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Lake Worth Resource Center

November 01, 2008, Palm Beach Post, Lake Worth day-labor center prepares for grand opening, by Willie Howard.

LAKE WORTH — The Lake Worth Resource Center for day laborers will open to the public Saturday and will begin its first full day of operation Nov. 10, ending a long-standing debate over whether the city should offer space for laborers who linger along Lake and Lucerne avenues looking for work.

Operated by The Mentoring Center, a nonprofit academic, career and business development center based in West Palm Beach, the resource center at the city's shuffleboard building will become the third day-labor center in Palm Beach County.

Reaching out

The Lake Worth Resource Center will hold its grand opening 10 a.m. to 2p.m. Saturday in the city's shuffleboard building, 1121 Lucerne Ave. The center will be open from 6 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday beginning Nov. 10. Tutoring will be offered from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturdays.

Much like El Sol in Jupiter and Buena Fe in Loxahatchee Groves, the Lake Worth Resource Center will serve the mostly Guatemalan workers who have become fixtures - and some say traffic hazards - on city streets.

"It's going to make our city a lot safer to not have workers standing on Lake and Lucerne," said Lake Worth Mayor Jeff Clemens, who supported the $1-a-year lease of the shuffleboard building for the day-labor center, which was approved Sept. 2 in a 3-2 vote.

After the center opens, Clemens said, the city will begin enforcing a no-solicitation ordinance that prohibits employers from picking up laborers on Lake and Lucerne. Commissioners have discussed approving another ordinance that would ban the practice citywide.

Workers who come to the center will be offered breakfast, language and computer training, and access to a variety of other services in addition to a chance at finding work. As is the policy at El Sol and Buena Fe, center staffers will not ask the legal status of laborers.

Names, photos, emergency contacts and skills of workers will be entered into a database at the Lake Worth center. Employers who register will be able to search the database for workers by skill or by name. The service is free.

Workers need not be from another country to use the resource center. Any Lake Worth resident looking for a job can register there to be matched with an employer.

"I think we're going to have way more people there than anticipated because of the economy," Lake Worth Commissioner Cara Jennings said.

The old shuffleboard building at 1121 Lucerne Ave. is stocked with refurbished computers from the Palm Beach County School District. About 20 volunteers have signed up to work there, and Guatemalan workers have wandered in to help patch holes in the walls and to check the results of Guatemalan soccer games online, said Lisa Wilson, chief operating officer of The Mentoring Center and acting site manager for the resource center.

Wilson said the center has about 20 organizational partners, many of which will offer services to Lake Worth residents ranging from AIDS/HIV counseling to immigration assistance, English and Spanish literacy, and vocational training. Tutoring for students in grades K-12 will be offered on Saturday mornings.

"Education is the key to economic growth both in family and community," said Monica Delgado, director of the Kathryn W. Davis Global Education Center at Palm Beach Community College, which plans to offer English, computer and acculturation workshops at the center.

Sister Rachel Sena, director of the Maya Ministry of the Diocese of Palm Beach, will continue to offer AIDS education to Lake Worth immigrants in Spanish and Mayan at the center.

"This center will facilitate the city's goals for education and outreach," Sena said. "This will benefit the city by creating a liaison between the foreigner and the English speaker."

The resource center has no budget or paid staff other than Wilson, who is bringing in volunteers and applying for grants.

Jupiter's El Sol, which opened two years ago, uses grant money and donations to pay a full-time staff of three. About 1,000 volunteer hours a month are donated at El Sol.

Buena Fe is supported by donations and the Acts 2 Worship Center in Loxahatchee Groves.

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