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Day Labor Site Opens

Coldest day of winter marks first day of official site operations.

On Wednesday, Dec. 14, for the first time in years, the parking lot of the 7-Eleven at the corner of Alabama Drive and Elden Street was vacant.

Across town, on one of the coldest mornings this winter, the parking lot of the former Herndon Police Station was bustling with activity as Herndon's official hiring site for day workers opened.

Approximately 90 men gathered on site, signing up for the new lottery hiring system, and waiting for work.

The lottery system was devised to keep order on site, said Bill Threlkeld, site director.

At the unofficial location, workers would rush cars as they entered the site, hoping to be the first to get work. To keep things orderly, the new system gives everyone an equal chance at employment, said Threlkeld.

Through the system, each worker is given a raffle card. Workers who speak English are then given an additional red card. When contractors arrive on site, they specify what type of jobs they need done, and what special skills they may need. Workers who fit the description place their cards in a bowl, and the numbers are drawn to determine who gets the job, said Threlkeld.

But, on the site's inaugural day, only a handful of workers experienced the new system. By 8:30 a.m. only three people had hired workers. While volunteers tried to run the site as normal as possible, the large number of camera crews and media personnel made operating difficult.

Members of Project Hope and Harmony — the group slated to run the site by Reston Interfaith — expected the chaos, said Joel Mills, Project Hope and Harmony executive council member.

While the workers waited on the other side of the former police station building, protesters and supporters of the site gathered at the driveway.

Volunteers on site speculated that a number of contractors stayed clear of the site due to media presence and the poor weather conditions.

As of Thursday, Dec. 15, no major complications had been identified with the site or the transition.

Herndon's police officers were on active patrols through the neighborhoods, and volunteers were stationed at the old site to ensure workers went to the new location.

And, except for regular business, the 7-Eleven at Alabama Drive and Elden Street remained vacant during the day.