Helping Handymen:
Texas Baptist Men Retiree Church Builders hope to put up new buildings (and put on pounds)
Patti Sells | News-Telegram Feature Editor

Texas Baptist Men Retiree Church Builders have been on hand at Mt. Zion Church to help enlarge the church’s fellowship hall. Shown left to right are Darwin Watson of Fort Worth, James Taylor of Andrews, Dan Six of Nocona, Johnny Kluth of Palestine, Roy McGrede of Longview, Tom McGuire of Mansfield, 84-year-old Charles Johnson of Whitney (the oldest of the group), John Kent of Gainesville and Tommy Harris of Dallas.
Staff Photo By Patti Sells

August 19, 2005 - When the Texas Baptist Men Retiree Church Builders came to the area a couple of weeks ago on a project to enlarge the fellowship hall at Mt. Zion Church, the gathering room was not the only thing that expanded. A few of the men’s waistlines increased a notch or two, as well.

Down through the years of TBM Retiree Builders, organized in 1979, it has become somewhat of an inside joke that the group ranks their upcoming projects according to how many pounds they imagine they will gain. And with the Mt. Zion Ladies Association’s main fund raiser being that of an annual “Food Fair” involving delectable homemade delights, they knew they were in trouble.

“We were told they were expecting our project to be about a 20 pound job,” laughed Yvonne Rollins, one of the ladies association’s 16 members. “Our ladies did a grand job of preparing delicious meals for them.”

Men from TBM Retiree Builders from all across Texas began rolling in to the backyard of Mt. Zion Church in RV’s the first weekend in August with plans to expand the church’s fellowship hall with a 40-foot by 30-foot addition.

According to Rollins, the women in her group had raised $25,000 to purchase materials and supplies for the project. When it came down to hiring labor, they applied for the help of TBM Retiree Builders, a group of men dedicated to building, repairing and renovating churches through voluntary labor.

“Church members had been discussing the addition for quite some time, but nothing was getting done,” explained Rollins. “So we just decided to take the bull by the horns and do it ourselves.”

Rollins said the women’s association has been in the money-making business since 1992, canning various goods depending on what season it is, and holding an annual “Food Fair” that has the support of many folks from the surrounding area.

“We have lots of experience in the kitchen,” laughed Rollins.

“Building for the Glory of God,” is the motto of TBM Retiree Builders, which encompasses men from all sorts of professions.

“What would the world be like without churches?” asked Darwin Watson, a postal employee for 55 years and a member of the TBM Retiree Builders for the past 18 years.

According to Watson, he feels that he, along with all of the other volunteers, were called by God to be a part of the group.

James Taylor of Andrews, 450 miles away, said that after he retired, he and his wife traveled in their RV and had seen and done it all.

“I had gotten out of church and began to feel convicted that I wasn’t doing anything for the Lord,” explained Taylor. “I wanted to make up for it somehow, so I joined the group.”

Taylor said he feels good about the work that he is doing.

“I love what I’m doing now,” he said. “I feel like I’m helping others. And to me that’s the greatest love connection there is, helping others. This is better than sitting on a porch or fishing.”

Many of the men’s wives travel with them to various jobs and enjoy visiting nursing homes in the area or homebound church members.

While in Hopkins County, they enjoyed a visit to the Sulphur Springs Library to view the music box collection, a trip to the Dairy Museum and an introduction to the Chrysalis House and its mission to offer support for single mothers in the community.

According to Watson, a church should be self-reliant, and the work of TBM Retiree Builders is limited.

“We’re just here to assist,” he explained. “We expect the church members to pitch in and help as well.”

Watson said that every job is different and it doesn’t matter what denomination a church is, “just as long as they preach Jesus.”

TBM’s retired men work voluntarily for 11 months out of the year and work on two churches a month. They do framing, install trusses, decking, roofing, paneling, ceilings, plumbing, rough in electrical, and hang outside trim and interior and exterior doors in projects lasting anywhere between two and four weeks.

“The end of a job is always bittersweet,” said Taylor. ‘We always hate to leave the new friends we’ve made.

“But we always know there’s another church that needs our help waiting down the road.”

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