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What does Riverview Gardens® do?

Riverview Gardens provides dignity through job training and employment, and a place for everyone in our community to come together to change perceptions and remove barriers.

How did ServiceWorks® job-training program start?

It started with a can of paint. Then Executive Director of COTS Transitional Homeless Shelter, Ms. Sahotsky sought to engage men and women experiencing homelessness who had little or no community involvement. She worked with a local home improvement store to donate paint, and otherwise-unengaged residents began painting the walls of their shelter. The transformation of attitudes was immediate. She expanded resident engagement, and ServiceWorks® job-training program was born. In order to scale up the effectiveness and positive impact of our job-training program for our region, all ServiceWorks and all job-training functions were transferred from COTS to Riverview Gardens. Riverview Gardens was created in 2012 not only to respond to many of the community’s critical needs, but also to change the paradigm for addressing them. Riverview Gardens is transforming lives, land and non-profit ideas.

Why Riverview Gardens?

The seed for Riverview Gardens grew out of Executive Director Cindy Sahotsky’s participation in the inaugural class of the executive Social Innovation Leadership Experience (SILE) sponsored by Marquette University, the J. J. Keller Foundation and the U.S. Venture Fund for Basic Needs. Poverty and homelessness have many causes and cannot be resolved through shelter alone. Some source of income is required to be eligible for transitional housing, and it is often impossible to secure employment without a current address and recent work history.

The ServiceWorks® model is not only about getting people a job; it is about creating resilience, community and a sustainable future for the people we serve and, therefore, our entire community. ServiceWorks job-training creates opportunities for employment and self-sufficiency. People build permanent, positive change in their lives through:

  • Leadership development
  • Social mobility
  • Personal responsibility and empowerment
  • Civic activism
  • Increase pro-social behaviors

The ultimate outcome of the ServiceWorks approach is that people are empowered to lift themselves out of poverty for good and create a strong and more just community.


How long has Riverview Gardens been around?

Riverview Gardens was founded in December 2011.

What services are offered at Riverview Gardens?

Riverview Gardens has opportunities for everyone in our community, including:

  • ServiceWorks® Job-Training
  • Earn-A-Bike
  • Workshare
  • D.O.O.R.S.
  • Community Service
  • Volunteering

How is Riverview Gardens different from other social service organizations?

Riverview Gardens is an unprecedented collaborative effort. No other organization in the area is addressing the same or related outcomes. Riverview Gardens provides a holistic solution to some of the most intractable societal issues in our community: homelessness, poverty, and unemployment.

Instead of providing a hand-out, Riverview Gardens empowers individuals to be a part of their own solution, thereby eliminating their dependency on government and community gifts and giving them the tools to take control of their own lives, break the cycle and create healthy families. Our community has come together to prove that hard work and personal responsibility are the great equalizers and change the paradigm for addressing intergenerational issues of poverty, homelessness and unemployment in our community.

What are Riverview Gardens’ social enterprises?

Riverview Gardens’ five social enterprises are the mission muscle for our non-profit mission to provide job training for people in need. Reusing existing resources on the former golf course and country club, we offer five different social enterprise businesses where job-training participants can receive real “on the job” training that they can use immediately upon graduation from ServiceWorks®. The social enterprises are varied enough in the types of work they offer participants such that individuals with a variety of interests and abilities can participate, and include: (1) certified-organic urban farm on former golf course fairways; (2) hydroponics greenhouse built over country club pool (only known hydroponics operation over former pool in U.S); (3) event and park space at former country club building and golf course fairways; (4) maintenance contracts for other non-profit organizations; (5) donated downtown Appleton building converted into collaborative and creative space to serve the mission. Work is a great venue for the motivation for lifelong learning. The work is customized and open-ended to allow people to start succeeding immediately. We have a triple “bottom line”: unlimited work for ServiceWorks participants; source of revenue for financial stability and opportunity for the community to engage as mentors.

With what organizations does Riverview Gardens collaborate?

We collaborate with organizations throughout the community to connect their clients with ServiceWorks, including:

  • Appleton Area School District
  • Appleton Public Library
  • Appleton Police Department
  • ATTIC Correctional
  • Bledsinger House
  • Boys & Girls Club of the Fox Valley
  • CAP Services
  • Carrot Project
  • Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Services
  • Community Clothes Closet
  • COTS Transitional Homeless Shelter
  • Department of Corrections
  • Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin
  • FoodShare Employment Training (FSET)
  • Fox Cities Department of Workforce Development
  • Fox Cities Housing Coalition
  • Fox Cities YMCA
  • Fox Valley Veterans Council
  • Fox Valley Warming Shelter
  • Freedom Center Food Pantry
  • Habitat for Humanity of the Fox Cities
  • Harbor House Domestic Abuse Programs
  • High Schools in Greater Fox Cities
  • Higher Ground Alternative High School
  • Homeless Connections
  • Housing Partnership of the Fox Cities
  • It Takes a Village
  • Juvenile Justice Programs – Outagamie & Winnebago Counties
  • Loaves & Fishes of Fox Valley
  • Mooring Programs/Casa Clare
  • Outagamie County Youth and Family Services
  • Outagamie County Diversion Courts — Drug Court, Mental Health Court, Veterans Court
  • Outagamie County Housing Authority
  • Partnership Community Health Center
  • Ryan Community
  • SOAR Fox Cities
  • Joe’s Food Program
  • Vincent de Paul
  • Truancy Courts — Outagamie and Winnebago Counties
  • Veterans Mentor Group
  • Villa Hope
  • Villa Phoenix & Klister House
  • WIC
  • Wisconsin Works (W2) Program
  • World Relief
  • Your Neighborhood Living

We also collaborate with over 80 employers who hire ServiceWorks graduates.

Who owns the Riverview Gardens property?

Riverview Gardens, Inc., a non-profit organization, owns the property.

What is Riverview Gardens’ tax status?

Riverview Gardens is a non–profit 501(c)3 organization and gifts are tax deductible in accordance with regulations. 

Where does Riverview Gardens get its money?

As a non-profit social enterprise, Riverview Gardens is 100% privately funded; we do not participate in United Way funding or receive funding from state, local or federal government. 

Riverview Gardens’ plan for financial sustainability involves continuing to build relationships with consumer and commercial buyers and organizational partners to create a robust, well-rounded portfolio of earned revenue. Long term, earned revenue is anticipated as a significant majority of annual revenue. Nevertheless, as a non-profit organization with a social mission, it is important to engage our community in gifts of time, talent and treasure to help transform the lives of the people we serve and our entire community.

How does someone apply for the programs at Riverview Gardens?

For more information about any of Riverview Gardens’ programs, please contact Nick Bischoff at 920-840-3336 or [email protected].

Does Riverview Gardens hire the people it serves?

With specific funding, Riverview Gardens hires ServiceWorks® participants as transitional employees in limited capacities to bridge the gap and provide a source of income for graduates as we assist them in obtaining employment with our community partners.

Does Riverview Gardens offer outside job placement?

We assist ServiceWorks® graduates who need help in securing stable employment through the over 80 employers who partner with Riverview Gardens. These employers are from a variety of industries and hire ServiceWorks graduates for a variety of positions.

Does Riverview Gardens accept compost and yard waste as donation?

Unfortunately we do not accept general public compost and yard waste because we are USDA Certified Organic.

How are Riverview Gardens’ programs successful?

Riverview Gardens is unique among organizations serving people with barriers to stable employment. Addressing the basic needs and self-sufficiency of our marginalized community members is not only the right thing to do, but it enhances the vibrancy and accessibility of our community. There is dignity in work. It helps people stabilize, gain self-confidence and get them back on their feet. Finding and retaining employment may be the most important factor in reducing recidivism for previously incarcerated persons. We provide valuable transferable work skills in a trauma-informed, no fail setting that allows participants to work on building healthy workplace relationships.

What are the plans for the future?

Riverview Gardens’ growth plan and trajectory is to build out and optimize operations of the five social enterprise operations as the “mission muscle” of ServiceWorks®, especially in the areas of partnerships, branding, and food safety training for ServiceWorks participants. The mission-focused social enterprises are important for individuals who do not find success in traditional work structures. Riverview Gardens is open to additional social enterprises that help fulfill our mission to the people we serve.