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Female flaggers turn heads, open minds | News

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Female flaggers turn heads, open minds

DUNWOODY, Ga. -- When work crews began putting in a new water main along busy Mt. Vernon Road in Dunwoody, something unexpected happened. Drivers began to embrace the inconvenience.

"People really like us," said traffic flagger Hilary Quinn. "They bring us food and water and wave at us."

The traffic flaggers are all women, who wear shorts and tank tops and break the mold. They're so popular, they've been featured in a local blog.

"When people drive down the road, we get a lot of second looks," said traffic flagger Gigi Burg. "They want to know, why are all these women out here?"

It's an obvious question with a complicated answer.

"We're all dealing with some harder backgrounds and struggles in life," Quinn said.

The crew started years ago with core group of women who were placed with GS Construction as part of a job training program for drug treatment.

"I've only been clean or sober for four years, so I know what it means to leave the past in the past," said Burg, who was one of the first hired.

In the years since, she brought on more women. Some of them are overcoming addictions. Others are dealing with felony records.

"It's opened my eyes and helped me realize I do have other options," said traffic flagger Tiffany. "I don't have to go out and commit a crime just to survive."

There are about 20 women now who work so well together that GS Construction CEO Alessandro Salvo is branching out with a new nonprofit called The Pink Ladies Traffic Control.  The goal is to hire and help more women with a troubled past.

"If they want to stay and grow with the company, that's fine," Salvo said. "If they just need it as a stepping stone to get their life back in order, that's good, too."

"It is rewarding know there's a company that backs you up and supports you through getting back on track and getting your life straight," Quinn added.

GS Construction could actually benefit financially from hiring employees with criminal records.  One of the flaggers recently told Salvo that the company qualifies for work opportunity tax credits, and he's applying for them now.