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Not Hiding Their Light

Crosses give message of Christ's love

It all began six years after Thrivent member Clayton Kent retired from his grocery business. He and his wife enjoyed traveling, but Kent wanted something more to keep him busy and fulfilled.

On a visit to his hometown, Kent saw his brother and nephew making hand-carved wooden crosses to give to sick or hurting members of their church. He was inspired to dust off his high school woodworking skills. His brother and nephew helped him get started with the right equipment, "and the woodworking just came back to me," Kent says.

In May 2010 in Kent's garage, he and a carpenter friend started carving crosses. They called themselves the Cross Makers of Seward, Nebraska.

It wasn't just the two of them for long. Kent told a retired banker friend about the Cross Makers, and a few days later, the banker and another friend came to help. Within a few months, about a dozen men and women were gathering in the Kent garage four mornings a week. "The thing I started to keep me busy mushroomed on me," Kent says. "There are now about 20 pieces of equipment in my garage, such as sanders and grinders, as well as a bunch of retired people who are all enjoying what we're doing."

The Cross Makers carve crosses in a number of sizes, but the palm cross is a favorite. Easily held in the palm of one's hand, these crosses come with a card that describes the love of Christ. Many churches purchase boxes of these crosses for the volunteers on their grieving committees to give to people on their visits, Kent says. He's heard from many recipients who tell him they've received great comfort when they hold the cross in their hands and read the message of Christ's love on the card.

Although group members originally intended to give away all the crosses, they soon realized they needed money for supplies. So the Cross Makers became a nonprofit organization and started selling the crosses. The sales revenue not used for supplies goes to local charities. During its first three years, Cross Makers has donated more than $22,000 to the local hospital foundation, food bank, Toys for Tots and the Kiwanis backpack program. Funding from the Seward County Chapter of Thrivent Financial also allowed the group to send palm crosses to troops overseas.

Demand for the crosses grew significantly when Grow Nebraska, a nonprofit that sells Nebraska-made products in retail stores across the state, began selling them. And a younger friend of the group developed a website (Link opens in new window) that has expanded the Cross Makers customer base. "The first order we got online was from a town in England," Kent says. "We were thrilled."

The Cross Makers are not paid for their work, at least not monetarily. "This started as a way to spend my extra time, and it's turned into a way to share blessings with a lot of people. I never expected that this little hobby could do that," Kent says. "We love what we are doing. Our reward comes from the letters we receive from people who have enjoyed the crosses."

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