Juanita Carillo was barely surviving as it was before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Employed as a housekeeper, seamstress and whatever else the 53-year-old could find to help support her in a  daily struggle to survive as a single mom raising two children, Carillo’s hopes for a better life seemed to evaporate when the state’s stay-at-home order left her without a steady income.

No longer able to afford her shared, one-bedroom El Cajon apartment, Carillo and her children, 8 and 13, trekked to the San Diego Rescue Mission. Their stay lasted about a week until the nonprofit closed its nightly emergency shelter. “We had no place to go,” Carillo said through tears.

At least not until The Salvation Army, bolstered by a $100,000 grant from The San Diego Foundation COVID-19 Community Response Fund, contacted Carillo with an offer to place her and her children at a transitional housing program in San Diego, rent free, for nine months.

“I cried, my children cried, we were so happy,” Carillo said. “We were jumping up and down. We couldn’t believe it. We were saying, “Thank you, God, for giving us a place to stay!’”

The San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund has been instrumental in saving lives since its inception, granting more than $2.7 million to area nonprofits helping people deal with the devastating impacts left in the coronavirus’s wake. Emergency grants are made possible thanks to thousands of donations from donor-advised funds, businesses and individuals.

Father Joe’s Villages, Feeding San Diego, the Jacobs and Cushman San Diego Food Bank, and the San Diego Hunger Coalition are also among the nearly two dozen organizations that have stepped up their efforts thanks to grant funding.

The Salvation Army is dedicating the donation to the economically vulnerable such as Juanita Carillo and her children, families living paycheck to paycheck hit the hardest by the closures designed to stop the spread of the deadly virus. The COVID-19 Community Response Fund is keeping families housed by helping families pay rent, receive utility or transportation assistance, and food.

The gifts underscore how community foundations are partnering with family foundations, businesses and government agencies to raise and grant funds quickly to those most in need and to ensure an efficient and coordinated response. Hundreds of thousands of San Diego County residents have been impacted to date.

The Salvation Army

Georgianna Avila is among them. A baker/manager at a local Souplantation, Avila suddenly found herself without work when the restaurant shut down during the COVID-19 stay-at-home order. She’s now living in a San Diego Housing Commission building in downtown San Diego but struggles to feed herself while she waits for her unemployment checks to arrive. She’s been to a nearby Salvation Army food pantry to help her battle the hunger pangs.

“I’m used to working six days a week,” Avila said. “This is a different world right now. I’ve never been to a pantry before, but anything right now has been a tremendous help.”

Help San Diego families in need by donating today.