The organization is called Engage Tri-Cities and was founded in October 2016 by Jonathon and Carla Anderson. Engage Tri-Cities has an office on Broad Street, and its goal is to help churches and businesses connect with the communities around them.
Jonathon Anderson, who along with his wife has worked with churches and other nonprofits for more than 10 years, said Paul Bellamy, the owner of the Hog Wild, agreed to donate the building to Engage Tri-Cities about two to three weeks ago.
“My parents live adjacent to the (Westside Inn) and for 15 years my dad has been praying for that property. So, about eight weeks ago I was having lunch with my folks after church, and my dad said I needed to call Paul Bellamy,” Anderson said. “A light bulb came on and I called Paul next day. Three or four weeks later, he agreed to donate the property to us.”
Engage Tri-Cities works with low income and homeless individuals and families. Anderson said he plans to renovate the Hog Wild into a job resource center by the summer of 2019. One idea is to offer a training program with local restaurants that would guarantee employment to participants who complete the course.
“We believe a lot of people that are homeless struggle getting back to work because of gaps in their work history. We’d help provide marketable skills that can help them get jobs that are more than just minimum wages,” Anderson said.
A Nov. 16 hearing in Sullivan County Circuit Court will determine whether Anderson will be allowed to renovate the saloon or be ordered to demolish the building. Naturally, Anderson is hoping to renovate it, which he believes can be done for much less money than the original estimate.
“Our plan is to renovate, as long as the city allows us,” he said.
The saloon has been closed since March after a shooting inside the building claimed the life of a 20-year-old Kingsport man. City police, fire and building officials went through the structure and found numerous code and safety violations, including roof leaks, water running into electrical fixtures, kerosene heaters in public spaces and an inoperable sprinkler system.
In light of all those issues, Kingsport pulled the power and gas meter from the building and the business has remained closed since then. Soon after, the owners of the business agreed to surrender their beer permit and liquor license.
This past August, Kingsport’s building official ordered Bellamy to demolish the building within the next 60 days.