Needed: hands, hearts

A building project in the Bahamas demanded both of the Rotarians.

Published August 13, 2006

ST. PETERSBURG - They got hot and they got their hands dirty and when the building project was finished, the Rotary Club of St. Petersburg wanted to do another.

The club, which partnered with First United Methodist Church and Bahamas Methodist Habitat, put a new roof on an old church in Hatchett Bay, Eleuthera, part of the Bahamas chain.

The service project helped turn the church, more than a century old, into a youth center.

During the project's final phase last month, the work gang built 29 trusses by hand, strapped them down and worked with fascia and shingles, to name a few chores.

"This is the first time we've gone out and done a project hands-on, gotten our fingers dirty in my 23 years" as a member, said Jeff Hearn, co-chair of the club's international projects committee.

Club members reviewed the expedition at their regular meeting Friday.

Hearn said members left the project with changed attitudes.

"Not how much you have, but how thankful you are for what you do have," he said.

For example, he said, cars in the Bahamas are a luxury. Gas was $4.80 per gallon. A typical house for many contained 400 square feet.

Guiding wisdom for the weeklong work party: expect heat, be flexible and expect to be asked to do things you don't want to do, Hearn said.

The acceptable answer: "No problem, mon," he said.

"It made them want to do another. They didn't realize how rewarding it would be and how much they'd learn about another culture."