When the residents who make up Help Save Herndon first met, some of them never imagined they would be involved in what has become an active political community group.
But what began as informal meetings at restaurants and neighborhood community buildings has now become a group geared toward educating residents about day-laborer activity in the area and illegal immigration.
Key organizers of the group held an informational meeting at the Herndon Fortnightly Library last week for residents to learn more and hopefully participate in the group's efforts.
"We had been talking about getting the community involved for a long time," said Bob Rudine, Herndon resident. "This was just the first introduction."
As one of the residents to start the group, Rudine is in charge of writing letters on behalf of Help Save Herndon. Most of the letters are to newspapers and politicians asking for immigration reform.
"We direct people to where help is needed," he said about the group. Most recently they have helped with political campaigns, volunteering for candidates like Republican Jerry Kilgore (R), who exemplifies their beliefs about ridding the commonwealth of illegal immigration.
During the group's short introductory meeting a power point presentation touched on the candidates — all Republicans — they endorsed for the upcoming governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general elections. They also endorsed Republican candidates for the delegate races.
HELP SAVE HERNDON is a group of citizens organized for the purpose of "addressing and cooperatively troubleshooting community improvement and development issues" and "assisting all residents and the local government with ensuring that the Town of Herndon, Virginia, is safe, secure, prosperous and a beneficial American community for all legal residents, legitimate businesses and the American worker," according to information handed out at the meeting.
Not a formal political action committee or nonprofit agency, the group motto is to "keep it simple."
"It's time for us to fight evil," said Ann Null, Town Council member. "I think Help Save Herndon has become a tool for that."
Opening last week's meeting for the group, Null pointed to the group's effectiveness in "exemplifying an excellence in community action."
Members of Help Save Herndon have supported Null in her opposition to the formal day-laborer site, saying more council members should follow her lead against illegal immigration.
During last week's meeting approximately 30 residents, including Council member Dennis Husch and Planning Commissioner Bill Tirrell, were in attendance.
"I don't want to see these kind of people in my neighborhood," said Phillip Jones, Help Save Herndon member about the recently approved day-laborer site.
During the presentation, Jones explained the group's reason for forming and outlined its current goals.
"We don't have to accept the town mayor's decision and during the election we'll probably let him know that by replacing him," said Jones. "This is something that most families do not want next to their children."
LASTING ONLY 30 minutes, the meeting concluded after Jones outlined the group's mission, ground rules and explained the law against hiring undocumented citizens.
Susan Powell, group member in charge of public relations, also encouraged residents to only patronize businesses with ethical business practices. Saying Americans have the "power to vote with their dollars," Powell urged residents to invest in banks that do not allow undocumented citizens to hold checking accounts and to use contractors that hire only legal citizens.
"This is not going to be for the short haul of shutting down the day-laborer center in Herndon," she said about the group's intentions. "We're in this for the long run."
Flyers were also distributed that outlined the group's mission and their response to the Town Council's approval of the regulated day-laborer center at the former Herndon Police station.
One of the handouts — titled "The truth about the day-labor site and Mayor [Michael] O'Reilly" — tried to answer common questions from the summer's public hearing process.
"Again and again, Herndon's mayor shirks ownership, panders to special interest groups and points the finger at the federal government," the group states in its conclusion. "His weakness and lack of effort to properly and equitably address the day-labor issue within the Town of Herndon victimizes all legitimate citizens and sends the message that Herndon is an avenue for private agendas, unscrupulous business practices and irresponsible urban development."
"It's disappointing that they would come out with rhetoric like that," said O'Reilly in response to the flyer.
"It would be even more disappointing if we had a new mayor and Town Council elected [next term] on one single issue," he said. "Being mayor or a Town Council member is a much more broad-based position than just dealing with the guy standing on the corner looking for work."
Currently focused on the shutting down the day-laborer site and enforcing national immigration laws locally, Help Save Herndon members plan to address additional local issues as they present themselves, said Aubrey Stokes.
In charge of Web design, Stokes said the group will hold monthly community meetings to keep people informed.
"Our intentions and intent are on a parallel path as the Minutemen," said Stokes, emphasizing the group was nonconfrontational. "They do the activity and we find the information. They're the doers, we're the thinkers."
Upcoming monthly meetings are planned and will be announced on the group's Web site, www.helpsaveherndon.org, said Stokes.
"Obviously this is going to evolve, we can't be a single-issue group and survive," he said. "After the day-labor issue is resolved, we will continue to be an advocacy group for Herndon and the surrounding area."