Jamaica native brings solar power to community garden through nonprofit organization

Alicia White, founder of Project Petals (c), delivers a Geneverse solar power generator to Sonia Ferraro (l.) of Paradise Community Garden, in Jamaica. (Photo courtesy of Project Petals/Alicia White)

Jamaica native Alicia White, who is the founder of Project Petals, a sustainable-led climate change resilience nonprofit, is helping to bring solar power to community gardens in partnership with sustainable energy firm Geneverse.

Established in 2015, Project Petals works to create, restore, and improve green spaces, particularly in communities that will be disproportionately impacted by climate change. The new partnership with Geneverse provides four solar generators and five solar panels that will be used to power tools, community-led green spaces, food programs, and events. 

“When we look at how our communities, specifically communities of color across New York City, they’re using gas power which isn’t the best for our health and the environment,” White said. “That’s something from the very beginning that I knew I wanted to bring to the communities I worked in. It was just a matter of how I was going to do it.” 

According to White, a representative from Geneverse had contacted her and they worked together to bring solar power to aid communities and leaders working to improve their environment and fight food insecurity. 

Geneverse aims to be a reliable and affordable power source for families and communities through the production and distribution of sustainable energy solutions. The company’s vision is to work towards complete renewable energy independence and sees such green spaces as Project Petals as a key asset in fulfilling that environmental goal. 

In November 2022, White delivered Project Petals’ first Geneverse generator and solar panel to the Paradise Community Garden, at 107-29 Inwood St. in Jamaica. She has yet to decide where the remaining generators and solar panels will be distributed. 

Alicia White, founder of Project Petals (third from left) with Sonia Ferraro (second from left) at Paradise Community Garden in Jamaica. (Photo courtesy of Sonia Ferraro)

When Sonia Ferraro, director of Paradise Community Garden, received the tools she needed to conduct cooking demonstrations and community-led activities, she was elated and speechless.

“Project Petals has been so helpful to us. They’re angels to Paradise Garden,” Ferraro said. “The generator is exactly what we needed and Project Petals was really Santa Claus for us in 2022. It’s just fabulous.” 

During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Spring of 2020, Ferraro decided to work on cleaning up a lot that was filled with litter and transform it into a community garden. Since then, Paradise Garden has become a place where people from different cultures and backgrounds convene to learn about growing vegetables, cooking healthy foods, and participating in activities. 

The Paradise Community Garden at 107-29 Inwood St. in Jamaica. (Photo courtesy of Sonia Ferraro)

However, not having a generator was difficult, Ferraro said. 

“We really didn’t have any tools and she [Alicia] helped us with everything. The more she helped me, the more I was able to reach out to the community,” Ferraro said. “I told her I want to be able to run cooking workshops, because I have two adult gardeners who have no idea how to cook. They only buy prepared foods and when they do eat healthy, it’s only processed foods. I shared that with her and it blew my mind how our small garden had such a profound effect on people.”

(Photo courtesy of Sonia Ferraro)

For White, knowing that communities have the resources that they need to be able to conduct programming and sustain their community gardens for years to come is an amazing feeling, she said. 

“To see all of the hard work I’ve been putting in, our volunteers and our community leaders, it’s great to see the impact that we’re making,” White said. 

White is encouraging anyone, especially those in the Queens community, to contact Project Petals to receive the tools they need to start their own garden or environmental space.