San Diego disaster recovery group calls for volunteers to help rebuild flood victims' homes

The ongoing volunteer efforts take place Saturdays and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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A San Diego disaster recovery organization is asking for more volunteers to help repair homes destroyed by the historic January flooding.

San Diego Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster put out a call for assistance in their ongoing clean-up and reconstruction efforts. Since Jan. 22, the group has been coordinating volunteers and resources for those displaced by the record-breaking floods.

“Something we’re really looking for is muscle, money and material for a lot of these families,” said Andrew Bañez, of SD VOAD. “That’s a big need for these families right now.”

Daniel Lopez’s family was among those impacted. His mother owns an Encanto property with six houses she rents out – her only source of income.

When the floods came, water levels rose 4 feet. Everyone who lived on the property fled and has been in temporary housing ever since, some in hotels, with family or in a nearby trailer.

And without any income or flood insurance, Lopez said his mother has maxed out her credit cards trying to repair the damage.

“I wish I had more money so I could help her more. I don’t want to see her working like this, having to carry this weight. Not only for herself, but also for the tenants,” Lopez said. “She has a big heart to give, so for her, to see her stressed, it makes me sad.”

A little over a month ago, as Lopez was rebuilding alone, SD VOAD’s volunteers swooped in to join him.

“It’s been an answered prayer,” Lopez said. “We've been praying and they came knocking, saying, ‘Hey, we're here. We're here to help. How can we help?’”

Volunteers have come to his family’s property at least a dozen times since then, he said. More than 20 people arrived at the property again Saturday to help clear out mold-infested drywall.

Bañez said the team of volunteers has worked on more than 50 properties, with a lot more to go. And time is of the essence, as San Diego County’s temporary lodging program that provides hotel rooms ends Friday.

“These families are going through different emotions right now. A lot of them don’t know where they’re going to be. A lot of them are looking for answers,” Bañez said. “We can’t make them whole and we understand that. But the best thing we can do is help supplement their needs.”

The ongoing volunteer efforts take place Saturdays and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., organizers said. Anyone interested can sign up at togethersandiego.org/volunteer. Exact locations of the sites will be sent after signing up.

“We need your help. We need your help,” Lopez said to anyone considering volunteering. “Not only us but those around us.”

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