From near and far: Jehovah’s Witnesses gather to rebuild hall
Special to The Union
Times used to be much simpler. The commitment and camaraderie amongst neighbors and community was steadfast. It used to be that was all you needed to raise a barn.
Those days aren’t that far gone for some, specifically Jehovah’s Witnesses, as hundreds gathered over recent months to completely remodel the Kingdom Hall on Burma Road in Grass Valley.
The entire building was gutted and essentially rebuilt from the ground up, but what seems like a lengthy and costly endeavor was accomplished rather quickly and inexpensively.
The substantial team of Jehovah’s Witnesses that came from across Northern California and Nevada to work on the hall was donating their time.
“A lot of times we’d have too many people,” Steve Dedrick of Shingle Springs, said. “Getting help is not a problem.”
Dedrick is the assistant construction overseer for the Grass Valley project, though he works on numerous Kingdom Hall projects, from Northern Nevada and California to Las Vegas.
Kingdom Halls are the houses of worship used by Jehovah’s Witnesses for religious services.
According to Dedrick, there are approximately 1,900 remodels and new halls scheduled to go up across the United States.
“We just can’t keep up with the influx,” he said.
In addition to simply being an old building, the Burma Road hall has seen a 30 percent increase in congregation size over the past decade.
Worldwide, 19 million people attend Jehovah’s Witness meetings or conventions.
“We have one of the largest construction companies in the world,” said Bill Knauber, construction overseer from Rancho Cordova. “Some of our neighbors were amazed at how many people were there and how organized it was.”
All halls are completed solely with the work of volunteers, organized through a national construction committee.
Hundreds of Jehovah’s Witnesses came to Grass Valley and stayed with locals purely on their own volition and commitment to service.
The project was overseen and organized by professionals, albeit Jehovah’s Witnesses who were there on their own time.
Licensed electricians, plumbers, roofers, and contractors all served as foremen or department overseers, while most of the labor was done by people who were learning and being trained.
The majority of the work was done Fridays through Sundays, when the volunteer workers had days off, often driving in from Sacramento, Portola, and Quincy.
Most weekends saw approximately 200 workers on site each day.
“It’s nice that there are still people willing to work – how people still enjoy working together and giving their time,” Knauber said.
The hall is home to two congregations who have been meeting there since the early 1970s, according to Martin Dutilly, secretary for the Nevada City congregation.
In addition to extending the hall 16 feet, the hall’s library, bathrooms, electrical room, and stage were completely remodeled, and new a new duct system, roof and windows were installed.
The hall is still receiving a few finishing touches but work is scheduled to be completed this month. A reception and walk-through will take place in April.
Grass Valley resident Katrina Paz is a freelance writer.
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