In Queen Creek, Mary Gloria asks men who are reluctant to even say their names for the size of their shoes, pants and shirts.
Many of the day laborers who stand on the corner of Ellsworth and Ocotillo roads fear talking about themselves for fear of deportation. Gloria said she hopes a day labor center will one day be built for them, but she sees there’s a more immediate need.
Gloria, founder of a local nonprofit group called Pan de Vida, is looking for families who will "adopt" the men for Christmas and give them gifts of clothing and shoes.
"There’s always adopt-athis and adopt-a-that at Christmastime, and I figured, well, they need it," she said. "Some of them are homeless and living under trees and bushes."
Gloria said Pan de Vida will also host dinners for the laborers on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Marcy Simmons, who manages the Circle K store at Ellsworth and Ocotillo roads, a popular waiting spot for day laborers, said she has mixed feelings about a holiday program for the laborers.
"It’s kind of like their coffee and their doughnuts that they bring them in the mornings when they park their truck out here," she said. "It encourages them to congregate, and a lot of people don’t like that."
Pan de Vida’s efforts come at a time when the consulting firm LL Decker & Associates is compiling research on day labor issues for the town. For now, Queen Creek has no formal position on what kind of public assistance, if any, should be offered to the laborers, Town Manager Cynthia Seelhammer said.
Lance Decker, the consultant hired to study the issue, said Pan de Vida’s project is a noble effort.
"I think that’s real nice to have people get these people into their homes for the holidays and really meet them," he said.
But resolving the day laborer issue is more complicated than buying shirts and shoes, he said.
"I think day laborers are here to stay and there’s a real important discussion that has to take place nationally and internationally about how to deal with it," Decker said.
Residents interested in adopting a day laborer can contact Pan de Vida at (480) 987-0819.