Thanksgiving for day laborers

Shirlington Employment and Education Center executive director Andres Tobar and Rev. Janice Clark of Macedonia Baptist Church were joined by day laborers for a traditional Thanksgiving luncheon on Nov. 24, 2016.

Arlington County Board members later this month are slated to approve the move of the Shirlington Employment & Education Center (SEEC) into space at the Arlington Mill Community Center.

The non-profit organization will occupy 845 square feet of space on the fourth floor at the center, located at the intersection of Columbia Pike and South Dinwiddie Street. It currently occupies space in the Four Mile Run corridor.

“We’re going home, in a real sense,” the organization’s executive director, Andres Tobar, said when the planned move was announced last October. He noted that 40 percent of those served by SEEC live in the 22204 (Columbia Pike) ZIP code, compared to only about 10 percent in 22206 (Shirlington).

SEEC traces its roots to a looming potential crisis that reared up in the late 1990s. Day workers, mostly Latino, were congregating in the Four Mile Run area, causing tensions with the nearby and predominantly African-American neighborhoods.

The county government and Latino leaders worked to form SEEC, which provides a place for laborers to connect with jobs, as well as offering a host of educational and employment programs.

Day laborers saw a boom in the 1990s and early 2000s, but the economic downturn beginning in 2008 caused much of the work to dry up.

While founded to support male day-laborers, SEEC has expanded its horizons to provide a variety of training opportunities, and in recent years has been proactive in working with immigrant women on an array of initiatives, including entrepreneurship. That effort is expected to ramp up in coming years.

“One of the things we need to do more of is definitely help the immigrant women,” Tobar said late last year. “We’ve got to be much more fair. We’re trying to do a variety of things.”

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