ANTIOCH -- When Brittney Gougeon created the Facebook group Take Back Antioch, she hoped the online forum would provide residents a platform to offer solutions to reduce crime and blight.

Two years and nearly 4,500 "Likes" later, the group is still actively involved in seemingly every city fundraiser and neighborhood watch function.

Gougeon's efforts also earned her one more very special "Like" last week -- Antioch's Citizen of the Year award.

"It's a tremendous honor and an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. Take Back Antioch has been a wonderful part of my life, and hopefully this is only going to mean good things going forward," said Gougeon, who was honored March 8 at the Antioch Chamber of Commerce's inaugural gala. The award is chosen by a panel of previous winners.

With Gougeon as the primary engine driving the group, Take Back Antioch has attracted volunteers to hold fundraisers to help two vandalized schools and replace City Park's fire-damaged tot lot play structure. It has also generated manpower for the city's graffiti and litter abatement efforts, and encouraged residents to get involved in Neighborhood Watch groups.

"It comes in waves, you can't always be going 100 percent. Much of the involvement comes out of a sense of urgency and is based on the topic at hand," Gougeon said.

Gougeon, 25, is quick to credit others involved with Take Back Antioch that made the award possible.

"It's every single person out there every single day, trying to make the community where we live better," she said.


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Gloria Martin won the Citizen of the Year award for lifetime achievement for her philanthropic works, which include volunteering with the Martin Family Foundation, Police Activities League, Antioch Historical Society, the REACH project, Rotary projects and the Antioch Education Foundation.

Her volunteer work started more than 20 years ago, when friend Shirley Marchetti got her involved in REACH. Then she joined Rotary and was drawn to help because of all the work that group did in providing scholarships and work overseas.

Martin said she prefers to volunteer, particularly in helping children, without any fanfare. She "just likes to help."

The chamber award is "quite an honor," she said.

"Receiving it on my birthday was an added plus," the 76-year-old said.

The 14-member Fourth of July Committee, which raised $60,000 for a downtown parade celebration last Independence Day that included fireworks, received special recognition from the chamber.

There was no top winner for the chamber's new category of Nonprofit of the Year, as all seven nominees for the award were recognized. The groups acknowledged for their decades of service were An Elderly Wish Foundation, Antioch Historical Society, Brighter Beginnings, El Campanil Theatre, Friends of Animal Services, GFWC Woman's Club of Antioch and Kiwanis Club of the Delta.

Higgins Funeral Chapel and Oakview Memorial Park earned the award for top small business, while Markstein Beverage Co. was picked as top large business.

Erin McDaid of Dozier-Libbey Medical High School was named Youth of the Year.

The new chamber of commerce board was also sworn in before the awards ceremony. Brian Ballante of Auto Diagnostic and Repair will be board president in 2013.

Ballante called on the group to be a chamber of action in the upcoming year and work to "get rid of the red tape and instead roll out the red carpet" for existing and startup businesses.

Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.