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Volunteers crucial to Kekaha church rebuild

KEKAHA — The Kekaha Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses construction project is pau, said the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

“We are still awaiting occupancy approval from the county,” said a spokesperson for the Jehovah’s Witnesses. “But we’re hoping to receive that shortly. Once we have that, we can announce the date and details for the open house.”

That was welcome news to the corps of volunteers that averaged between 30 to 40 helpers each day during the rebuild of the Kekaha facility that started in August when the project overseer, himself a volunteer, moved to Kaua‘i from the Big Island to handle the rebuild that was screened off from Kaumuali‘i Highway.

“The Witnesses’ construction projects regularly see large percentages of female volunteers, both skilled and unskilled,” said the local Jehovah’s Witnesses spokesperson.

“Volunteers have come to the site from nine local congregations, the outer islands, and as far away as Idaho and Colorado. Both an English and a Hawai‘i Pidgin congregation will share the Kekaha facility.”

Moetia Duarte, of Lihu‘e, was one of the female volunteers who spent three months volunteering at the Kekaha construction site.

“I’m learning how to be more aware of safety, and even roofing skills,” Duarte said. “I can’t wait to wake up in the morning and get on the job site.”

The project overseer said a lot of the volunteers bring connections to other services needed to successfully complete the project that forced volunteers to work around furniture and other equipment that was being stored while the construction proceeded.

“The women are related to the owners of the different heavy equipment company,” the overseer explained. “While they may not spend time in the cabs, they’re familiar with how to operate the machinery safely. By volunteering at the build, they get to use these skills while helping move the project along.”

According to data from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, and citing U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, women represent only 3.9 percent of tradespeople working in construction nationally.

“We would be lost without our vast number of women volunteers,” said Robert Hendricks, the 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, to Warwick, New York recently, the construction project spanned three years. The project drew some 27,000 volunteers from around the country, of whom 25 percent were women, including Kiersin Golec of Massachusetts.

“All of us, men and women, were trained so we could be involved to the fullest extent possible,” said Golec. “They displayed a lot of trust in us, equally. I’m forever grateful to have been treated with such dignity.”

Duarte expressed similar sentiments to the Witnesses in Kekaha.

“It’s such a beautiful project that’s happening,” she said. “It’s energizing, the building looks amazing, and we’ve just been having a nice time working in a really positive environment.”

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 808-245-0453 ordfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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