The founder of Take Back Antioch (TBA) laid the foundation to get the park rebuilt by collecting $8,500, but a series of surprise donations Dec. 27 completed the path to a new beginning for the park.
After pledging to donate $12,500 to the organization, Pacific Gas and Electric Company surprised Gougeon at a ceremony at the park by adding $2,000 to its donation. Assemblyman Jim Frazier chipped in with an on-the-spot donation of $2,000 to push the fundraising efforts to the $25,000 goal.
“I was surprised, but now that I think about it, it’s Antioch,” Gougeon said as she held the oversize check from PG&E at the park. “We’re a very strong and resilient community. We had a marketing campaign to run with, but here we are.”
The funds will cover the city’s insurance deductible on the $250,000 cost to get the park rebuilt. The structure is expected to be replaced during the spring or summer.
“This is a great little park for children,” said City Councilmember Mary Rocha. “This park has a history. I hope this is the last piece, and it stays in place.”
Tom Guarino, PG&E East Bay public affairs manager, said when the playground was destroyed, it stung his spirit. Two teenagers, 14 and 17 , were arrested Sept. 28 in connection with the fire.
Two hundred PG&E employees helped build the kid-designed playground during the weekends while they were building the Gateway Generating Station in 2006. The project included an adult soccer field, a concession stand, lighting, bathrooms and a parking area.
“I cornered my vice president in San Francisco, and said, ‘We need some money to help these people out,’” Guarino said.
The fire sparked an outpouring of support from the local community. Prior to the Dec. 27 donations, about $5,600 had been donated to TBA’s efforts through an online account, $2,719 was raised from a raffle and fundraiser at Uno Chicago Grill in Antioch and $300 was generated by a spaghetti feed at the Red Caboose.
“This shows great pride for our community,” said City Councilmember Monica Wilson.
Against the backdrop of a gaping hole in the park’s play structure, enclosed by a cyclone fence, Frazier put the finishing touches on the community’s effort to start anew with his $2,000 donation.
“This senseless act of arson and vandalism doesn’t help a community,” Frazier said. “I look forward to the rebuilding of the project so the kids of Antioch and their families can enjoy this park.”