Spaghetti Dinner Fundraiser Raises $12,500 for Stockton Pallet Fire Victims

STOCKTON -- "We kind of threw this together. It's a basic meat sauce," said Mario Gardea.

They can downplay their recipe all they want, but a lot of effort went into this meal.

"I hope it's OK," Gardea said.

"There was a lot of work, but many hands, and many hands make for light work," said Stockton City Councilwoman Christina Fugazi.

Fugazi has her hands all in this fundraiser -- gathering money for the 27 people from five families who lost everything they owned in a pallet yard fire that spread in gusty winds and burned their homes on East Weber Avenue.

"I had somebody in charge of the raffle, I had somebody in charge of the spaghetti, salad and bread, and somebody getting the beverages," Fugazi said.

Plenty of people paid $20 a ticket to come eat and listen to the band play and businesses brought gift baskets for the raffle. But after Wednesday night, they will all go back to living their normal lives.

"My normal ain't normal no more," said Michaela Swan.

Swan and her children have been living in a hotel room for two weeks. The fire melted their car down to metal and gutted their home -- the first house her family ever lived in.

"It's just tough, daily. You know, my kids ... my youngest daughter says she wants to go home, and there's nothing I can do about it," Swan said.

She's one of many neighbors who had an ominous feeling about the way pallets were stacked on the yard, who reported it to the city, and feels failed that it wasn't addressed sooner.

"I'm glad for the city to come out and do this for our family," Swan said.

When she says "the city" moving forward, she'll think of all the people who live there.

"It's not what you hear or the bad news, it's good people here," Henry Peralta said.

About $12,500 was raised on Wednesday.