Women Play a Key Role in Construction of Bel Air Kingdom Hall
With her hard hat in hand, Rachel Sheets leaves behind the varied office tasks of operating a family business and heads out the door of her Colora, Maryland, home to train on operating a scissor lift on a chilly Wednesday morning.
Sheets volunteers twice a week on the construction site for a new Kingdom Hall where congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses will meet in Bel Air.
“I make new friends and learn so many new skills on this and similar projects,” said Sheets. “There’s so much laughter and such a happy and joyous atmosphere.”
Women represent only 3.9% of tradespeople working in construction nationally, according to an Institute for Women’s Policy Research report that cites U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
By contrast, the Witnesses’ construction projects regularly see large percentages of female volunteers, both skilled and unskilled.
“We would be lost without our vast number of women volunteers,” said Robert Hendriks, U.S. spokesperson for Jehovah’s Witnesses. “Their attention to detail, high quality of work and infectious enthusiasm are all vital to the success of our building projects.”
When the Witnesses moved their headquarters from Brooklyn, New York, upstate to the town of Warwick in recent years, the construction project drew some 27,000 volunteers from around the country, 25% of whom were women — like Kierstin Golec of Huntington, Massachusetts.
Golec and fellow female volunteers were assigned to site excavation efforts within days of arriving on the project. They received intensive training to operate heavy equipment right alongside the men on the crew. Golec vividly recalls the first time she came face to face with the dump truck she’d soon be driving.
“I approached the vehicle, and the tires were taller than me!” she said. “It was a surreal, humbling and exciting experience.”
Reflecting on the three years she spent volunteering on the build, Golec says she won’t forget the confidence shown in her and other female volunteers.
“All of us, men and women, were trained so we could be involved to the fullest extent possible,” she said. “They displayed a lot of trust in us equally, and I’m forever grateful to have been treated with such dignity.”
Sheets expressed a similar sentiment about the Bel Air Kingdom Hall build. “It’s so refreshing to work alongside kind men and women who are working hard as volunteers to provide a positive haven in our community.”
Volunteers have come to the site from three local congregations that will share the Bel Air facility and from as far away as California and even Hawaii. The project is scheduled for completion this winter.