Cross America of Kokomo has a mission: Send out 114 million crosses to all of the residential homes in America.
This week, the organization celebrated sending out its 2 millionth cross with a daylong celebration that included free coffee and ice cream, live music, cake and a special ceremony during Wednesday evening.
For over two years, the nonprofit has been mailing out small, silver crosses to ZIP codes across America. Each cross is emblazoned with the Bible verse Romans 10:9, which reads, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
One of the most powerful things about the mission is how many people have volunteered to help, one of the founders of the group said.
“We assumed when this mission started, that when the newness wore off we’d be begging for volunteers,” said Terry Merrell. “What we uncovered was something I just never dreamed of and it showed the goodness in people.”
He said he’s been overwhelmed by the amount of people who come to volunteer – sometimes more than 100 a day. These volunteers have helped the organization average about 3,000 crosses a day prior to the pandemic.
An emotional Kokomo Mayor Tyler Moore was on hand to assemble the 2 millionth cross package to be sent out. Unlike the traditional silver crosses, the 2 millionth cross was gold and contains a special note hoping the recipient will reach back out. Moore was also presented with a golden version of the cross.
Many volunteers, like Connie Karafin, came to join in the celebration. Karafin said she’s been volunteering for a few years following her retirement and started because she felt it was something that needs to be done.
“There’s people out there where there’s not any other way to reach them, and if something this simple can maybe spark a little something in them … you just don’t know who you can touch and how they need to be touched,” she said.
While not a church, Cross America also provides the use of four meeting rooms, a café which serves coffee and food, study space and even just a space to play cards. Executive Director Crystal Sanburn noted that people don’t have to share the organization’s vision to use the facility’s space, which has hosted more than 2,000 meetings since it opened.
Because of this wide use of the facility, Cross America decided at a board meeting Wednesday morning to add the words “community center” to its name to reflect its commitment to the Kokomo community.
Cross America also recently received a grant from the Howard County Community Foundation to help add a 2,100-square-foot storage space to the facility.
The mission remains the same no matter what’s in the name – mailing the crosses out across the country. One of the highlights for Merrell is when people reach out and let the organization know how the cross may have affected their lives. During the ceremony he read from letters from some of those people.
“I just wanted you to know that I received the cross in the mail, said the prayer, put it in my wallet so that it’s always with me,” he read. “Thank you, as it was a sign I needed to fully recognize Christ as my savior.”
Perhaps the most powerful message relayed by Merrell was a phone call received from a man in Ohio contemplating suicide.
“He had thought it through and was ready to proceed but got his mail and the cross was in the mail,” Merrell said. “After reading the message, he said he knew God was telling him not to take his life.”
Cross America is located at 840 Daniel Drive in Kokomo. For more information, visit crossamerica.net.