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, Acting President and Communications Chair
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. A freelance web designer, writer, and editor, she designed and maintains the garden’s website and, along with co-chair Camille Poinvil, oversees its communications efforts. She’s an avid cook who loves heirloom vegetables — especially those Black Krim tomatoes! — and experimenting with various kinds of home fermentation.
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 Van Anda moved to Germantown in 2016 and joined HGNC in 2018 looking to meet members of the community, learn from more experienced gardeners and to have a sunnier space to grow. Outside of gardening season, besides planning her summer crops, she cooks, bakes and sews. She is currently in her 8th year of teaching math and science in the Philadelphia School District. She’s excited to head the city harvest team and believes passionately in bringing fresh, organic vegetables to local food pantries.
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, son, Edward Jr., and daughter, Faith, 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.
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 moved to Germantown in 2016 and joined Hansberry Garden in the spring of 2018. He works as an environmental scientist, currently researching water quality and sediment dynamics in tidal wetlands threatened by accelerated sea level rise. As a general enthusiast for nature, ecology, and sustainable living, he is grateful to be part of Hanberry Garden’s likeminded community and the broader urban gardening culture. Kirk facilitates maintenance and landscaping efforts on the property. He believes that keeping a clean, organized, and well-maintained garden translates to an inviting atmosphere for all users.
Camille Poinvil, Board Member, Fundraising Chair, and Communications Co-Chair
Meet Camille Poinvil, our fundraising chair. Camille is a former union organizer, and a mother of one. She has been growing food indoors and out for the past decade. She has spent the last year fundraising and fighting against economic injustice. She is also educated on plants that are indigenous to this part of the country and has taken courses on proper nutrition and its importance. This year, she is looking forward to helping with the Kelly Green Project and raising much-needed funds for both nonprofits. This is her fourth year with the garden and she has lived in Germantown for 5 years now.
Shelah Harper, Board Member and Events Co-Chair
Shelah Harper is a lifetime resident of Germantown with a long record of activism and service to the community. As the chair of the Citizens Board for the City of Philadelphia Department of Public Health Center #9 Mattie L. Humphrey Clinic, she successfully fought for updates to diagnostic equipment and resources to combat infant mortality; she worked closely with former State Rep. David P. Richardson to improve conditions in Northwest Philadelphia. A personal tragedy led her to create the Asia Adams Save OUR Children Foundation, which provides education around teen dating violence, as well as information about yoga, health and nutrition, and vegetarian cooking. Shelah also serves on the House Committee of Germantown’s Grumblethorpe Historic House.
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.