Geneseo teens build crosses to benefit Food Pantry

by Claudia Loucks correspondent

What started out as a Christmas decoration turned into a benefit for the Geneseo-Atkinson Food Pantry.

Six-foot tall lighted crosses have become part of the Christmas decorating scene in many area yards, and all of those crosses were designed and made by Nathan Dunker and Reed Preston, both freshmen at Geneseo High School.

Nathan is the son of Keith and Tina Dunker and Reed is the son of Rick and Kelly Preston.

The young men live next door to each other, have grown up together and are good friends. Their friendship includes building a fort together in the wooded area behind their homes, a project they continue to expand.

As the Christmas season approached, Nathan Dunker used some of the wood from the fort-building and built a cross, outlined the cross in white lights and added it to the Christmas decorations in the yard of the Dunker home.

When Kelly Preston saw what Nathan had made from the wood in the wood pile, she told her son, “I love the Dunker’s cross and would really like you to build one for us.” She said her son was hesitant at first because he did not want to copy his friend’s idea.

“We are good friends with the Dunkers and I will ask them,” Kelly Preston said. “Nathan’s mother said, ‘Absolutely, Reed can build you a cross. Jesus is the reason for the season’.”

That idea snowballed as neighbors and friends learned about the crosses from seeing them and from social media and began ordering the crosses from the two teens.

The project was launched when Dunker and Preston were on Thanksgiving break from classes at GHS so they put their free time into doing something charitable, and so the decision as made to continue making and selling the crosses and donate their profits to a charitable organization.

Nathan Dunker said, “I didn’t mind giving up my free time because I had fun building the crosses. I found it nice to know that the time I was putting in was going towards a good cause. Hopefully, we inspired others to donate this holiday season too.”

Building each cross took up to about 20 minutes, the two young men estimated and explained that depending on how wet the wood was changed the burning time dramatically for inscribing the logo, Dunker said. “Also, putting on the lights took a lot of time, so if the customer didn’t want lights, the process was a lot faster.”

They teamed up to deliver most of the 46 crosses they constructed and Reed said, “We built and delivered all but three of the crosses together. It was a lot of fun because we were able to hang out and have fun while we were working on the crosses.”

They first designed a logo for their mission, “Feeding through Faith,” and those words gave them the idea to use their efforts to benefit the food pantry. The logo (FtF) is burned into the center of each cross they have made.

The logo was thought of by Nathan Dunker and it was Reed Preston who explained, “He (Nathan) has a small wood burner and thought it would be cool to burn a logo onto the crosses. The name and logo was then thought of when we had a ‘meeting’ and decided on the name of ‘Feeding through Faith’ because we were spreading and sharing our faith through the cross sales. My faith has taught me the importance of giving and helping others.”

When asked how they decided to donate the money to the food pantry, and not keep the funds for themselves, Nathan Dunker said, “We knew we had the option to keep all of the profits; however, we decided against it because He is the reason for the season, so we knew we should donate most of the proceeds. It felt wrong to use the cross as a way for us to gain profits, rather than spreading the wealth to other people in need, especially during the holiday season. Jesus said to love thy neighbor as thyself, so it felt right to help those in need.”

Reed Preston’s thoughts were similar and he said, “I saw something on the news that talked about how many of the food pantry’s nation wide were in need due to the pandemic and thought it would be a good idea to donate to our food pantry so families could have food and gifts for the holidays.”

They chose to donate their profits to the food pantry “because it is a local organization and since we were selling the crosses locally we thought we should donate locally too,” Reed said.

Nathan Dunker, left, and Reed Preston show one of the crosses they designed, built and sold with proceeds to benefit the Geneseo-Atkinson Food Pantry

IN A BOX

The crosses are 6 ft. tall by 3 ½ ft. across and were sold for $20 without lights and $40 with lights. After donating $750 to the Geneseo-Atkinson Food Pantry and repaying their parents for supplies, Dunker and Preston have kept some seed capital for their mission next year. Even though orders are not being taken for this year, anyone interested in placing an order for 2021 can email theprestons03@yahoo.com or tinadunker77@gmail.com.