Armon Harvey was heading home to southeastern San Diego in the rain when he realized how bad the storm was becoming. Water was gushing down his street towards the bottom of the hill he lives on, cars were stuck in the water and people were on top of their vehicles. He knew there would be a tremendous impact on the community. He remembers the call he took that evening.

“The Red Cross is setting up at Lincoln High School,” he was told. He headed there immediately to volunteer.

After the record rainfall and devastating floods ravaged local communities, it quickly became clear that the aftermath of the January 2024 storms would be felt for quite some time. Harvey, the President and Founder of Harvey Family Foundation, felt called to help, as well — immediately calling Anna Arancibia, Executive Director at the Jackie Robinson Family YMCA in the Mountain View neighborhood of southeastern San Diego

“Hey, these people need showers,” Harvey said to her on the phone. “There’s people that really need a place.”

Serving the Community

What simply started as showers grew into so much more. The Jackie Robinson YMCA quickly transformed into a hub for flood survivors searching for help and resources.

“Did they need food? Did they need dump trucks? Did they need some muscle to be able to move out? We had a lot of elderly folks out there,” Arancibia said. “It was a lot of 12-to-14-hour days to ensure our community would not be ignored.”

The Voice of San Diego reports at least 1,000 people – including children – are displaced from their homes because of the storms. Many don’t have flood insurance and lost everything due to the floods.

“I don’t think folks realize how bad it was,” Arancibia said.

The impacts Arancibia describes are disastrous – families sleeping on their roof, some without medication, the water and pollution up to six feet in homes. She recognizes the help from the community as a beacon of hope in a dark time.

“If it wasn’t for the community and the different organizations coming together,” she said. “I don’t know what would have happened for our community.”

Collective Effort

In the aftermath, the collective efforts of small nonprofits and community organizations emerged as beacons of hope amidst the devastation. With great adaptability and a deep commitment to service, these grassroots nonprofits played a pivotal role in providing crucial assistance and support to those in need.

From going door to door to neighborhood cleanup efforts to ensuring families had access to housing and meals — every action, no matter how small, contributes to the monumental, ongoing task of rebuilding shattered lives.

“It was very vital that we stand up for our own community. Not one organization could do any of this alone,” Harvey said. “It took every organization to do exactly that what they did in the line they work in for all to come together.”

YMCA donation room

Through the San Diego Flood Response Fund established on January 25, San Diego Foundation was quickly able to grant to and support nonprofit organizations like the Jackie Robinson Family YMCA and the Harvey Family Foundation for helping people in the community with basic needs like housing, food, mental health resources and more.

“We have to find a way for families to feel whole again,” said Arancibia. “We are here for this community at all times, whether in good or bad, we will be here to support.”

Through their tireless dedication and unwavering compassion, these unsung heroes exemplify the power of community and how it can inspire people, even in the darkest of times.

“It’s just amazing to see this huge collaborative effort of different organizations working together,” Arancibia said.

Fundraising and Grantmaking

In total, the San Diego Flood Response Fund raised $1,353,000, including a first match of $100,000 and a second earned match of more than $215,000 from the San Diego Foundation Board of Governors. In total, San Diego Foundation is the largest contributor to the response fund with more than $300,000.

More than 1,100 donors, foundations and corporations donated to the fund. In addition, most funds raised – $1,093,000 to date – have been granted to 33 local nonprofit organizations providing assistance to those impacted and displaced by the January 22 floods, including nonprofits assisting with housing and basic needs.

With federal assistance now heading to San Diego, the fund is sunsetting its fundraising efforts and granting out the balance to nonprofits providing remediation and repair support to homeowners in affected areas, food security and trauma-informed counseling services.

Flood response relief press conference

“The floods caused an extraordinary loss for many families, and people needed our help,” said Mark Stuart, President & CEO, SDF.

“With federal assistance now flowing into local communities, San Diego Foundation will sunset the San Diego Flood Response Fund. We extend our gratitude to each and every San Diegan and organization who made a difference with their donation, and especially to our nonprofit partners on the ground who invested every grant in temporary housing, debris clean-up and home repair, replacement of household items, food, transportation, mental health support and medical services to improve the lives of those impacted.”

SDF will release an impact report about the San Diego Flood Response Fund this spring. Community foundations like SDF are uniquely positioned to support communities in times of urgent need like in response to a natural disaster or to address deep, systemic challenges facing their neighborhoods. In addition to crisis philanthropy, SDF focuses on six key impact areas to help San Diegans that need help the most in our region.

Learn more about our impact.