Who We Are | The Green Heart Project

Mission & History

The Green Heart Project builds garden-based experiential learning projects and school garden programs to educate students connect people and cultivate community through growing, eating, and celebrating food.

The Green Heart Project was founded in 2009 as a small school garden at Mitchell Elementary School in downtown Charleston with the intention of reconnecting their students with fresh, locally-grown produce. As a Title-1 public school in a labeled food desert, the majority of Mitchell Elementary students come from low-income households that lack access to the whole, fresh fruits and vegetables that we all need to lead a healthy lifestyle. With this knowledge, local neighborhood residents Karalee Nielsen and Chauncey Jordan founded the Project with the hopes of changing those facts. Together with a group of friends, and an open-minded principal looking for alternative ways to teach and inspire, they devised a plan to build an urban garden with a group of 3rd grade students, utilizing the experience as a service-learning project to teach students the value of growing your own food.

In the first year, the Project quickly became more than an experiment in urban gardening. With students and volunteers working in the garden together, a mentorship was fostered. It was soon realized that the students were growing personally and socially, just as the vegetables were growing big in the garden. The urban farm became an organic example of an important life lesson -- through hard work, teamwork and respect for the process, you can literally bear the fruits of your labor. The volunteers became “Green Heart Buddies” – mentors students could count on and learn with as they worked together in the garden. And it is from this model in volunteer-assisted service-learning that the Green Heart Project's mission and educational program was founded.

Garden Locations

Mitchell Elementary School

2 Perry Street, Charleston, SC 29403

The Mitchell Elementary School Micro-Farm was our pilot project, planted in 2009. It has grown from 5 small raised beds in the schoolyard to encompass over 12,000 ft² of garden space, and includes a 5,500 ft² fully irrigated vegetable garden, a native species and herb garden, and a 35 tree fruit orchard (including citrus, papaya, figs, pomegranate and blueberries). Currently, every student at Mitchell receives Green Heart Project in-school programming, in addition to one after-school program. Their urban farm is also the site for our annual Harvest Dinner each year!

Sanders Clyde Creative Arts School

805 Morrison Dr, Charleston, SC 29403

Planted in January of 2015, by a group of After School students and dedicated Green Heart Buddies, the Sanders-Clyde garden consists of twelve raised beds, a composting area, as well as a native species garden bed. While only in the seedling stage, this garden will continue to grow and flourish along with our students! Currently, the students of Sanders-Clyde have one Green Heart after-school program.

Sullivan’s Island Elementary School

2015 I'on Avenue, Sullivan's Island, SC 29482

Through a partnership with SeamonWhiteside, the Green Heart Project designed and built Sullivan’s Island Elementary 5 raised ‘wicking’ beds in the summer of 2015.  It now serves the students of Sullivan’s Island Elementary with room to grow! Currently, there is a Green Heart program everyday of the week at SIES. We serve every grade through in-school programming, in addition to one after-school program and one “special interest unit” for 4th and 5th graders.

Meeting Street Academy @ GrowFood Carolina

990 Morrison Dr, Charleston, SC 29403

In August of 2015, the Green Heart Project adopted GrowFood Carolina’s demonstration garden to facilitate a farm-to-school program for the students of neighboring, Meeting Street Academy.  It consists of 5 irrigated raised beds, herb garden, composting station some fruit trees a muscadine vine. Currently, MSA has a Green Heart after-school program every day of the week, serving Kindergarten, 1st Grade and one group of 2nd-5th Graders.

Meeting Street Elementary @ Brentwood

2685 Leeds Ave, North Charleston, SC 29405

Through a partnership with SeamonWhiteside, the Green Heart Project designed and built Meeting Street Elementary’s 5 raised wicking beds in the summer of 2015.  It now serves the students of Meeting Street Elementary with room to grow! Currently, MSE-B has two Green Heart after-school programs serving both lower elementary and upper elementary students.

Memminger Elementary School

20 Beaufain St, Charleston, SC 29401

Memminger School of Global Studies is our newest program site! As an International Baccalaureate school, the Green Heart Project programming was a perfect fit. Launched in Fall 2017 with the help of the Charitable Society of Charleston and the SC Ports Authority, we were able to complete a summer garden re-build. Currently we provide two after-school programs for upper elementary and lower elementary students, three in-school programs for the 1st graders at Memminger.

Green Heart Team

Jesse Blom
Executive Director

Jesse serves the Green Heart Project as its Executive Director, overseeing all facets of the organization. For more than a decade, Jesse has used urban agriculture as a tool for building community and for inspiring curiosity and learning in people of all ages. Prior to joining the Green Heart Project, he managed an educational urban farm project for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, MD and before then, led urban agriculture, education, and training projects for Sweet Water Foundation in his hometown of Milwaukee, WI. Jesse is honored to be serving the Charleston community and would love to hear from you. You can reach him directly at jesse@greenheartsc.org.

Amanda Howell
Development Director

Amanda’s passions for education, social justice and all-things-food are what brought her to The Green Heart Project. Earlier in her career, she was a classroom teacher with Teach for America in Oakland, CA, and later relocated to the Carolinas to pursue a Master’s degree in Public Health at UNC Chapel Hill. Here she focused on planning & evaluating school-based obesity prevention initiatives, especially those that included gardening and cooking enhanced nutrition education. Amanda served as Green Heart’s Program Director for three years, and is excited to continue investing the community in the GHP mission through her new role as Development Director. You can reach her at: amanda@greenheartsc.org

Drew Harrison
Founding Director

Drew has been involved with The Green Heart Project since its inception in 2009. First as a volunteer, then as its first employee, then as its first Executive Director from 2012-2018. Now, in his role as Founding Director, Drew leads many development efforts, and supports the organization’s strategic growth in the Charleston community. You can reach him directly at: drew@greenheartsc.org

Kimberly Perrineau-Jackson
Development and Community Engagement Officer

The idea that everyone has the right to healthy food and her growing interest in the collaboration of agriculture and community, led Kimberly to The Green Heart Project. In her role as Development and Community Engagement Officer she intends to enhance awareness of growing food and the important role it serves.  She believes that cultivating communities through commitment, collaborative learning and humility among other things, will assist in her efforts. She is excited about this opportunity and looks forward to being a part of the Team! When not at Green Heart, you can find her tutoring youth, working with the family business, attending football games and spending time with her husband and children. kim@greenheartsc.org

Allie Astor
Program Coordinator

As a freshman at College of Charleston, a passion for sustainability and a love for the outdoors brought Allie to the Green Heart Project, where she worked as an after-school program volunteer. Throughout her undergraduate years, she volunteered and interned with Green Heart, developing a love for the gardens and strong relationships with our students and staff. After leaving the Charleston area for a year to work at an environmental non-profit in Boston, Allie is thrilled to be back working as our Farm to School Program Coordinator. She looks forward to fostering a strong community around our gardens and instilling a culture of respect for ourselves, each other and the earth. allie@greenheartsc.org

Rachel Meek

My adventures with The Green Heart Project began in 2018 as an apprenticeship through the Growing New Farmers program. Within this time, my Green Heart Family has helped to nurture and expand my farming interest into a newfound passion. I am currently a Program Manager and Garden Champion. I get to share my knowledge and skills with younger generations in hopes that they will carry these invaluable tools with them for a lifetime. I feel strongly that the best way to connect communities is with food and I am honored to be a part of the Green Heart team! rachel@greenheartsc.org

Emma Pohl
Lead Educator & Instructional Specialist

Emma’s background in teaching and passion for health and wellness led her to The Green Heart Project. She is eager to learn alongside students as the STEM Educator at Mitchell and Sullivan’s Island Elementary Schools. Emma believes kindness and community begins on our plates. She hopes to instill a curiosity for a lifetime of learning and wellness through hands-on experiences. When not at Green Heart, you can find her sharing yoga at Community Yoga. emma@greenheartsc.org

Sean Murray

Sean is a passionate farmer who loves his local community. In 2015, upon completing the Growing New Farmers program through College of Charleston he began his farming career. Sean operated Murray Heirlooms, a farm focused on growing organic, heirloom vegetables for some of the best restaurants in Charleston. He is excited to join the Green Heart team and share his knowledge with others in the community. He hopes to inspire a new generation to understand where their food comes from. When Sean’s hands aren’t in the dirt he enjoys spending time with his family, traveling, and watching the Boston Red Sox.

Erin Snow
Site Coordinator & Garden Educator

Erin has known about Green Heart and volunteered at events and fundraisers for years. Her time began with us volunteering in the gardens “after-hours.” When Green Heart came to Meeting Street Academy in 2015, where she teaches kindergarten, it was her first opportunity to see the program in full action with students. Now, she is leading it! “I was incredibly excited and grateful for my students last year to have the opportunity to be part of Green Heart. This year, I am excited to create greater cohesion for the students, bridging classroom, garden, and home experiences.”

Maura Gabriel
Garden Educator

I began working with The Green Heart Project in 2016 under Erin Snow at Meeting Street Academy, where I teach Pre-K.  I loved being able to experience the outdoors, culinary skills and unique taste tests with our students.  The next year, the opportunity arose to be a program manager which I immediately knew I wanted to do!  I am very passionate about exposing children to new foods and diverse ways to eat plants they are already familiar with.  Green Heart is an amazing program for all children to experience and I feel very lucky to be able to be a part of it!

Sasha Pramesti
AmeriCorps VISTA

Sasha is a recent graduate of the College of Charleston. She is passionate about food justice, sustainability, and the intersection of food and culture, and loves how gardening can tie these passions together. She first got involved with The Green Heart Project as an after-school program volunteer in college, and is excited to return to the organization with AmeriCorps VISTA for the 2021-2022 academic year. She looks forward to the opportunity to empower Charleston’s youth and build community through urban farming.

Jack Watson
Summer 2021 Youth Internship Crew Leader

Jack’s passion for community and environmentalism drew him to volunteer with The Green Heart Project from the first moment that he heard about the gardens during his freshman year at the College of Charleston. He now serves as a Crew Leader to help foster the upcoming generation of sustainability advocates and local gardeners. Jack believes in the power of education and good food to help reveal our own interconnectedness. With that in mind, he is so excited to be working with this amazing group of youth interns over the summer to grow a vibrant community of globally-conscious and forward-thinking individuals. 

Molly Ryan
Summer 2021 Youth Internship Crew Leader

Molly joins the team with a passion for sustainability, community and food. Molly graduated from the College of William & Mary in 2018 and has since been working in the climate policy sphere. She pursued a certificate in Restorative Justice from the Vermont Law School in 2020 and is especially interested in looking at food systems through an equitable lens. Her most recent position was as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Panama, and she is excited to once again be working with youth to talk about the importance of food accessibility and sustainable agriculture in her home city! When not sweating out in the gardens with Green Heart, you can find Molly running, walking on the beach and enjoying time with her family and friends.

Aaron Johnson
Summer 2021 Youth Intern

Aaron is 17 and will be a senior at Charleston Charter School for Math and Science. He has been involved with Green Heart since he participated as a third grader at Mitchell Elementary. He enjoys the universe on a quiet night and coming to Green Heart and seeing a lot of wonderful people.

Allen-Michael Gadson
Summer 2021 Youth Intern

Allen-Michael will be a junior at Charleston Charter School for Math and Science come August. He enjoys being active and loves working out and running, which he really strives to improve on. Allen-Michael is a member of the National Honor Society where serving is a core value, and is looking forward to pairing the knowledge and lessons he can learn from both NHS and the Green Heart Project. He hopes for big accomplishments in the medical field.

Alma Abuein
Summer 2021 Youth Intern

Alma is a rising junior at West Ashley High School. Her interests include swimming and skating. She is currently a part of the National Honor Society and Science Olympiad Club. She is truly looking forward to working with everyone this summer at Green Heart.

Jayla Washington
Summer 2021 Youth Intern

Jayla is a rising senior at Lowcountry Leadership Charter School and a returning youth intern. Her many pursuits include being a South Carolina State Association Vice President and member of the National FFA, playing varsity softball and volleyball, home gardener for those of low income, Excel President, and being a leader in her community. Her goals and aspirations in life are to go to an HBCU, and get a degree in horticulture with a minor in social work then further her degree with a horticulture therapy certification , while making a positive difference on as many peoples lives along the way. And last but not least a quirky fact about Jayla is that she can’t stand the sound of hand towels rubbing against dry hands.

John-Paul Gadson
Summer 2021 Youth Intern

John-Paul will be a junior at Charleston Charter School for Math and Science and is 16 years old. He was a year 1 intern. He came back because he enjoyed the internship so much last year. He looks forward to seeing how this summer is going to be different than last.

Leddy Scheurer
Summer 2021 Youth Intern

Leddy is a rising junior at Academic Magnet High School. She enjoys running, making music, and being outdoors. This is her first year with Green Heart and is so excited to make a difference this summer

Lois Vandross
Summer 2021 Youth Intern

Lois is 17 years old and goes to Burke High School. She loves photography, fashion, and nature. When she’s older she hopes to be a lawyer with a side hobby of nature photography. She is always excited to try new things and that’s why she is excited to work at Green Heart this summer.

Michelle Lam
Summer 2021 Youth Intern

Michelle is a rising senior at Ashley Hall who approaches each situation with diligence and open-mindedness. She enjoys swimming, violin, lacrosse, and leading in student government. At Greenheart, Michelle hopes to foster authentic relationships with her fellow interns and have meaningful reflections together. She hopes to contribute empathy, determination, and a good laugh to this program. Michelle is firmly passionate about the breakfast menu and sunscreen reapplication.

Mitchell McHugh
Summer 2021 Youth Intern

Mitchell is a rising 12th grader at Wando High School. He recently moved to Charleston and is thrilled to involve himself in the community through The Green Heart Project. Mitchell enjoys learning, philosophy, and connecting with others. He applied to the youth internship program to seek after a greater sense of community and to facilitate growth in himself and others. 

Piper Okonofua
Summer 2021 Youth Intern

Piper is a rising sophomore at James Island Charter High School. She likes to hang out with her friends and family and she volunteers at Amor Healing Kitchen. Her favorite thing about Green Heart is going to different schools and making them look beautiful.

Xavier McDaniel
Summer 2021 Youth Intern

Xavier is a rising senior at Charleston Charter School for Math and Science. He is kind of upset [about being a rising senior] but also excited to see what the world has in store for him.  His favorite Disney character is always gonna be his blue alien Stitch and he’ll never switch up on him. He can watch any Lilo and Stitch movie on repeat and enjoy it.

Will Brown
Summer 2021 Youth Intern

Will is 17 years old and a rising senior at Academic Magnet High School. He enjoys playing guitar, computer programming, and serving the community. As a second year intern he is truly interested in the mission of Green Heart and the progress of their urban gardening projects. 

Board of Directors

Meredith Ebenhoeh


Scott Sasser (Vice President)


Kaitlin F. DaPore (Treasurer)


Weston Fennell (Past President)

Limehouse Produce

Kendra Stewart (Past President)

Riley Center for Livable Communities

Dirk Bedford (Past President)

Meeting Street Academy

Karalee Nielsen Fallert

Taco Boy

Michael Cain (Secretary)


Rich Yessian

Blue Ion

Morneek Bellinger-Holloway

Mitchell Elementary School

Temitope Leyimu (President)

Motley Rice Law Firm

Annie Kouba

Motley Rice Law Firm

Brittany Bryant


Ann Calhoun


Taco Boy

Green Heart Partner

Charleston’s ultimate taqueria & cantina style restaurant, Taco Boy serves casual Mexican food and drinks to the masses.  Locals and visitors alike enjoy tasty tacos, nachos, frozen screwdrivers, fun margaritas, tequila flights and much more at their downtown and Folly Beach locations.  As founders of the Green Heart Project and the Neighbor-to-Neighbor Program, Taco Boy is also known for its commitment to the community.


Green Heart Partner

SeamonWhiteside is a leader of environmentally conscious, low-impact advancements in engineering and site design. SW blends civil engineering and landscape architecture to create holistic and sustainable environments.

Community Sponsors

Scott E. Phillips Foundation of the Coastal Community Foundation

Community Sponsor

Revelry Brewing Co.

Community Sponsor

The Boeing Company

Community Sponsor

Friends of Sullivan’s Island Elementary

Community Sponsor

High Water Music Festival

Community Sponsor

Spectrum Concessions

Community Sponsor

Henning Fund

Community Sponsor

Frances Downing

Community Sponsor

Garden Sponsors

Garden Sponsor

Morgan Herterich

Garden Sponsor

Lindsey & Wes Carter

Garden Sponsor

Le Creuset

Garden Sponsor

Limehouse Produce

Garden Sponsor

Volvo Car USA

Garden Sponsor


Program Sponsors

Program Sponsor

GrowFood Carolina

Program Sponsor

Sertoma Club of Charleston

Program Sponsor

Blue Ion

Program Sponsor

Crescent Homes

Program Sponsor

Frederick Baker

Program Sponsor

Motley Rice

Program Sponsor


Class Sponsor

In the News

The Green Heart Project
“Urban Farm: First Planting”
Count on 2
“Construction of urban farm in Downtown Charleston almost complete”
“The Green Heart Project and Clemson University Partnered to Build an Urban Farm Market Stand”
Fox 24
“Urban Farm at Enston Home Interview – Jesse Blom”
Live 5
“Urban Farm at Enston Home Interview”
The Green Heart Family
“Green Heart Thanksgiving Gratitude!”
“The Green Heart Project with Seamon Whiteside”
James Brown: Treehouse Productions
“Help Us Grow: The Green Heart Project”
Casey Toth of the Post & Courier
“The Green Heart Project Summer Camp”
College of Charleston
“Public Health Program and Farm-to-School Initiative”
Organic Process Productions
“The Green Heart Project”
“Hands-on internships made possible even in the time of COVID”
Charleston County School District (CCSD)
August 13, 2020
“Helping Out Highlights – $100K Grant”
Charleston Business
August 1, 2020
“Five urban schools awarded $100K Farm to School grant”
July 2, 2020
“Helping Out”
Charleston Regional Business Journal
October 30, 2019
“Green Heart Project Announces Capital Campaign in Support of New Urban Farm Project in Downtown Charleston”
Charleston Regional Business Journal
October 27, 2019
“Green Heart Project Announces Capital Campaign in Support of New Urban Farm Project in Downtown Charleston”
Charleston Regional Business Journal
October 27, 2019
“Harvest Dinner Supports School Garden Projects”
Channel 4 News Charleston
May 1, 2014
“Boeing Chooses College Farm-to School Initiative”
College of Charleston News Page
July 26, 2013
“Local Middle School Students Show Green Thumbs for Project”
Post & Courier
April 25, 2013
“Bridging the Farm-to-School GAP ”
Charleston City Paper
September 12, 2012
“Green Thumbs, and Hearts ”
Post & Courier
June 28, 2012
“Farm to School Program Takes Off”
ABC News 4 Charleston
May 24, 2012
“Featured Gardens: Common Ground”
Charleston Magazine
April 4, 2012
“Green Heart Harvest Dinner”
Charleston Magazine
December 8, 2011