Gavin Linderman was still a student at Peoria Accelerated High School when his band, Desole, signed a record deal with California-based Abacus Recordings, a subsidiary of Century Media.
Soon after, he began touring the Southwest, a journey lined with new experiences and people.
On the road, he developed a hunger for a deeper relationship with God and was called to spread the Gospel after his band stopped touring. That’s when he began attending Copper Hills Church in Westwing near 83rd Avenue and Jomax Road.
“I wanted to come back to Peoria and meet everybody! I asked myself, ‘How do we put Peoria’s best on display?’ I learned that on the road, and after that, I wanted to experience culture and people, and so Peoria felt like a blank canvas to be able to inspire kindness and appreciation, with a desire to experience God,” he said. “I fell in love with the Gospel again.”
The Copper Hills leadership saw his passion and that he was reaching a group of people who were scattered around the Valley.
So he launched Axiom in 2013 at 87th Avenue and Kelton Lane and then moved the church to Old Town Peoria in 2016, where he has grown the congregation and fostered a sense of community vitality to the area, including a popular gathering place in the coffee shop Driftwood.
Axiom is about 12 miles due south as the crow flies from Copper Hills. The associated churches are a reminder that although some like to paint the story of Peoria as a tale of two cities, it is actually a sprawling destination for everybody to love all parts.
Linderman said south Peoria has the potential to be the pioneer of the city, as it once was.
“Old Town is where it all started. Too often the narrative is that north Peoria has all the money but does it have the heart? While I believe it does, I think south Peoria has the unique opportunity to put the heart of Peoria and its Old Town roots on full display,” he said. “Instead of being the part of town that some avoid, I believe it can be at the fulcrum of transformation for our city from a suburban sprawl to a destination. A place that people want to experience, come to, and learn from.”
The Hometown Heroes Awards are a celebration of individuals who live, work or teach in the city, and Peoria businesses for their achievements and distinguished contributions to the community and beyond.
Linderman will be honored at an awards luncheon next year.
In partnership with the city of Peoria, he will also be interviewed by the city and aired on Channel 11.
After purchasing the Old Lumberyard property in Old Town, Linderman and his team, including Music Pastor Micah Bentley, set about bringing it up to modern standards.
Bentley said that he and Linderman had the same vision for creating community in the heart of Old Town.
“(Linderman’s) determination and passion for planting Axiom in Peoria has played a huge role in its success,” Bentley said. “Our influence now has multiplied with the many opportunities for community involvement that are available.”
Linderman supervised the entire re-purposing of the Old Lumberyard property, from working with city of Peoria planners to the actual construction of the building.
Former Peoria City Councilmember Vicki Hunt said Linderman and Bentley were committed to paying homage to the original structure.
She said the whitewashed building kept much of the original characteristics, including the interior wooden rafters, with cords and speakers woven amongst them, allowing for a modern sound and light system.
“I can still remember the day, six years ago, when Gavin Linderman and Micah Bentley came to my office at Peoria City Hall to share with me their vision for a community gathering place to be built in Old Town at the location of the historic lumberyard. Of course, I enthusiastically supported their dream.”
Once the new building was completed, the church began providing services to the surrounding community, followed by Driftwood, a for-profit coffee shop that rents the front of the Axiom building, and has become a popular community gathering place.
Axiom offers a number of programs to the community: Love Peoria, which funds spaces for creating, monthly Moms’ meetings, monthly prayer walks around Old Town, neighborhood improvements, overnight beds for the homeless, support of Peoria’s Second Saturdays and an arts collective that meets monthly to share creative ideas.
Sylvia Littlefield, a member of Axiom’s artist group, said the church fosters creativity with a presence at Second Saturdays that allows artists to sell their wares.
“As a working potter, I have been blessed by finding a spiritual home here in Old Town Peoria,” she said. “I am especially thankful for Axiom’s interest in promoting the arts in Peoria, and the artists that work here.”
Get to know Linderman more here.