Emily Youngblood says there are a lot of opportunities in the world for a 21-year-old — opportunities for success and fame.
But serving God and others is Youngblood’s joy. So the Lexington resident was honored to take part in the construction of the new Orangeburg Assembly Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
“Just seeing something all of us are so passionate about and that we enjoyed doing, to me that is a great opportunity to show that we are doing this as volunteers and as part of our worship of God,” Youngblood said.
Youngblood was among the approximately 5,000 volunteers who worked on the Assembly Hall over the past year and a half.
The 3,000-seat Assembly Hall sits on 58 acres near the intersection of S.C. Highway 33 and Interstate 26. An open house was held Friday.
The center will serve primarily as a location to educate the Jehovah’s Witnesses on Biblical principles for daily life. More than 300 congregations will use the Assembly Hall for their semi-annual assemblies.
Youngblood said she heard about the Orangeburg project about six years ago and knew she wanted to volunteer at that time.
“I worked on anything that I could,” she said. “I enjoy learning everything I can. This has been a really neat avenue for a lot of us young people.”
Shenin and Jonathan Bolton said they moved from California to Charleston just to work on the project. They have lived in a camper for the past nine months while putting in about 200 to 300 hours per month on the project.
Shenin worked in the personnel department, helping schedule volunteers, while Jonathan was in the site department, which helped with land and building preparation.
“It has been fun. We realized that we really don’t need as much as we think we really need. We loved it,” Shenin said.
During construction, more than 250,000 meals were prepared and served to the volunteers at the site.
The 66,000-square-foot, $10 million facility includes a 4,100-gallon water feature in the atrium that is also used as a baptismal pool.
About 80 gallons of water per minute flow over the mini-waterfall. The water is circulated every 90 minutes and is purified by filtration and high-intensity ultraviolet light.
The baptismal pool also includes a special lift system to accommodate disabled delegates.
The 3,000-seat auditorium includes a large mural reflecting the Lowcountry and Midlands of South Carolina. The auditorium’s light and dark brown wood trim aims to create what officials describe as a “modest and attractive” ambiance.
The seats are staggered and different sizes to accommodate viewing and people of various sizes.
The building also contains technology for the hearing impaired, including video walls and video systems. Four cameras within the auditorium provide multiple viewing angles of the stage.
Outside, more than 45,000 pieces of ground cover were used, including 136 trees, 2,434 plants and 1,200 bales of pine straw.
The facility has about 1,000 parking spaces.
Church officials have touted the economic impact of the project, which is expected to host 40 two-day events each year. The estimated total attendance is expected to be 190,000 visitors a year, with each person spending an estimated $66 per day.
The Orangeburg site was chosen from about 300 possible sites in the state. The center’s location near Interstate 26 and Interstate 95 made it most attractive.
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