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.
Leonard Jones, President
A longtime member of the Hansberry Garden and supporter of its mission in Germantown, Leonard Jones is focused on furthering the educational and sustainability aims of HGNC. He appreciates the impact HGNC has on the surrounding community and is glad to help further the goals of the organization. Leonard holds a degree in computer science from Temple University and works for the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
Dennis Barnebey, Vice President, Acting Secretary, 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.
Keisa Thompson, Treasurer
Keisa Thompson has over 15 years of financial experience working with for-profit and not-for-profit organizations. She’s been a member of the garden since 2012 and a resident of Germantown since 2005. Keisa and her husband, Edward, and son Edward Jr., love to spend time growing food and playing in the garden. She loves the diversity that Germantown offers and is inspired by the garden’s positive contribution to the area.
Vicki Mehl, Board Member and Membership Chair
Vicki Mehl, former President and founding member, returns to the Board as Membership Chairperson. A recently retired Special Ed teacher, she is excited to use some of her new free time to again work with her garden family. As Membership Chair, she hopes to promote the Garden’s mission of “growing community” within our garden and the neighborhood at large. Vicki also works with the Kelly Green Project.
Brandon Coleman, Board Member and Landscape Chair
Becky Mendel, Board Member and City Harvest Co-Chair
Becky Mendel has been a resident of Germantown for 13 years and joined the garden community in 2012 with her family. She is a Clinical Social Worker who has worked in various advocacy positions over the years. She believes strongly in food justice and is dedicated to growing and delivering food for PHS City Harvest Program. She is currently employed by The Nesting House; bringing together her love for thrifting, reuse and natural parenting support in a local community setting.
Claudia Ginanni, Board Member and Communications Chair
Claudia Ginanni joined Hansberry Garden and Nature Center in 2013. A freelance web designer and editor, she maintains the garden’s website and aids the president and membership chair in communicating with members.
Lakesha Ferguson, Board Member at Large
Lakesha Ferguson is a Behavioral Health Worker for children with ASD and has been providing services for them for 8 plus years. She is a mother of two and a has been a Germantown resident for 17 years. She discovered the Hansberry Nature and Garden Center in 2015 when she was searching for a space to grow peppers. She quickly fell in love with gardening and all its possibilities. She has gained a wealth of knowledge about gardening from her experience there and from fellow Garden members as well.