The Kingdom Hall for Jehovah’s Witnesses’ construction project on Falcon Road in Altus was completed on Sunday, March 28 by the effort of well over 400 volunteers.
“No body is paid. It’s all done by volunteers,” said Jeff Rowray a Regional Building Committee member from Norman. About 25 percent of the volunteers were skilled tradesmen from other parts of Oklahoma who not only volunteered their time, but also their equipment, and the other 75 percent were trained on the job by those experts.
All volunteers were fed three meals a day cooked in an on-site mobile kitchen, and had access to restrooms and showers, as some crews spent three whole days on location in RV’s parked on the property. Some volunteers were even from other parts of the world like Ethiopia, and Argentina, but together they all shared the same spiritual interest, explained Rowray.
Crews prepared the dirt to establish a concrete foundation and parking lot and let that cure for about 28 days. When they returned various crews would spend up to three days at a time to put up the walls and frame, lay floor tiles, install electrical lines, and paint, as well as other construction.
On Thursday, crews painted, installed a drop ceiling, HVAC, wall tiles, and landscaped, all at the same building at one time. Rowray estimated 200 volunteers with more to arrive throughout the afternoon. “This is a slow day. There will be a lot of people here later,” Rowray explained. Carpeting, furnishing, and decorating crews came through last. Not including the month for the concrete to set, the actual build took two weeks and three weekends.
Rowray, with 20 years of residential and commercial construction experience says “there is no way we could have done something like this. It’s a pretty complicated procedure, but we have done it hundreds of times. Every time I see it done it amazes me.” Rowray explained how uncommon it is to have so many trades in one building at one time.
Total, there were about 60 departments that worked on this project. A large crew went in with a punch list on Saturday to go over every inch to make sure it’s ready to occupy. There is a cleaning crew as well, whose specific purpose is to go around making sure things are tidy and safe, and free of trash or clutter.
Gary Griswold from Lawton, with several other safety supervisors made sure everyone was safe. “We make sure all OSHA safety procedures are followed, and equipment and tools inspected, and check for frayed wires or removal of safety devices,” he said. Everyone has a color coded I.D., classifying that volunteer as non-construction, construction, and high risk qualified to work with hazardous materials. Volunteers must wear a badge, hardhat, safety glasses, and watch a safety video before they are trained by a professional. Each department has a skilled training person and a safety person. Griswold informed. First aid was on site at all times.
Derek Seward from Paul’s Valley is the crew overseer in charge of wall tile. “It’s a joy to work here. We have plenty of experienced individuals and plenty eager to learn,” he said.
Mac McGuire of Altus, owner of Tax Masters in Altus for 28 years, works in the accounting department for supply purchases.
Altus local Gus (Gustavo) Martinez was an overnight security volunteer.
Project Coordinator Kent Long, and OKC Firefighter, is a general oversee-er of the project. “I go around putting out small fires,” he explained. He kept things in sequence while moving fast to follow rigid time-lines. He calls the right people to handle the right problems. “We already received a lot of good comments from community.”
Diana Barns, a substitute school teacher, drove four and a half hours from Ada to volunteer. “I’m happy with the friendliness and cooperation,” said Barns, who was trained to cut wall tile with the wet saw. “That’s what’s so cool about it. They teach us the trade. They work with us and are patient and loving.”
Kingdom Hall is a 4,000 sq.ft. building with both a main auditorium and small auditorium, a mother’s room, a library and an office. “The building is designed to be fairly simple, because the whole point is about education, Rowray said. “The most important thing is the ministry. Once this is done they can get back to more important things.”