Women play a key role in the construction of Bel Air’s Kingdom Hall

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Hard hat in hand, Rachel Sheets leaves the multiple office chores of a family business behind and walks out the door of her home in Colora, Maryland to practice 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 in Bel Air will meet.

“I’m making new friends and learning so many new skills on this and similar projects,” Sheets said. “There is so much laughter and such a happy and happy atmosphere.”

According to a report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, citing data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make up just 3.9% of the construction workers nationwide.

In contrast, Witness construction projects regularly see a large percentage of female volunteers, both skilled and unskilled.

“Without our large number of women volunteers, we would be lost,” said Robert Hendriks, US spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses. “Your attention to detail, the high quality of the work and the infectious enthusiasm are crucial to the success of our construction projects.”

When the Witnesses moved their headquarters from Brooklyn, New York, upstate, to the city of Warwick in recent years, the construction project attracted some 27,000 volunteers from across the country, 25% of whom were women — like Kierstin Golec of Huntington, Massachusetts.

Golec and other female volunteers were assigned to excavation work on site within days of arriving at the project. They received intensive training to operate heavy equipment right next to the crew men. Golec vividly remembers the first encounter with the dump truck she would soon be driving.

“I approached the vehicle and the tires were bigger than me!” she said. “It was a surreal, humbling and exhilarating experience.”

Thinking back on the three years she spent as a construction volunteer, Golec says she won’t forget the trust placed in her and other female volunteers.

“All of us, men and women, were trained so that we could be included as much as possible,” she said. “They have shown us an equal amount of trust and I am forever grateful to have been treated with such dignity.”

Sheets expressed a similar opinion about the construction of the Bel Air Kingdom Hall. “It’s so refreshing to work with kind men and women who work hard as volunteers to create a positive sanctuary in our community.”

Volunteers have come to the site from three local communities that will be sharing the Bel Air facility, and from as far afield as California and even Hawaii. The project is scheduled to be completed this winter.

For more information about Jehovah’s Witnesses, their history, beliefs, and building activities, visit their official website, jw.org, with content available in more than 1,000 languages.


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