The Cross at the Crossroads has been a staple of the Effingham community since its completion in 2001.
In an Effingham Daily News publication entitled “Heart of the USA Effingham, IL, Sesquicentennial Celebration 1853-2003,” the book describes the cross as a “very visible symbol of the role of faith in Effingham.”
An Effingham businessman viewed a Cross when he was in Groom, Texas, and thought a Cross would be a great addition to Effingham.
A faith-based group named The Cross Foundation was formed with members from several different faiths in the Effingham and surrounding areas, along with business leaders. After raising $1 million for the project and five years of planning, the cross became a reality.
Over 200 community members representing church leaders and volunteers gathered at the First Baptist Church in Effingham for a kick-off inauguration ceremony on Feb. 11, 2001, according to the Feb. 28, 2001 edition of the EDN.
After a prayer from foundation member Tom Wright, 13 children from 12 area churches were recognized and brought to the construction site for a groundbreaking ceremony.
Children participating in the groundbreaking ceremony included Levi McElroy, First Baptist Church of Louisville; Ben Lovel, First Baptist Church of Effingham; Broc Krietemyer, Effingham Willow Street Church of Christ; Bethany Stuemke, A.S.K. Ministries; Aminta Brooks, New Hope Baptist Church, Effingham; Holly Petty, Crossroads Free Will Baptist Church, Effingham; Rachel Timmerman, Effingham Assembly of God; John Jacob Barcroft, Crossroads Free Will Baptist Church, Effingham; Caleb McCluskey, Oak Street Baptist Church of Flora; Erica Meek, Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Effingham; A.J. Harris, First Church of God, Effingham; Alex Wright, Grace Lutheran Church of Dieterich; and Blake Koerner, St. Anthony Catholic Church, Effingham.
Construction was hampered in early 2001 due to inclement weather, according to Craig Lindvahl, who was serving as a Cross Foundation member at the time.
According to a Cross at the Crossroads handout, engineers designed the cross in Kansas City, Missouri, and United Steel Fabricators of Indianapolis manufactured sections of the structure. Wind tunnel tests were conducted in Montreal, Canada, and AKRA builders of Effingham planned and performed the physical construction of the Cross.
The cross is located east of Effingham and south of Fayette Avenue exit 159, where drivers from both Interstates 70 and 57 can view the 198-foot tower with a 115-foot cross arm. The Cross was built at a height just under the FAA requirement for installing a red light on top of the structure. There are 10 marker stones placed around the base of the cross each inscribed with one of the Ten Commandments.
Five days after the attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Center complex in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001, The Cross at the Crossroads was officially dedicated and lit up for the first time with over 3,000 people in attendance.
The Cross at the Crossroads Welcome Center was officially dedicated on May 15, 2005, and the chapel was added in February of 2006.
In 2011, The Cross at the Crossroads celebrated its 10th anniversary on Sunday, Sept. 11, drawing a crowd of 3,306 people.
Carolyn Hollar and her brother, Randy Curry, launched a Chinese lantern in memory of lost ones during the celebration. During the 2011 event, attendees dressed in red to form a human cross in front of The Cross at the Crossroads.
Every Good Friday before Easter the Cross lights up in the color red and an annual sunrise Easter service is held under the Cross or in the welcome center chapel in case of bad weather. The chapel and visitors center has also hosted 9/11 memorial services, weddings and groups.
Future plans for the Cross at the Crossroads include several additions that were recently launched during a ceremonial groundbreaking by Welcome Center volunteers, donors and The Cross Foundation board members on Oct. 1. The proposed additions include 10 life-sized statues, a landscaping project, parking lot expansion, an outdoor restroom facility and a band shell.
Two maps on the wall of the Welcome Center are marked with pins showing where visitors to the Cross live. One map is of the United States and another world map shows visitors from other countries.
A volunteer greeting program was established in July of 2002 and today the program has grown to more than 200 volunteers. The greeters host more than 12,000 visitors at the welcome center every year.
Linda Lewis has been a volunteer at the Welcome Center over three years and enjoys sharing her knowledge of the Cross to visitors from around the world.
“We just do this out of love,” Lewis said.
The Cross Foundation and the Cross at the Crossroads depend upon donations and contributions from the community.