Recently, I had a chance to visit with the leadership of Casa Familiar in San Ysidro. The team is led by Lisa Cuentas, who is a dynamo. Lisa has a deep and profound vision for the organization and this community’s future.

Established in 1972, Casa Familiar serves thousands of residents in South San Diego in a myriad of capacities. The organization offers residents important services such as transitional housing, education, and healthcare, among many others.

For example, Casa Familiar recently announced a new initiative that will transform a former San Ysidro church into a neighborhood theater as part of a mixed-use project that includes affordable housing and classroom space. The project, titled “Living Rooms at the Border,” will support community needs and much-needed housing through a design that embraces community.

And that’s just the beginning. The Living Rooms at the Border project is just one part of a bigger vision by Casa Familiar and local leaders.

Lisa and Casa Familiar are working with the community to strengthen San Ysidro through a bold, multi-year development plan.

Enhancing the Gateway to San Diego

San Ysidro is a vibrant community with a rich history in the region. Home to one of the world’s busiest international land border crossings, San Ysidro stands at the doorstep to more than 70,000 vehicles and 20,000 pedestrians who travel into the region every day.

As Lisa and I walked through the neighborhood, her effusive enthusiasm for what San Ysidro could be was infectious.

She dreams of connecting new housing, a massive new biblioteca (library for non-Spanish speakers), art projects, a community center, as well as gardens and beautifications to tie everything together.

The goal is to create a new cultural corridor in South San Diego that will stand as a destination for visitors and a place of pride and growth for residents.

I cannot think of any better way to enhance San Diego’s gateway community.

Building for the Future

One of the most memorable moments of my visit was when Lisa shared an email she had written on October 7, 2016.

In this message, as she described her new role leading Casa Familiar, Lisa stated, “One of my dreams for Casa is to establish an endowment.” As she said to me, an endowment provides a sense of permanence, of doing good for San Ysidro forever.

Well, that goal can now be crossed off!

This summer, Casa Familiar and its Board moved $2.25 million to The San Diego Foundation, split between a nonprofit agency endowment fund and a non-endowment fund. By growing value in perpetuity through pooled investments, the endowment fund will help Casa Familiar forever in its work in San Ysidro.

I cannot wait to see what even greater goals Lisa sets for herself and this dynamic community organization.

No matter what, The San Diego Foundation will be there to help realize those dreams!

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