Organizers celebrated the one-year anniversary of the Centreville Labor Resource Center, a benchmark they said would have been impossible to meet without the broad community support and a small army of volunteers that helped make things happen.
The center, a longtime effort of the Centreville Immigration Forum, provides day laborers with a safe place to wait for jobs other than out-of-doors near the Centreville Regional Library. Located in the Centreville Square Shopping Center, the center occupies a space donated by plaza owner and developer Albert J. Dwoskin, a longtime supporter. About 50 supporters attended the anniversary party on Saturday.
“We are very happy about what we are able to do,” said Alice Foltz, Centreville Immigration Forum president. “The best part is that we’ve been able to do it because of the community support. We think it’s created a happier community. People who don’t use the center come up to me and say they are glad the center is there.”
The fact that the center was able to not only launch, but prosper in the middle of an acrimonious national debate over immigration is something of a miracle. The creation of the center has been met with criticism from some in the community, but Foltz responds that “we’re not trying to solve the immigration problem. We created the center to deal with Centreville issues.”
Generally, it creates a safer and more organized location for the community’s day labor force. Previously, the workers, most of whom are drawn from the same impoverished, rural section of Guatemala, stood around near the library—where they were subjected to the elements and exploitation. As workers and employers learned about the center, the practice of hiring day laborers from the street has begun to fade away, Foltz said.
There are still a dozen or so workers who try to catch jobs near the library some mornings, but the center has been embraced by the day laborers. It has enrolled about 360 workers, 320 employers and depends on about 100 community volunteers to help out, Foltz said. It is privately funded and receives no public money, unlike other day labor centers in the DMV.
The center wouldn’t have been a success without the community support, the donation of space from Dwoskin and the help of Sully District Supervisor Michael Frey (R), a vocal advocate of the center, Foltz said.
The center is a place to get a job, but it also provides the workers with a sense of community. Most are hundreds of miles from home, dealing in a language that is not their own but drawn to a new community with the promise of a better life for themselves and their families. It can be a tough experience and the center helps build a bridge to help them acclimate, Foltz said.
”For the workers themselves, there is a sense of community,” Foltz said. “Rather than feel the kind of isolation they felt before, they have an ability to be a part of the community.”