It was quite a fiesta at Thursday night's grand opening of the new home of the Day Worker Center of Mountain View.
More than 200 people sat, stood and spilled out into the yard of 113 Escuela Ave. in celebration of the new space for regional day workers, which will accommodate opportunities for more hours of employment, offer programming to build jobs skills and promote a sense of community.
"I feel very happy ,and it is wonderful to see all these people from different social levels, religions and political beliefs come and support," said the nonprofit's Executive Director Maria Marroquin, adding how surprised she was to receive a U.S. flag from Congresswoman Anne Eshoo (D-Palo Alto) to hang. "This goes beyond politics, religion and Hispanics."
Previously at on Mercy and Hope streets, the Day Worker Center rented a small office and use of the church's hall and kitchen. Now the two staff members, volunteers and about 50 day workers all fit comfortably in the 3,496-square-foot building.
"It wasn't easy to build and finance," said Richard Strock, a Los Altos resident and one of the original contributors to the project in 2008. "It was a 30-month pregnancy. I haven't yet forgotten the pain, but I think that we'll see wonderful things."
Strock announced, to the standing-room only crowd, that the building was mortgage-free, saving $3,000 a month in rent. However, the center's future expenses still included staff salaries, utilities, programming and outreach.
"We still got to feed the baby," said Oscar Garcia, president of the Chamber of Commerce of Mountain View and master of ceremonies for the evening. He encouraged the attendees to bid on any one of the 49 items in the silent auction, which included an autographed ball by Freddy Sanchez, a round-trip domestic flight on Southwest Airlines, dinner for four with the Mountain View police chief or dinner for six prepared by a Los Altos Fire Department station.
Los Altos resident Cindy Luedtke, a member of the capital fundraising campaign, echoed Garcia's sentiments.
"We raised more than they needed for the building, but we still need more," Luedtke said. "We need computers, sewing machines—there are various projects we'd like to fund here."
Fundraising for the building began in 2007, according to George Stafford, another Los Altos resident. Stafford explained that the initial wave of donations came from individuals, the second from the city governments of Los Altos, Los Altos Hill and , and the third again from private donations.
"The first and last dollars were the hardest to raise," he said. An article published in the Los Altos Town Crier in 2008 stated that approximately 20 percent of the center's employers are Los Altos residents.
Four of seven Mountain View City Council members attended the event and Councilwoman Laura Macias had a smile across her face the entire evening.
"This is a journey that is very familiar to me, my family and to people we know," she said, noting the hesitation of some council members when the topic of the city's involvement first came up in council. "It's an American story. It's not just Latino. This is a great demonstration of what happens when people come together."
The new site will continue the mission of the center to provide a safe and credible place to match employers to employees needing work. The center will be open from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. —three more hours daily than before— Monday through Saturday.
"I feel very emotional because we can be in our own building and have more liberty and have no fear," said Freddy Castro, a day worker who has gotten work and participated in center activities for the past year. "I have this tingling feeling. I now have a place where I can come, and it is mine."