"It’s a peaceful thing ... when you see it off the water. Then people started calling us and wanting to know how they could get one, so I just started making a few of them."

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Every year Tommy and Janie Browning put up a lighted cross on the dock behind their home on Spring Lake in Destin during the Christmas season.

But with the dark cloud of coronavirus surrounding the country, the Brownings thought maybe it was time to bring a little light back and put the cross back up.

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"I know every body thinks it was my idea but big Tommy said, ’God’s gonna have to handle this,’“ Janie said, referring to the spread of the virus. “I said you’re right. He’s going to have to take care of it ... he’s our hope.”

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So a couple of weeks ago they asked their son Tommy Lee to put the cross back on the dock as a sign of hope

“It’s a peaceful thing ... when you see it off the water,” Tommy Lee said. “Then people started calling us and wanting to know how they could get one, so I just started making a few of them.”

Tommy Lee said Laurie and Brant Kelley were the first to comment on the cross.

“Laurie said this is a great idea ... let’s get this going,” Tommy Lee said.

So Tommy Lee proceeded to build some for their neighbors and family.

“I’ve built about 30 and I’ve got about 30 more to go on orders. It’s taking off,” Tommy Lee said. “Dad is my saw man. He cuts them and I do everything else.”

He says they’re pretty simple to make. He uses a 10-foot 1-by-4 piece of wood and cuts it off at 7 foot and then puts the cross bars on it before stapling a set of indoor/outdoor LED lights to the front of it.

“I’ve gotten to where I can make one in about 10 minutes,” Tommy Lee said. “It’s kind of fun ... it gets your mind off the monotony of watching TV.

“I have had over a 100 calls from all over wanting to know how to build them or if they can get one,” Tommy Lee added, who doesn’t charge to make them. "I’ve got a list a mile long, it’ll be Christmas before I finish.“

However, after the Kelly’s saw the Browning’s cross they got the bug.

"We were inspired,“ Laurie said.

So they built one and put it in their yard and posted it online and “everybody went crazy,” she said.

“We’ve gone viral,” Brant said.

Brant, who just recently underwent surgery and is sticking close to home, has still managed to build a few crosses. He built one to put in his dad’s yard, Bernard Kelly, which Tommy Lee delivered.

“We threw a couple in the yard to people and said you are on your own,” Laurie said, keeping their social distance.

Laurie said she even has a friend in Tallahassee who has put up a lighted cross.

“I’m so happy when I see mine. I wouldn’t give it up for anything,” she said. “It’s been enjoyable and inspirational ... people are so happy.”

Laurie said they have given the pattern out on how to make one to several folks.

“Most people have something in their garage or workshop that they can turn into a cross ... and everybody has Christmas lights,” Laurie said.

“Tons of people have made their own. Little by little there are more and more. It’s something hopeful and inspirational. It’s a little light in your life,” she added.

Although many have already jumped on board with the idea, Janie Browning is hoping more will.

“What a great Easter we’re going to have if we could get everybody in Destin with lighted crosses, wouldn’t that be a tribute to the Lord?” Janie said. “It’s just going to take the time ... but we’ve got plenty of time.

“Destin has always been a protected town. God took care of us through the hurricanes, it’s like he’s put a globe over us ... the oil spill came and we prayed that oil away and it didn’t destroy our beaches. He took care of Destin,” she added. “People better wake up and pay tribute to him, he’s our savior, that’s for sure.”

The Brownings plan on leaving their cross up indefinitely.

“Light up Destin with hope,” Tommy Lee said.

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