Volunteers flock in to help rebuild church

By Zorena Barker, Forum Correspondent


It is a huge volunteer effort that is bringing people from all over Western Washington. For over two weeks, people are working shoulder to shoulder to get the job done. Electricians, general contractors, painters and HVAC specialists are sweating right next to each other.


What is going on?


The church of the local congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses was in need of some serious work. Not the kind of work that could be accomplished successfully by the congregation using the building, the call went out for volunteer help through the Regional Building Committee of Jehovah’s Witnesses and over the past year an extensive list of needs was established.


Equally extensive was the list of skills needed for the tasks. Rather than go into shallow coffers to hire help, the Building Committee turned to its own to fill the vacancies. As such, skilled workers committed to come from as far away as Snohomish, Bellingham and Seattle to get the building in shape to handle many more years of West End weather and beautify it.


“What amazes me is how fast it all gets done and it is only because of Jehovah God’s Holy Spirit that this can be done in a safe and organized way,” said Randy Riggan, the secretary for the local congregation.


Before coming to work on the grounds, each and every volunteer had to participate in a safety meeting at which a video was shown, members of the Regional Building Committee spoke, and booklets outlining safety principles were given to volunteers. Specific age and training requirements are strictly adhered to and everyone on site must have a badge as well as appropriate protective gear.


For all construction hours, there is at least one trained first aid volunteer as well as somebody designated to maintain safety among the work crews. Plus, volunteers are at the building 24 hours a day to provide security.


Building materials, lodging, equipment rentals and groceries were gathered from the local businesses.


Congregation members from the local Kingdom Hall are participating in the demolition and various phases of construction, too. After adhering to the building volunteer process, these locals take instruction from department coordinators, often learning new skills in the process.


Feeding the volunteers requires adherence strict safety standards apply, too.


As noted by Mike Riggan, the local elder in charge of feeding the many, “Not everybody here can swing a hammer or pick up a shovel, but through feeding meals, can show gratitude to the workers. The whole operation is running so smooth. We are feeding a crowd from out of kitchens that are designed to feed just a family.”


Those families with the room to spare in their homes are offering beds and space for those traveling from out of town.


Bill Verbeek came here from the Snohomish West Congregation but has traveled the world building as and for Jehovah’s Witnesses since the 1960s.


“It is the same all over the world, there is nothing but deep appreciation from the local congregations for the workers,” Verbeek said. “They are always very supportive. I mean, you get tears in your eyes when you leave and you have only known them a week.”


The man overseeing the project is Stu Smith from Port Angeles. He agreed with Verbeek in feeling the local love.


“That’s why we come here for nothing, because we always get something,” Smith said.


“You love the brothers and sisters and you love God; you fuss and you fret over the details hoping to get it right, but it always comes out as a shout of praise.”

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