Planting Hope: San Diego County Nonprofits Collaborate for Better, Healthier Future

Encinitas 4 Equality and other volunteers begin a new community garden in Carlsbad.

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With the sun beating at her back, Felicia Booker bent over and tended to a young, humble garden in Carlsbad.

“Oh, my God, this is wonderful,” Booker said with a smile.

Booker represents a group called Black Girls Who Garden, but they aren’t the only ones with their hands in the dirt.

“We have to work together, otherwise we’re going to end up in the same position we’re in now 40 years from now,” said Mali Woods-Drake, president and co-founder of Encinitas4Equality.

E4E was created shortly after George Floyd was murdered last year and gives voice to minority and marginalized groups in Encinitas. Several black wooden panels with the names of people killed during run-ins with police provided a backdrop for the garden that is made up of several garden boxes. A large painted picture of Floyd rests next to them.

“I’m proud of our community,” Woods-Drake said while standing next to the garden dozens of volunteers helped build last month.

Woods-Drake said the Fill-A-Belly community garden is open to everyone who wants to help, and the produce will support other local non-profits like the Oceanside Homeless Resource.

“For us to do this outside of the box and just start this year, it’s beautiful,” said Vanessa Graziano, who started the nonprofit after she successfully overcame homelessness. "So, it means the world to us."

“She is an incredible on-the-streets warrior for the unhoused community,” said a beaming Woods-Drake, adding, "we really believe in cooperation among nonprofits, as opposed to competition. One person can make a difference, especially when one person works alongside another person and then they invite another person.”

Graziano said Encinitas 4 Equality was already making dinners for dozens of her clients every Friday. Now, she’s looking forward to the first meal grown from the community garden.

“Oh, my God, it’s going to be one of the greatest days of my life,” exclaimed Booker who tended to peppers, strawberries and tomatoes.

It’s food that will feed anyone who needs it, no matter their background.

“These issues aren’t going to be fixed at a federal level, a state level, if we don’t make sure that they’re fixed at a local level,” concluded Woods-Drake.

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