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Posted on June 13, 2012

Fresno County: Rural School Gets Facelift Courtesy of PG&E, Volunteers

By Tracy Correa

Nearly 60 volunteers representing PG&E, its contracting partners and the community recently renovated athletic fields and added new technology at a rural school in Fresno County.

Within a matter of hours on Saturday (June 9), Cantua Elementary School had gained a long list of gifts and improvements. The school received: new soccer goals, renovated basketball courts and baseball fields, a new public address system, picnic tables and benches and educational white board technology for classrooms.

Cantua Elementary

PG&E’s Mariano Mandler and his son Marcus help repair the cracked surface of the basketball court at Cantua Elementary. (Photos by Jeanette Ishii.)

Donations to the school, which included $25,000 from PG&E, totaled almost $60,000.

The event is part of PG&E’s effort to give back to the Cantua Creek community where later this month it will dedicate the second phase of a five-year plan to build 250 megawatts of new solar photovoltaic generation, owned and operated by the utility. Last year, the first phase was dedicated in the Fresno County community of Five Points and PG&E organized a volunteer event at Westside Elementary School where that school received a facelift and upgraded technology.

Watching the volunteers at work at Cantua Elementary was heartwarming, said Eddie Garcia, director of maintenance operations and transportation at the small school.

Repairs badly needed

Garcia said the school was in serious need of upgrades and repairs.

For example, the students had not been able to use the baseball and softball fields in two years because it was riddled with gopher holes that made it unsafe for play. “They [volunteers] went out there and scraped and leveled it off so students can now use it,” he said. “We haven’t had this type of support and we appreciate what PG&E has done.”

Cantua Elementary

Fresno County Supervisor Phil Larson watches as volunteers install new PA system equipment in the cafeteria.

The small school is located in an agricultural setting 55 miles southwest of Fresno. Total student enrollment is just over 200, nearly 100 percent of students are Hispanic and all qualify for free or reduced priced meals, according to data from the California Department of Education.

Thomas Allen, director of PG&E’s New Generation Construction department, said the outpouring of support from not only PG&E, but the utility’s construction partners, was impressive.

Volunteers from Q-Cells, MJAvila, Tri-Technic, Preferred Power Solutions, and Cupertino Electric all donated time and equipment to the school. MJAvila, for example, brought out construction equipment to repair the gopher-hole-ridden baseball diamond. Q-Cells donated the new PA system and Tri-Technic and Preferred Power installed it.

School lacks resources for improvements

“All of these people showed up, formed teams and all went to work. The school really needed our help and it made me really proud of our team and the people that showed up to do it,” said Allen.

Cantua Elementary

Volunteers from PG&E and its contractors install a new soccer goal.

Jeanette Ishii, senior governmental relations representative in Fresno, echoed Allen’s sentiments. She added: “This was a great opportunity for us to give back to a school that does not have resources to pay for these types of improvements.”

Members of the Golden Plains Unified School District and Fresno County Supervisor Phil Larson, who represents the area, were also on hand at the event.

Larson expressed his gratitude in a letter thanking PG&E and stating how proud he was to have participated. “The contribution everyone has made to this elementary school is remarkable and I am sure it will not be forgotten anytime soon,” he wrote.

E-mail Tracy Correa at

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