In the early 1960s, the ward my family resided in belonged to the New Orleans Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
A stake is like a diocese and includes several congregations, called wards. The stake did not have a building to house a large group of members whenever special conferences or meetings for all members in the stake area.
When approval was given for a stake building to be constructed, each ward was given a building assessment. Our particular ward, which was named the Jefferson Ward, was also to have an area in the new building for its offices, and consequently our assessment was larger than other units in the stake.
Just prior to the start of construction, two construction supervisors from the LDS Church were sent to New Orleans to oversee the planned building. It actually took about two years to complete the structure, and because it was also to be a meeting place for our ward, we were expected to provide much of the labor.
Our bishop divided the men in our unit into two work crews. One was called Williams Willing Workers and the other was named Baumgartner's Building Battalion. One crew was asked to work two evenings — Tuesday and Thursday — and the other was to be available on Wednesday and Friday evenings. All church members were invited to participate on Saturdays and any other days or evenings they could.
Our ward had a building fund social every month during the length of the construction process.
We were most fortunate during these years. Two companies who were involved in a space program were based in Bay St. Louis, Miss., which isn't far from New Orleans. Scientists, technicians and specialists of all kind were transferred to our area to man this project. This also brought talented church members who were able to help on the new stake center.
The building was completed mainly with donated labor from church members. Naturally, there were some items that had to be performed by professionals. The two church employees were on the job during daytime hours when most members were working their regular jobs or professions.
Every volunteer was given work that they could handle. No work was done on Sundays and Monday evenings.
It was a great experience, and we were all involved in building a new stake building.
Robert J. Williams lives in Richfield, Utah.