By Kayla Rinker
VERONA – The old building, which for many years housed the local bar, represented nothing but bad memories for Linda Gates.
“For many, many years that bar brought destruction to people’s lives,” said Gates, who has lived in Verona for 26 years.
The building was her father’s and he operated the bar until he got sick and was forced to close it down. When her father, Tom Hobson, died, he left the now abandoned building to Gates and her two sisters, Lori Stephens and Kathy Larson, who both live in California.
“The bar just sat there for years … empty,” she said. “We were thinking we should put it up for sale and then we just left it there. We kept paying property taxes and we didn’t really worry about it.”
The sisters were adamant about one thing, though. The building would never be a bar again.
“Over the years we have had plenty of offers from people to buy it and I would ask them what they planned to do with it,” Gates said. “They would say, ‘Well, a bar,’ and I would say, ‘Well then, no thank you.’”
It wasn’t until Gates, a 20-year member of Verona Baptist Church, heard discussion about the possibility of a Hispanic church plant that the purpose for the abandoned bar became clear.
“I went to my sisters and told them about the idea of donating it because it was such a good cause and they agreed that it makes sense because there were too many bad memories and there’s no point in hanging on to those when the building could do good,” she said. “And I’m so glad we did. Now peoples’ lives are being saved and served and good stuff has come out of the bad.”
Because of her family’s generosity, Verona Baptist and Iglesia Bautista Centro de Alabanza honored them with a commemorative plaque located in the front of the building.
“It says the building was donated by my father, my sisters and me,” Gates said. “It was very nice of them to do that.”