by KELLY GUSICH | photos by Soul of Photography

Achieving Dreams

Manuel “Manny” Aguilar has lived in La Colonia de Eden Gardens since 1980. While he offers the usual sunny and coastal reasoning behind living in Southern California, it is the community and people of La Colonia that make it most special for Manny. “We have a beautiful blend of longtime residents and newer immigrants who want the best for their families and children,” Manny explained. “They are invested in our community.” When his beloved community began having a difficult time, Manny got involved in helping make positive changes for youth and families. He did this through the La Colonia de Eden Gardens Foundation and now serves as president and board chair.

volunteer_aguliar_2The La Colonia de Eden Gardens Foundation began creating forums for change, two examples being a community garden and a summer youth leadership camp. The garden enjoys support from throughout the Solana Beach area, and helps people grow healthy food for their families at an extremely low cost. The camp was created so youth could have a positive experience learning more about themselves and what life has to offer them. Now finishing its fourth annual camp season, participants have gone on to create a youth group called the La Colonia Changers. They’ve held town hall forums to identify strengths and weaknesses of the neighborhood and presented findings to the City Council. “More importantly,” Manny explained, “each of our La Colonia Changer high school seniors have graduated and moved on to either a college or a university.”

In 2014, the foundation partnered with the National Latino Research Center at CSUSM for the Community Needs Assessment. After identifying three key areas to focus on: children and youth, family and civic engagement, and social capital and community identity, they feel better equipped to bring families, community organizations, schools, law enforcement, and businesses together. To help their youth population further develop, the foundation partners with leaders like the County Office of Education Friday Night Live program, the San Deguito Alliance, and Teatro Mascara Magica. These programs help develop leadership skills while stressing the importance of education, creativity, and community service.

Together with his wife of 36 years and children and grandchildren, Manny leaves readers with one message: “Our community, La Colonia de Eden Gardens, is a wonderful place to live and visit. Our people are humble, hardworking, and only want the best for themselves, their families, and our country.” He smiled, “They are all grateful for the opportunity that America brings to them.”

Name: Manuel “Manny” Aguilar
Community: La Colonia de Eden Gardens of Solana Beach
Volunteer Affiliation: La Colonia de Eden Gardens Foundation
Profession: Business, community, fund development
Family: Married to wife MaryAnn; three grown children: Richard, Alan, and Sandra; and two grandchildren, Isaac and Marisol
Hobbies & Interests: Community empowerment, entertaining, traveling, music, concerts, golf, NFL Football, and Fantasy Football too!
Favorite Local Spots: Any San Dieguito area beaches, Torrey Pines State Reserve, San Elijo Lagoon, Palomar Mountain

Group: La Colonia de Eden Gardens Foundation
Mission: Our mission is to help and support youth and families to achieve their dreams by facilitating unified community collaborations that create positive change.
Contact: 619-672-5872;
Get Involved: The 2nd Annual Día de Los Muertos fundraiser is Oct. 30. It promotes participation through a variety of art projects celebrating this cultural phenomenon. For more info contact us at or