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Brighter Future for Labor Center

More workers participating and CIF receives $20,000 grant.

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  • The Centreville Labor Resource Center is now a member of the Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce.

  • The CIF’s Spring Fiesta on April 27 was a fundraising success. Donations and silent-auction proceeds yielded nearly $4,000 for the CLRC.

— Not only is the Centreville Immigration Forum (CIF) running a successful labor-resource center, but it’s just received the 2012 Meyer Foundation Grant for $20,000.

“It’s wonderful,” said CIF President Alice Foltz. “It’s very affirming of all the things we’ve been doing.”

Earlier, the CIF sent a letter of intent saying it planned to apply for the grant. Then, a few months ago, a Meyer Foundation representative came to the Centreville Labor Resource Center (CLRC) to check it out.

“She spent a couple hours with our staff, board members and representatives of Virginia Organizing, which provides our nonprofit status and does our bookkeeping,” said Foltz. “She wanted to see how we were doing and how our programs were operating.”

The Foundation provides funding to various nonprofits in the Washington Metropolitan area, and Foltz said the representative was impressed with what she saw. “She liked the fact that the programs were begun and done in a short time. And she was particularly interested in the ways in which the workers are involved in the decision-making and structure of the labor center and the CIF.”

To make sure the CIF is a viable entity, the representative also checked its financial stability and, said Foltz, “She was pleased with what she saw.” At the end of April, the CIF got word that it was getting the grant.

“It’s really awesome,” said Foltz. “This certainly doesn’t solve all our funding needs, but it provides us with a base from which to continue fund-raising.”

Actually, she said, “It’s unusual for a group like ours to proceed with no government funding. Most nonprofits our size in this region receive some government support for the community outreach they do. But we’re completely privately funded, so we have to work much harder for our financial support.”

The CIF has already received the grant money, which is being used to keep the labor-resource center operating. It’s also applied for some smaller grants to allow the center to increase its staff hours.

It currently has one full-time staff member and another who works three-fourths of the time. But Foltz would like the latter person to be able to work full time, too. As it is, she said, “The only way we’re able to operate with that little staff is through the generosity and gifts of many wonderful volunteers.”

The labor center opened in December 2011 at 5956 Centreville Crest Lane, beside Brick Pizza, on the lower level of the Centreville Square Shopping Center. But it got off to a slow start. Although the workers were eager to meet potential employers there, the center encountered difficulty trying to encourage these employers to change their habits.

“Definitely, there’s been a continuing upswing [in center usage], but we always can use more to have the full participation of all the workers,” said Foltz. “But to have that happen, we need employers accustomed to hiring workers on the street to come and hire them at the center, instead.”

What would help most of all, she said, would be for local residents to hire workmen there for miscellaneous jobs around their homes, such as painting, yard work, repairs, etc. “We also encourage people to come by and see what’s happening at the center,” said Foltz. “They can see what workers are available and how they could use these talented workers in the future.”

She said the center offers workers with a large variety of abilities — not just people who can do manual labor, but those who are highly skilled in everything from masonry to drywall work, painting, carpet installation, carpentry and electrical work.

It’s a good deal for everyone, said Foltz, because “We provide the opportunity for temporary employment and we don’t take fees from either the workers or employers. We just provide a space for workers and employers to come together.”

Furthermore, as things have turned out, the center is providing an unforeseen, but welcome, benefit to other local residents. Foltz said tough economic times “have put into the job market people who have skills, but are not able to find long-term employment — and we serve them all. About 250 people have registered for temporary employment” and only about 90 of them are immigrants.

“There’s no state employment office nearby, so we’ve ended up serving a large group of people who desperately need jobs,” she said. “We help people get employment to make income which they then spend in the community. So we’re also putting money back into the local economy.”