To see perseverance in action, visit the Mountain View Day Worker Center.
On a daily basis, a few dozen laborers -- many struggling to find a place to live -- come in and wait their turn for a chance to work. It could be landscaping work or helping a senior move furniture or hanging up Christmas lights at a local park.
In their down time, the laborers aren't idle. They're practicing English, learning technical skills or even doing volunteer work in the community. The workers -- many of them immigrants to the U.S. -- are adherents of one of the most sacred of American ideals; that hard, honest work will be rewarded.
After about 20 years in Mountain View, the Day Worker Center is still fighting to survive. Despite its age, the center still remains relatively unknown to a sizable segment of the city, said Executive Director Maria Marroquin. When residents need a job done, their first instinct can be to use Craigslist or TaskRabbit rather than a local network of handymen.
"Many people still don't know we're here and what we do," she said. "Especially in these times, people need to get to know each other to see the humanity in others."
For that reason, the Day Worker Center is heading into the new year by launching its own outreach campaign, which naturally is being spearheaded by its own workforce. Working with the public broadcaster KMVT, the center is launching a new program to train its team in audio and video production for a regular television show. Marroquin hopes that it will provide another way to strengthen community ties while also giving some insight into their members and activities. Not only does it promote the center, but it also represents "a whole new adventure" and skill set for the workers, Marroquin said.
The center is also in the process of securing funding to promote their services to local seniors. Since seniors often need extra help with manual chores, the two groups should become natural partners, Marroquin said.
The Day Worker Center is one of seven local nonprofits benefiting from the Voice's annual Holiday Fund. Donations to the fund are divided equally among the organizations, and will be matched by the Wakerly Family Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Lucile Packard Foundation. With the support of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, 100 percent of donations go directly to these nonprofits.
This last year has been particularly tough for the center. At the national level, many center workers -- dubbed companeros -- have watched with increasing concern as federal authorities have aggressively prosecuted undocumented immigrants. More locally, the unaffordability of the Bay Area has pushed many workers out to the region's fringes. About one in five companeros are commuting from San Jose or even farther, Marroquin said.
Marroquin estimates just "1 percent" of the center's regular workers have stable housing. The overwhelming majority cope by couchsurfing, subletting rooms or living out of vehicles. She describes the Day Worker Center's services as a safety net, giving individuals a reliable way to earn some money.
The Day Worker Center is open for jobs from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday. To contact the center, call 650-903-4102 or visit the website at dayworkercentermv.org.