LITTLE CHUTE — The COVID-19 pandemic put an early end to Isaac Vasquez’s classroom instruction at St. John Nepomucene Catholic School last spring. Even with virtual learning, the 10-year-old found he had free time on his hands.
With the help of his mother, Abby, Isaac began a craft project that continues to occupy his time this summer and raise funds for needy causes.
“I had nothing to do and Mom wanted me to do something productive,” he said. “So I saw a video about a person who was doing art with nails and a board and I decided maybe to do it a different way.”
Isaac, the oldest of Manny and Abby Vasquez’s five children, began making crosses made of wood, nails and twine.
“They are made out of deck wood, 9 inches long and 6 inches wide,” he told The Compass. “I use black chalk paint and I use nails that are 1 ½ inches long.” Isaac places a cross pattern over the painted board and hammers 36 nails in the shape of a cross on the board. He then wraps the twine around the nails to make a design.
“It takes me about 10 to 15 minutes to do the nails and about five minutes to twine,” he added. The result is a work of Christian art that has been well received by family, friends and parishioners.
“Eventually it kind of caught on,” he said. “People really liked it because it was a good shape and a good message. My mom thought it was really good, so I let her keep (the first one) because it was right around Mother’s Day.
“Then my mom gave me the idea to maybe sell them, so she put a picture online and we started getting orders pretty quick,” Isaac added. “So then I started making more at one time. Now I paint like 12 at a time and make like three to five crosses in a day. Altogether, I have made about 50 crosses.”
Isaac signs the back of the boards with a marker that reads, “God bless you!” As people began purchasing the crosses, Isaac decided to use some of the money for charity.
“When I first started selling the crosses I said, ‘What would I like to spend with my money?’ I was still deciding when I heard that the (St. John Nepomucene) food pantry was having a hard time because not enough people were able to donate due to the coronavirus,” said Isaac. “I heard 40 families come in (for food) every month, so I figured they could really use some extra help.”
He decided to sell the crosses for $10 and give half to the food pantry. The money he keeps helps to pay for supplies.
On April 30, Isaac presented Fr. Ron Belitz, pastor of St. John Nepomucene Parish, with $120 for the food pantry. Five days later, he donated $50 to Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Central Wisconsin.
“The food pantry wasn’t the only place struggling during this time, so I decided to donate to Big Brothers Big Sisters,” Isaac told The Compass. Each charity he assists has a special meaning, he added.
“We have a good friend who is now in college and he did Big Brothers Big Sisters and my grandpa did it with him, too. So it kind of means something to our family,” said Isaac. “I donated to Light the Night (leukemia walk) because my uncle (Jim Van Grinsven) had leukemia.”
Isaac also made a second donation to St. John’s food pantry ($100) in June and another to Ronald McDonald House ($50) on July 4. On July 16, he delivered $150 worth of groceries he purchased to St. Michael Parish’s food pantry in Keshena, which is close to where his family owns a cabin.
“We go there a lot and we really like the church and the area,” said Isaac. “There is a lot of poverty, so they could really, really use that extra help.”
Isaac said the best part of his cross-making project is presenting the donations.
“When we visited Fr. Ron, we put our money in an envelope and gave it to him. He was surprised at how much money I made. That’s probably my favorite part of the whole process.
“My least favorite part is probably the nailing,” he added. “I got a few bloody nails from that.”
According to Isaac, he plans to continue making crosses.
“Well, I am open for business,” he said. “I want to keep selling crosses. I want to keep finding more places to donate.”