Denise Cumpston of Mapletown is adept at working on drywall, which came in handy in the recent renovation of a new kingdom hall for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Uniontown.
Michela McNavish of Greensburg operated power equipment, such as a boom lift, and installed soffit and fascia, as well as other tasks.
A theme is emerging.
Female volunteers were instrumental in the construction of the place of worship at 267 McClellandtown Road.
In fact, 55% of nearly the 600 volunteers involved with the project were women. They came from as far away as West Virginia, Ohio and Georgia.
Jehovah’s Witness projects typically include large percentages of female volunteers, both skilled and unskilled.
“It catches people’s attention when they’re driving by a construction site and see many women working on a project,” explained Aaron Purvis, national spokesperson for Jehovah’s Witnesses. They’re involved in the heavy part of their work up to their capability. They have a real attention to detail and they enjoy it.”
The building in Uniontown was originally built in the early 1970s and a major renovation took place in 1993. However, the roof began to leak and other portions of the building were in disrepair and in need of replacement.
Work began June 7, and services resumed at the site Nov. 13 for the congregation of about 100.
Before each project begins, training is provided for the volunteers, and safety is stressed.
“Before a volunteer ever comes on site, they’ll go through a very comprehensive program of safety because our goal is zero accidents,” Purvis said. “We’ll train them according to their physical capabilities. They can take that skill with them to do other things in their life.”
Cumpston said she typically is on the drywall finishing crew in such projects. She and her husband, Thomas, regularly work on drywall and other necessary components of modular homes that are sold.
She explained that in 2008, her husband was working on a sizable project in the Pittsburgh area that had him doing a lot of work on weekends.
“The man that was in charge of that project said you might as well bring your wife,” she recalled. “That’s when I started getting trained. He started training me on the job so I could be more proficient at hanging and finishing drywall on the various projects for this organization.”
McNavish was a part of the demolition and helped take out walls, spending on average of two or three days a week at the site.
“This is just something that I enjoy doing, learning new skills,” she said. “If you don’t have any skills, they’ll train you. The more you go, the more skills you get. I did not have any skills before these projects.”
Michael Cook of Uniontown, who has been part of the Uniontown Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses since 1965, is pleased with the outcome.
“I have feelings of appreciation and gratitude to be able to have a nice place that’s clean, comfortable and safe that we can just gather together and learn,” Cook said. “If you want to get the job done right, you’ve got to call in the women. The women are good because they’re pretty detail-oriented and they’re good at following directions. That makes them good volunteers. The quality of the work is so impressive.”
Those who volunteer said there was a sense of camaraderie on the projects.
“People come from all over,” McNavish said. “You get to meet new people that you work with closely. A lot of times, you become friends for life. You get to hear their stories. Everybody is just so happy on these projects.”
There’s also a sense of satisfaction upon their completion.
“”It gives you a lot of satisfaction, knowing you’re spending your time in a way that benefits others,” Cumpston said. “We’re happy to do it. It’s just everyone cooperating together. There’s no feeling of competition. We’re just all working together to accomplish a common goal. You just leave energized. You’re tired because the work is hard, but you’re energized and looking forward to going back the next day.”
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