Hundreds of Jehovah's Witnesses gather to build new Kingdom Hall
By Sarah Campbell
SALISBURY — About 300 Jehovah’s Witnesses showed up eager to get their hands dirty Saturday as they began construction on a new Kingdom Hall in front of the existing one on Old Concord Road.
And none of them are getting paid.
On peak days, an estimated 500 Jehovah’s Witnesses from Greensboro to Charlotte will volunteer their time to build the 5,360-square-foot facility, which will be able to house three congregations.
The project is expected to be compete in just two weeks.
David Bush, a Salisbury member who is volunteering in food services, said that speed might be surprising for some, but it’s typical for Jehovah’s Witnesses.
“Jehovah’s Witnesses are known for their door-to-door preaching and that’s what we really want to be doing,” he said. “We don’t want to be building buildings, so we do it as quickly as we can so we can get back to the work that we want to be doing — teaching and preaching.”
The project is managed by a regional building committee that organizes volunteers into specialties such as framing, masonry, electrical, plumbing, landscaping and engineering.
Project coordinator Anthony Clifton of Charlotte said anyone is welcome to lend a hand.
“We have both skilled and unskilled help,” he said.
Anyone who is at least 16 years old can work in construction, Clifton said. Teenagers younger than 16 can work in non-construction areas such as cleaning, parking and food service under adult supervision.
But no one just shows up and starts working. Each person is required to attend safety training sessions.
“Safety is our top priority so that our volunteers come and leave with all their parts intact,” Clifton said.
Jim Ashby of King managed quality control Saturday to ensure things were running smoothly.
“At the materials stage, we want to make sure we have good, quality materials on site,” he said. “That advances all the way through the building process to the final stage, so that when we’re done we have a nice, well-made, attractive building,” he said.
Ashby, who has helped build Kingdom Halls for more than three decades, said he feels his faith calls him to volunteer.
“Our dedication to Jehovah God means that we do what we can to support his workshop,” he said. “Obviously we need facilities to do that.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses also display a volunteer spirit that calls them to band together to support one another, Ashby said.
“It’s interesting, it’s refreshing, it’s educational,” he said. “We try to manifest a good spirit scripturally that allows us to cooperate and get along.”
Clifton said “working shoulder-to-shoulder with friends strengthens the bond” they share.
“Going in with a focus and goal in mind definitely draws us closer,” he said.
Danny Avellanet of Salisbury said being part of the building committee is something he thoroughly enjoys.
“It’s a great way to use my time,” he said. “I love coming here to spend time with my brothers and sisters. It’s very peaceful.”
Natarsha Washington of Charlotte said meeting new people is part of the excitement of volunteering.
“It’s neat to see people come from so far to volunteer their time and effort to assist another congregation,” she said.
Washington planned to continue helping out into the week.
“I took Monday off from work,” she said. “It’s a privilege and an honor to be able to help build a place of worship because no everybody is able to do it because of their circumstances.”
David Delaserna of Yadkinville, who works as a design engineer to prepare plans for new facilities, said he’s been volunteering to construct new Kingdom Halls since 1997.
Since then, he said he’s gotten a lot of “on- the-job training.”
“You learn a lot,” he said. “Everybody has a different way of doing things and comes from different backgrounds, so it’s helped me to be a more well-rounded person.”
Clifton compared the volunteer effort to an “old-fashioned barn raising.”
“It’s viewed as a privilege to have the opportunity to go and work with others to get a building built,” he said.
Before work got under way Saturday, the local congregations prepared the site by pouring more than 900 yards of concrete to create the parking lot and foundation, said project coordinator David Enochs of Salisbury.
Enochs said nearly the entire project will be done by volunteers using donated materials.
The new building will be used in conjunction with the existing Kingdom Hall.
It will feature an auditorium, two meeting rooms and a carport that can be used to drop off handicapped or elderly members.
“It’s nothing fancy, that’s for sure,” Enochs said. “Our emphasis is on functional.”
As the congregation has grown, the need for another Kingdom Hall arose.
“Back when I first moved to Salisbury in 1994, there were only three congregations. Now we have seven,” Enochs said.
This is the first time a new Kingdom Hall has been built in Rowan County since the ’80s.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.