Driving the last nail:Volunteers complete new Jehovah’s Witnesses Kingdom Hall in two weeks
By Jill Harmacinski
METHUEN – It took two weekends of hard work, 600 volunteers and more nails than anybody had time to count.
A new Kingdom Hall, a church for Jehovah’s Witnesses, is now completely rebuilt at the intersection of Jackson and East streets. On Sunday, services will resume in the new building and a formal dedication will take place sometime this winter.
“It’s just wonderful,” said James Lang of Derry, N.H., an on-site spokesman for the Jehovah’s Witnesses who has now participated in the building of 43 Kingdom Halls around the United States.
“Everything looks beautiful,” Lang said.
Mayor William Manzi III has not been inside the new building, but passed by several times. He described the construction progress as jaw-dropping and marveled at the power of volunteers. Not a single Jehovah’s Witness was paid for his or her efforts, keeping the total cost of the project around $570,000. Paying others to do the work could have cost around three times as much.
“When you have that type of volunteer base, it’s extraordinary the things you can accomplish,” Manzi said. “This group should be very proud of their efforts and how quickly they did this.
“It just goes to show that a disciplined approach to any task can shave time and money off any project,” he said.
The construction of the new hall began in June, when a former, 45-year-old building on the site was razed. Then, starting Sept. 21, hundreds of Jehovah’s Witnesses from all over the country started working at the site. They framed, pounded nails, laid bricks, performed electrical and plumbing work and installed installation and drywall. Other volunteers cooked meals, provided snacks to the crew or shuttled volunteers from nearby homes and parking lots to the project site.
Teams of safety inspectors were all over the site to prevent a single injury from occurring, Lang said.
“We are willing to do anything in the interest of safety,” he added.
During the second work weekend, despite rain off and on, the volunteer corps planted shrubs, plants and grass outside. Inside, ceiling tiles, light fixtures, a sound system, cabinets and wall-to-wall carpeting were installed. Solid oak molding and trim and three coats of paint went up in the meeting hall.
A skeleton crew worked several days this past week, cleaning, vacuuming and whittling down a small punch list. City building, electrical and plumbing workers all inspected the building, allowing the church to get an occupancy permit, Lang said.
Over the past two weeks, volunteers worked with very detailed plans. But they had some flexibility, particularly when it came to neighbors. Last weekend, a group of volunteers fixed a fence for an 83-year-old man who lives next door.
“He was very grateful and of course, we did the work at no charge,” Lang said.
And the volunteers also found themselves at the center of some newfound fame.
“We had several visitors and neighbors come by here,” Lang said. The rapid construction also halted traffic, at times, at the busy intersection. “People slowed down and yelled out their windows, ‘That looks amazing … awesome.'”
“All of a sudden, they saw a new building here,” Lang said.