The once abandoned cinder block building at 113 Escuela Avenue might need a new roof and some windows before it can function as a Day Worker Center, but that didn't stop it from being filled Tuesday, May 25, with community leaders, day workers, volunteers and neighbors. People walked around puddles on the concrete floor and huddled under umbrellas as rain drifted down.
"We figured you'd feel bad for us and donate" money towards the renovation, joked pastor Bob Moran. He and several other community leaders spoke to the large crowd inside the center before the shovels came out for the ceremonial photo-op outside.
The center still needs to raise about $150,000 to have everything it needs to open up, but building permits have been issued and construction is expect to be finished in three to four months.
Another $100,000 could provide quite a few "nice to haves," said Dave Luedtke, who designed and managed most of the project. Like many others who worked on the project, including some college students who designed the interior layout, Luedtke worked for free. Normally he would have charged about $70,000 for such a project, he said.
"The goal is to get a permanent place and a roof over our head, the rest is luxury," Luedtke said.
Despite the donated help, the project still has an overall budget of $940,000, $360,000 of which went towards purchasing the building in 2008. The renovation itself will cost only $360,000, but a long list of permit fees, a $25,000 traffic study and other expenses added up for the rest.
The center, has been housed in various churches since it started in 1996, is used by 100 laborers everyday who hope to be matched up with employers, who are usually homeowners or contractors who need help with landscaping or construction projects. It is an alternative to waiting on the street for employers who may or may not pay a decent wage, though some day workers still congregate at the corner of San Antonio Road and El Camino Real. Dozens of volunteers have found meaningful work at the center itself, teaching English or serving lunch, for example.
The center's current temporary home is at the Trinity United Methodist Church at the intersection of Hope and Mercy streets downtown.
Finding a permanent location is a relief for those involved with the center. The center "has always been unwanted, wherever they've been" said former mayor and state assembly member Sally Lieber last year.
Neighbors of the center's new location had threatened a lawsuit and signed a petition opposing it, claiming the center would increase crime, traffic and parking problems, and reduce property values in the neighborhood. The City Council approved the plan unanimously, however. Some neighbors who opposed the center have since become more supportive, says director Maria Marroquin, and some were seen mingling among the crowd at the groundbreaking.
Other cities are supportive of the center as well. The City of Palo Alto recently gave $63,000 towards the project and before that, Los Altos gave $75,000 and Los Alto Hills, $25,000. For its part, Mountain View is allowing the center to use a small piece of city-owned land next to the building for a parking lot rent-free for 40 years.
You might have heard the saying, "it takes a village to raise a child," but "to raise a community center it takes more than a village," said David's wife, Cindy Luedtke, who has been instrumental in fundraising for the project.