camaraderie, delicious food, and community activism that HGNC inspires. Kathy is a psychologist in private practice, enjoys trying new recipes for healthy food and outrageous desserts, and has been a member of the Philadelphia Women’s Health Collective for 45 years.
Marilynn Cutts, Board Member at Large