Riverview Gardens® is a non-profit organization in Appleton, Wisconsin with a mission to build dignity through job training and employment. We believe in the dignity of hard work and allowing people to be part of their own solution. This project engages the entire community in addressing the root causes of unemployment, poverty and homelessness through hard work, creativity and human dignity.
Riverview Gardens approaches its vision with the core concept that all people have value and can contribute to the community where they live. There is dignity in work, and work can be transformative. We emphasize serving without judgment to:
Founded in 1898, Riverview Country Club and golf course was Wisconsin’s oldest private country club and an Appleton institution until its closing in 2011. Purchased in December 2011, Riverview Gardens’ founders saw the beautiful, prominent property as an opportunity to address critical community needs in a completely new way. Riverview Gardens is the collaborative transformation of a 72-acre golf course and related country club. This transformation addresses serious regional challenges, including unemployment, homelessness and poverty.
Since 2012, Riverview Gardens founders, staff and thousands of community volunteers have come together to transform the property into 72 Acres With A Mission. Riverview Gardens has created interactive social enterprises that provide unlimited job-training opportunities with sources of revenue, as well as an accessible, community park space. Riverview Gardens impacts hundreds of lives each year.
Riverview Gardens’ six 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 six 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) supplemental cleaning services from C.A.R.E. (Clean, Assess, Refresh, Enhance) Team in collaboration with the City of Appleton and Appleton Downtown, Inc.; (6) aquaponics greenhouse in Neenah; all 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.
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.