Atherton volunteers rebuild plane-crash victim's home

Volunteer efforts, donations will get an East Palo Alto woman back into her house

Four years after a Tesla employee's plane plummeted into an East Palo Alto neighborhood, destroying Lisa Jones' home and child care center, residents of Atherton and dozens of community volunteers have stepped forward to rebuild Jones' home — and life.

Jones' family members barely escaped when the twin-engine Cessna slammed into their bedrooms on the morning of Feb. 17, 2010. Since then, Jones has struggled while others in her Beech Street neighborhood have been able to recover.

When a lawsuit that settled in July 2013 did not give Jones enough money to rebuild, Maryan Ackley, a longtime friend and Atherton resident, started to raise funds to rebuild Jones' home.

Now the project, which began in November, is nearly completed. This past Monday, Ebcon Corporation construction workers were putting the finishing touches on the neat, beige-and-white home.

"I've known Lisa since our kids were in kindergarten together 12 years ago," Ackley said. "Our kids were friends, and we were friends. When the accident first happened, I stayed close to Lisa. When it became apparent that the settlement wouldn't be enough, I reached out to the Sacred Heart Schools community" for help.

Pacific Peninsula Group, a real-estate development firm cofounded by Ackley's husband, Stephen, became a corporate sponsor for the effort, which tapped into subcontractors who supplied in-kind donations.

Dollinger Properties executive David Dollinger put up a $125,000 matching grant, which gave impetus to the community fundraising, according to Ackley.

The nonprofit Rebuilding Together Peninsula, with which Ackley has been active for many years, agreed to get involved. Scads of local businesses and contractors also donated money, materials and time.

"It really was a labor of love for a lot of people," Ackley said.

Chalk messages on the pavement in front of Jones' home attest to that affection.

"Lisa, You are loved!" student volunteers wrote. The students added words of encouragement at the driveway: "Audacity. Safety. Joy. Peace. Strength. Courage. Hope. Grace. Happiness. Community. Security. Care."

Ackley said she first understood Jones' impact on her community when she visited Jones' day care center years ago.

"She did such amazing work. She really provided very high-quality early education. She provided such a needed service in her neighborhood," Ackley said.

But it all changed when the plane struck. Three Tesla employees — Brian Finn, Andrew Ingram and pilot Douglas Bourn — died in the accident, which was caused by pilot error, National Transportation Safety Board investigators determined. When Jones' family fled the burning home, they left everything behind. The home was boarded up and red tagged.

Ackley said students helped the family clean out their belongings last November before demolition. Construction began in April.

The project went far beyond the usual scope of Rebuilding Together's work, said Cari Chen, associate director of the Redwood City-based nonprofit. Workers replaced exterior walls, reframed the home and redid the entire roof. They replaced windows and doors and added new drywall, new electrical wiring and plumbing and fire sprinklers.

Volunteers showed up from trade unions; Menlo Park Presbyterian Church; Young Neighbors in Action Youth Ministry in Gig Harbor, Washington; the Atherton Sacred Heart Community; and Joan of Arc Parish in San Ramon.

When the volunteers first came, project Superintendent Clark Schoening of Ebcon Construction said he wasn't sure how the project could be coordinated.

"But the kids really gave it their all. They gave up their summer vacations to do this. It took a lot of coordination to make this thing work," he said.

For her part, Jones is ready to move on. She doesn't want to do any more interviews after four years in the spotlight and being the subject, at times, of media misinformation. But Chen said Jones can't wait to settle into her home. Sometimes, she'll come and sit in her living room and just take it all in.

"Before November, she didn't feel she could be in there. But when she saw the walls go up and the windows, she got really excited. She's seen it all come together," Chen said.

Once Jones is settled back in, Rebuilding Together Peninsula, Ackley and the volunteers will begin the second phase to restore Jones' life. They'll raise funds to repair the day care center playhouse and replace the playground equipment. At a minimum, they must raise $70,000, Ackley said.

Chen said they won't leave until they've given Jones back everything she lost — her home and her livelihood.

Anyone wishing to help complete the playground and center can send donations to The Jones Fund, c/o Rebuilding Together Peninsula, 841 Kaynyne St., Redwood City, CA 94063.

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Like this comment
Posted by Mary
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 17, 2014 at 5:42 pm

Try for raising funds. Good luck! MDS

Like this comment
Posted by Bernard
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Aug 17, 2014 at 5:49 pm

Wonderful! All are to be commended!

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 17, 2014 at 7:45 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.


Like this comment
Posted by Rebekah
a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 18, 2014 at 6:10 am

Wonderful story of community caring!
Thank you all for coming together to heal a tragic scar.
I trust you have or will approach the Tesla community of friends of the pilot and passengers to help rebuild Lisa's life and livelihood - I did not see the Tesla name among the donors and am sure that group of friends and coworkers would be anxious to help in memory of their sad loss.
Such an inspiring story of love, care and Phoenix rising! Best of luck to all involved!

Like this comment
Posted by Helen Palo Alto
a resident of another community
on Aug 18, 2014 at 1:32 pm

" When a lawsuit that settled in July 2013 did not give Jones enough money to rebuild, "
Please tell us how Jone's or Tesla's insurance didn't cover cost of replacing house immediately??

Like this comment
Posted by gunste
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Aug 18, 2014 at 2:14 pm

gunste is a registered user.

Along with Helen Palo Alto, I would ask why it took a law suit to recover anything and then an insufficient amount to rebuild the house and business.
The funds should have been made available within a few month at most, to rebuild, pay expenses while displaced, and penalties for the business lost.
The hard nosed attitude of the insurance company and the apparent failure of Tesla to help out are remarkable. Justice goes to the best lawyers!!??!!

1 person likes this
Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 18, 2014 at 2:17 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

Wonderful community help.

1 person likes this
Posted by Beth
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 18, 2014 at 2:52 pm

Agreed - where was Tesla that has benefited greatly from the surrounding communities? Would they have done so if the house was in Menlo Park or Palo Alto - more 'visible'? And the insurance companies - determined by the policy taken out by Tesla? Something is wrong here -

Aside from that, kudos to all who donated and worked on this, helping where it's needed. Many lessons to learn from this.

Like this comment
Posted by Helen Palo Alto
a resident of another community
on Aug 18, 2014 at 5:36 pm

[Post removed. It's not clear how this post is related to the topic.]

1 person likes this
Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Aug 18, 2014 at 6:41 pm

Helen of Palo Alto
There are different sources of child care in the community. But, somehow there is never enough. And the institutional child care can be quite impersonal (some are like "holding tanks" for kids)

When my child was young, the most loving and attentive and responsible care she got was in a private home from "Mrs. L" an older woman with an invalid husband.

My daughter got great care and my fees helped the care-giver - who my child regarded as a 3rd grandparent - make ends meet and keep her home. It was a win/win situation.

When I went to church, I gave thanks that she was there for my child.

Like this comment
Posted by puzzled
a resident of another community
on Aug 18, 2014 at 7:52 pm

[Portion removed. Please don't speculate on her private financial situation.]
Nevertheless, congratulations to those who helped rebuild her home and day care center. It's good to know that there are caring people out there.

Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Aug 19, 2014 at 12:56 pm

A nice story of people helping out someone [portion removed. Please don't speculate on her private financial situation.]

Like this comment
Posted by helen Palo Alto
a resident of another community
on Aug 19, 2014 at 2:09 pm

[Post removed. Please don't speculate on her private financial situation. It's not clear how the rest of this post is related to the topic.]

Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Aug 19, 2014 at 2:42 pm

Check you homeowner's policy -- are you covered for full replacement costs in today's building environment in this area?

Probably not.

Like this comment
Posted by Mary S
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Sep 27, 2014 at 1:00 pm

If anyone knows Elon Musk personally please send him the article. I am sure he would be appalled to think people thought negatively about his company because of this tragedy. We have tried to reach out to him but he is insulated and may not even be aware of the situation. I would like to give him and the company the benefit of the doubt and believe he would like to make a positive impact to such a tragedy.
Think positively.

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