Willing spirit, work ethic displayed in abundance as new Glade/Crossville ‘Kingdom Hall’ built in short order
By KEITH WALTHER
They came from all parts of Tennessee, and from Kentucky, Georgia and Virginia, too.
Many drove over four hours — one way — to get there.
And, of course, the locals from Fairfield Glade and Crossville were anxious and eager to lend a hand.
Hundreds of them … impersonating worker ants.
All of them — skilled and unskilled laborers alike— working together in fantastic unison and order.
And NONE of them left with a paycheck, receiving only satisfaction as their wage — knowing they had done ‘their part’ to build a new Kingdom Hall.
The result? In a span of a three long weekends, the Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses — using volunteer labor — sprouted a foundation to a sparkling new 5,000 square foot building.
“No one would work that hard for money,” quipped Regional Building Committee chairman Chuck Sedgwick. “But they would do it for free and because it is for Jehovah God. That’s why they do it.”
This Kingdom Hall — one of over 111,000 in 239 countries around the world — will be host to the Fairfield Glade, Crossville North and Crossville South congregations — totalling close to 300 Witnesses, approximately 100 of which live in the Fairfield Glade area.
An average of 246 volunteer workers were on the site each day with the high of 377 helping out on July 20 .
“It’s interesting that we have a lot of people that are retired and limited in what they can do and so to be able to build a Kingdom Hall like that would be impossible,” said local member Paul Knuth. “Yet witnesses are willing to come from all over and volunteer their time, energy, spend their gas, bring their tools and equipment … And you see all the smiles. It really shows that we have a brotherhood.”
The project was managed by a Regional Building Committee — one of 109 in the U.S. alone — that organizes volunteers into specialties such as framing, masonry, electrical, plumbing, landscaping and engineering.
“All the supplies arrive the day before and we have a team that checks all of it for quantity and quality,” Sedgwick explained. “And our teams know what they are doing and they come here and use — we figured this out — around $15,000 in fuel during the build. But they still view it as a privilege.”
Instead of contracting out, church members, some who have experience in construction and others who are complete novices, volunteer their time and skills to do the work gratis — which saved well over $300,000.
And not everybody is driving nails or laying bricks. There are first-aid workers; shuttle drivers, who bring the volunteers back and forth from area homes and parking lots; and a safety inspection team.
Meanwhile, a clockwork-like food service staff of volunteers served all the volunteer workers breakfast, lunch and dinner each day.
A total of 6,900 meals were served during 14 days of construction, while remarkably keeping the average cost per plate to $1.40.
Besides cookies and pastry snacks, they supplied over 1,000 gallons of iced tea, coffee, water, and Gatorade.
“You know in normal terms, if there would be 350 individuals on a building site, it would be chaos,” Knuth said with a laugh. “But you know … the attitude is very relaxed and everyone takes their turn helping. The rains came and went a lot — but we just kept on working.”
And as they did so, drivers passing by the location on the Miller Bypass marveled at the pace of the construction as progress could seemingly be noted by the hour.
Yet, it should be noted that no one just shows up and starts working. Each person is required to attend a safety training session and complete a safety handbook.
This orderliness will segue over to their meetings. When local members meet for the first time in their new building this week, they will have the same program as like congregations in North Dakota, New Guinea or Northern Ireland.
Local members explained that the Witnesses are united in their beliefs no matter what ethnic group, nationality or race.
It was that unity that was demonstrated throughout the process — both on and off the build site.
There was no arguing, fussing or cussing — rather smiles and cooperation.
“It’s just neat how everyone does their job and we love being together,” said Sedgwick, who has been a part of 75 such builds. “There’s a lot of laughing and it’s like a family.”
In fact, those Jehovah’s Witnesses who came from afar, stayed in local homes with other Fairfield Glade and Crossville Witnesses during construction — though they likely had never met each other before.
And so, after hundreds of hours of toiling, the end result was well worth it to all — a completed new place of worship that features a main auditorium, two meeting rooms, library, two bathrooms, a nursing mothers room, and a carport that can be used to drop off handicapped or elderly members.
While the Witnesses are more concerned with functionality than the ornate, fancy or elaborate, the Hall is beautiful in its own right with tasteful, attractive decor that includes ceramic tile, drop ceilings and gorgeous woodwork.
“It’s beautiful,” Knuth said. “It wasn’t here and, in three weeks, you have a beautiful building standing there. It’s like — Whoa!”
Well … maybe more like — Wow!
Jehovah’s Witnesses — Some Fast Facts
• 239—Lands where Jehovah’s Witnesses preach
• 595—Languages in which they publish Bibles and Bible-based literature
• 111,719—Congregations worldwide
• 7,538,994—Ministers who teach the Bible
• 19,000,000—People who attend their meetings or conventions
• 179,000,000—Bibles published by Jehovah’s Witnesses in 116 languages.
• 20,000,000,000—Pieces of Bible-based literature published by Jehovah’s Witnesses over the past 10 years