600 Jehovah’s Witnesses begin to build Kingdom Hall in North Stonington

North Stonington — Nearly 600 volunteers kicked off the beginning of a three-week effort to raise a new Kingdom Hall for the Stonington and Westerly, R.I., Jehovah’s Witness congregations this past weekend.

Volunteers from the Regional Building Committee No. 2, which works with congregations of local Jehovah’s Witnesses seeking to build or renovate a place of worship, are aiming to finish the 4,275-square-foot hall on Route 184 by Nov. 21.

The two congregations sold their hall two years ago and have been eager for the building’s completion, said Brian Edwards, chairman of the building committee.

“For them to see all the volunteers coming to help with their building really does bring tears and joy to the hearts of the local friends,” Edwards said.

He said that many of the volunteers working on this site will never attend a service at this hall.

“But they came for the love of their brothers and sisters and Jehovah and God. It’s an act of love that spurs us on to do this work,” Edwards said.

The site at 530 Providence New-London Turnpike, was cleared by a contractor over the summer.

During the past four months, the majority of the site work, the septic system and well, electrical and geothermal heating and cooling systems have been installed.

Normally, construction of a new Kingdom Hall would be completed much faster than the three weeks scheduled for this project, Edwards said. The extra time is due to the installation of a geothermal heating and cooling system.

Volunteers are trained by experienced members of the RBC and are expected to complete a safety orientation before beginning work on any construction site, Edwards said.

A majority of the volunteers involved in the project have some type of construction experience, but may want to branch out from what they already know. By filling out an application, volunteers can express the areas of interest they would like to work in and then are paired with an experienced RBC member.

Mark Oliverio, of Hopkinton, R.I., who is working on the project, said the volunteer training is a “neat apprenticeship.”

“Each department is required to have a skilled worker that can articulate some of the nuances and procedures for each trade. Using masonry as an example, someone would be there teaching less experienced volunteers how to mix the mortar, how to lay brick, etcetera,” Oliverio said. “Really, these individuals after some years of training with the RBC can go on professionally.”

Jehovah’s Witness halls have been built around the world since the establishment of the RBC in 1980, Oliverio said. There are about 100 RBCs throughout the United States and last year, 100 new Kingdom Halls were built and 469 were remodeled.

“It’s reminiscent of the old-time barn raising, it really brings the community together,” he said.

Source: http://www.theday.com/article/20101108/NWS01/311089947/1018