alice-thomas_web.jpgSpecial to South Florida Times

FORT LAUDERDALE — Alice Thomas became involved with the Urban League of Broward County, she said, because she was in search of something different.

“My life was routine. I wanted to meet new people,” the Fort Lauderdale resident said.

Having been homeschooled, Thomas said, something was missing. “I wanted my diploma, I wanted to grow, but in different ways. So I linked up with the Urban League,” she said.

Her league experiences  have opened doors.

Thomas presented a Peace Pole inscribed with the words, “Let peace be in our community,” in English, Spanish, Creole and Japanese during the Oct. 7 ribbon cutting ceremony for a Northwest Gardens housing complex dedication in Fort Lauderdale.  The pole is to be erected at the community garden, 771 NW 12th Ter., where Thomas hones her gardening experience.  A matching pole will be placed at the league’s

Community Empowerment Center on Northwest 27th Avenue just south of Sistrunk Blvd.

Thomas was recently given the “I am Empowered” recognition during the league’s Red Gala Celebration.

“Alice not only earned her GED; she used the tools garnered from the YouthBuild program to start her own business and give back to her community,” said league president and CEO Dr. Germaine Smith-Baugh.

“Her success redefines the 360-degree model of engagement. The community invests in the Urban League, we invest in our young people and our young people give back through service, entrepreneurship and good will,” said Smith-Baugh.

Also, through the Honey Project Global Outreach Initiative, Thomas traveled to Agogo, Ghana, over the summer to begin building a community garden for its residents.

“They don’t have what we have, not even clean water,” she said. “Something simple like a small cut can turn into something really major because people, especially the elders and the very young, can’t get to a hospital. Some end up dying from small things.”

Thomas said that she plans to return to the African nation to build an herbal garden for medicinal purposes. “They need a source of self-healing in case they cannot get to the hospital. Everything is spread out and people have to walk far. Not everyone has a car,” she said.

And Thomas was among 12 finalists for Google’s annual Zeitgeist contest, a competition for young adults considered world changers.

“I want to change the world by having things more natural, more organic,” she said. “I look forward to seeing a garden in every community in South Florida and I want these gardens to bring families together. It will teach growth and patience.”

Thomas has used her experiences “as a bridge to let others know how important education is and to show others that anything is possible,” said Teresa Patterson, the Urban League’s workforce development manager. “We believe that she will accomplish this goal based on her tenacity, hard work, and positive attitude.”

Cynthia Roby may be reached at


FLAIR FOR GARDENING: Alice Thomas stands in the midst of the community garden in the Northwest Gardens community in Fort Lauderdale where she volunteers and helps with the maintenance.