Woodworking Against Violence in Chicago

In late 2016, a peaceful march in Chicago was held for the 762 victims of gun violence who perished in the Windy City last year. Peace activists and mourners carried 762 wooden crosses measuring four feet from their base to the top, each cross emblazoned with the name and age of each victim.


The woodworking shop that made all these crosses belongs to Greg Zanis, a master carpenter who was taken aback by the request from a neighbor who wanted to memorialize her daughter’s life. She only had $20 to pay Zanis for a wooden cross, which he completed in about an hour but did not charge for it.


According to a report in the Chicago Tribune, Zanis made about a dozen crosses for South Side residents whose loved ones were victims of gun violence. He continued to make them for free; he even had to make one for his own father-in-law, whose life came to an end during a shooting incident.


Zanis, who is retired, decided to start a Christian ministry in 1999. In the wake of the terrible Columbine High School massacre, he made 15 crosses and traveled with them to Colorado. He never expected to be making hundreds of crosses years later for families in his Chicago neighborhood.


Zanis explains that Christ and his foster father Joseph were woodworkers known to help the needy in the Holy Land. In terms of woodworking, the crosses are not elaborate; they are simple and solid, just like the lives of many of the victims who have died as a result of gun violence in Chicago over the last couple of years.