Big plans to follow tall cross: Group's
campaign will emphasize parental love
by Amy Burch/H&R Staff Writer
EFFINGHAM -- As cars enter a bend in the highway where Interstate
57 and Interstate 70 merge at Effingham, it almost seems as
if a huge cross appears out of nowhere.
The men who arranged to put the $1 million,
198-foot structure there may never know whether it gives
the tens of thousands of drivers who pass the site a sense
of peace, comfort or hope.
That's why they've decided it won't be
their only medium for such messages. The white cross located
near the city's industrial park is nearly completed, but
the Cross Foundation wants to do more than simply erect the
nation's tallest cross.
"This is just one project of the
foundation," said Craig Lindvahl, the nonprofit organization's
spokesman. "We have great plans that will go beyond
Another has already been put into motion.
St. Anthony's Memorial
Hospital in Effingham agreed to participate in the foundation's
new "I Love
You" card program. The parents of each baby born in
the hospital started receiving a wallet-sized card last week
encouraging them to make it a tradition to say "I love
you" to their children every morning and night.
"It's just a good, positive thing,
and those are the kinds of things we want to do," Lindvahl
The organization intends to pitch the
card program to hospitals across the nation. Within a month,
it will also have a printable version of the card on its
Web site at www.crossusa.org.
Bob Schultz, a Foundation
board member, said the group wanted the cross to be a "launching pad" for
programs. Both efforts, he said, fall in line with the foundation's
mission to have a positive influence on society.
"We see (the card program) as something
that can really hit coast to coast," Schultz said. "We're
looking to expand it as rapidly as we can. The best way to
start this is with the newest families in America."
The foundation conceived the cross idea
more than two years ago, after local businessmen spotted
a similar cross along a highway near Amarillo, Texas.
J.C. Harrison, a 33-year-old man from
the St. Louis area, wants to duplicate the cross project
in O'Fallon. He's been exploring the idea for several years
and stopped by the site recently when he was in Effingham
"I'd love to see crosses in St.
Louis, so I had to see what it's all about," Harrison
said. "There's all kinds of reasons (to build one).
The Lord just gave me a conviction in my heart. I'll be talking
to these people here to get all the details."
The project, however, hasn't developed
without criticism. The cost of the project has been a common
gripe, Lindvahl said, from people who think $1 million could
be better spent to help the homeless or at-risk children.
The group raised the money through private donations.
But the foundation has no regrets.
"It's hard to put a value on one
soul or one life that might be changed just from stopping
by here," Lindvahl said. "Sometimes you do things
for the glory of God because it's the right thing to do."
Future plans for the site include a visitors
center with parking lots, an amphitheater, small chapel and
statues depicting moments in Jesus' life. The foundation
is raising funds for those projects but doesn't have a timetable
for completion. A temporary visitors center will be erected
in the interim.
Lindvahl has been filming the cross construction
and plans to create documentaries to sell at the site.
Tom Layton, an 85-year-old Effingham
resident, believes about 80 percent of the community supports
the project. He pulls up in his Buick on a road alongside
the cross daily to take photographs and scribble notes for
a scrapbook he's making.
"I was struck with admiration for
anyone who could conceive such an idea and then have the
means to put it into operation," Layton said. "I
have volunteered to serve in some capacity. I would like
to be a source of information ... to greet people and tell
them what it's about. Everybody has a ton of questions."