PEPPERELL -- On a recent weekend, members of the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses, from both Ayer and Pepperell, came out in droves, but not for Sunday service.
Each member was there as a volunteer to serve in some capacity as the congregation began the process of a major interior renovation. Some members served meals and coffee, all donning regulation food service gloves and caps; others, wearing hardhats, were inside pulling out the carpet, removing the sinks in the bathrooms, unscrewing wall fixtures until the building was an empty shell.
Still, more members served as shuttle drivers, transporting people from the parking lot in the North Middlesex Regional High School to the Kingdom Hall lot packed with trailers, tents and Dumpsters.
The hall, located at 141 South Road in Pepperell, serves two congregations of about 75 people, one from Pepperell and one from Ayer. It's getting a total interior renovation, according Bruce Baumgart, the coordinator of the body of elders for the Ayer congregation and one of the coordinators for the project.
"We just feel that the interiors are outdated and we wanted to go to a more energy efficient system. We just want a good-looking building and to feel like it represents the God that we worship. We want to make it a pleasant atmosphere for not only our members but people who visit as well," he said.
Interior designer Robin Smith described the project as a complete cosmetic renovation, including new flooring, new furniture, new wall color and a redesigned stage.
"It was getting really, really outdated," he said. "A lot of this is to replace things that are getting on the old side."
Smith said the before and after will be dramatic, but the project, which is paid for by donations, will not be expensive.
"It's not going to be overly ornate. It's not expensive to do these things," he said. "Just having the right color combinations can make things look modernized."
The work will be largely completed by members of the congregation, saving on the overall cost of the project. In addition to congregation members, the church has a Regional Building Committee with includes members throughout the state who come in to volunteer their time. Baumgart estimated the completion date to be Nov. 24.
"It's all volunteer work; the only costs are the materials. Occasionally, we might have to hire an outside firm, for example the crane, but other than that, eveything is volunteer labor," Baumgart said. "This gives them the opportunity for have a share on the project."
The crane will be used to replace an air handler in the middle of the building. A hole will be cut in the roof and the new air handler will be lowered in through the ceiling. The crane was scheduled to come in on Oct. 19. Aside from that project, Baumgart said, the noise level will be minimal.
"There really shouldn't be any problems with the neighbors," he said.
The church is also focusing on being eco-friendly by donating reusable items that are being replaced.
Member Jessie Hyde was at the Townsend textile recycling drive Oct. 6, donating lengths of tapestries and asking if it would be possible to recycle or donate intact wallpaper.
The members also removed the oil tank, replacing it with a propane tank, which provides cleaner energy.
Baumgart said members are thrilled to be participating in the overhaul and to see the completed results.
"We're really excited about the project. It's something we've been talking about for quite some time, for a couple of years now," said Baumgart. "We feel confident that with Jehovah's help we feel that the project will be successful."