Every dollar makes a difference.

Just ask 12-year-old Laurel Staudinger, a seventh-grader at Warren-Walker Middle School in Mission Valley, who spent weeks making, packaging and selling $5 bags of dried fruit and donating all her proceeds to the San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund.

Laurel’s $450 contribution equated to the amount needed to help a family in City Heights pay their rent, a single mom in El Cajon buy groceries and cover her utility bills, or a housing-insecure college student afford car repairs needed to commute to work.

When Laurel was asked why she did it, she shared, “It doesn’t matter how old you are, whether you’re 7 or 70, whether you only have $5 or $500. It’s going to make a difference in someone’s life and it’s going to have an impact.”

Laurel Staudinger
Laurel Staudinger

Laurel was looking to make an impact when she approached her parents with an idea.

“We had a dehydrator forever and we really never made anything with it,” said Laurel’s dad, Mike Staudinger, who works as a life sciences consultant.

Laurel figured, why not take fruit from an orchard on a Ramona ranch where she rides horses, dehydrate the blood oranges, oranges and lemons, and sell them for a worthy cause. The owner of the property, Sebesta’s Rocking K Ranch, was in.

Laurel learned the nuances of dehydrating fruit from YouTube videos, and the rest was history.

“The San Diego region has truly come together as a community during these challenging times,” shared Mark Stuart, President and CEO of The San Diego Foundation. “We have received donations from thousands of individuals and businesses of all shapes and sizes. San Diegans such as Laurel embody who we are: caring, compassionate and dedicated.”

Laurel consulted with her older sister, a 2-1-1 operator at the time, for ideas on a worthy cause. The response – the San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund.

Since March 2020, the COVID-19 Community Response Fund has been making a difference in the region by granting more than $58 million to hundreds of nonprofits working on the frontline of the crisis.

San Diego Community Response Fund logo

“I went on The San Diego Foundation website, and they needed help and they were working on a good cause, and that’s how we decided,” Laurel said.

For most of last spring and through the summer, Laurel would slice and dice fresh fruit, and place the pieces in the dehydrator, which was running 24/7.

“She drove the whole effort,” said her mom, Nathalie Le Floch, a nurse practitioner at Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego. “This was all her idea.”

Laurel concedes she had her doubts about the project’s success in the beginning. “I thought maybe I’d only be able to sell a few bags of dried fruit to friends and family. But word got around.”

And for good reason. “It tasted great,” said Laurel. “It was sweet. People really liked it.”

Join the thousands of generous San Diegans like Laurel and help nonprofits serving people in need right now. Donate to the San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund today.