Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

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June 6, 2014

Laboring for the Lord

Volunteers help build new dorm at Jacksonville College

JACKSONVILLE — Have tools, will travel. All for the love of the Lord.

A team of volunteers with The Master's Builders are in Jacksonville for the next two-and-a-half weeks helping construct a 20-bed dormitory at Jacksonville College.

It's a national ministry that, since 1991, has provided tools and elbow grease for churches requesting their help, from the ground up, including pouring slabs.

“We frame it. We do electric, but we don't do plumbing or sheet rock,” explained Eddie Sikes, the Master's Builders field coordinator overseeing the Jacksonville College project.

This BMA-affiliated group of volunteers travels throughout the country, helping churches and schools with projects by setting up structures and leaving the finishing touches to local volunteers.

And when the weather is not favorable, they find other projects to fill the time, like helping renovate the theater at the former Joe Wright school across the street from the college campus.

Last year, JISD entered into negotiations with Hobby Lobby Realty of Oklahoma City, which agreed to lease the Joe Wright property to the college.

At the beginning of the week, when rains hit Jacksonville, the 13-member volunteer crew helped build a wall and construct a sound booth at the school, turning what could have been down time into fruitful labor.

“Whatever (other) jobs people have for us to do, we try to accommodate them,” Sikes explained.

Last fall, the college launched a $500,000 campaign for three new dormitories and an upgrade of the old Joe Wright school that it is leasing through . The dorms will be located at 330 Kickapoo St., just north of the college campus and catty-corner from the former JISD building.

If not for the help of the volunteers, “it easily would have cost us $700,000 to $800,000 to build this one dorm,” said college president Dr. Mike Smith. “The Master's Builders have saved us over 50 percent of the total cost in labor alone.”

Cost of the dorm, which features suite-style living quarters, is approximately $300,000, “which is very, very cheap,” Smith said.

The project is under the guidance of Lufkin-based Goodwin-Lasiter Architects, and will be constructed in phases, as funding allows, Smith added.

Meanwhile, this is not the first time the Master's Builders have helped out at the college: Two years ago, volunteers helped construct a storage building attached to the Gerald Orr annex building.

The craftsmanship provided by team members “is good quality work,” Smith said, adding that “most of these guys have been licensed contractors and carpenters.”

The average age on the current job is 74, Sikes said, with volunteers bringing different skills to the job. “Our baby is 63, and our oldest is 83, 84,” he said.

And that, Smith said, is probably what stands out strongest in his mind: Seeing retirement age men and their wives offering up their skilled labor all for the love of their Lord.

“It's a personal inspiration to me, an encouragement to see these men and women, who could be out traveling around the country but are willing to sacrifice that time just to be a help to us,” he said. “It's a good witness, good publicity to let people know how they give of their time – and they don't charge a thing, just give their time and talents all in the name of the Lord.”

Local individuals interested in volunteering on the Jacksonville College dorm project can contact Sikes at 479-462-1675, or Master's Builder John Mangum at 318-202-5155.

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