Kairos volunteers group shot

Group shot of Kairos volunteers with Libby Dudding sitting front and center

Photo courtesy of: Libby Dudding

Kairos cookies

Kairos cookies cooling at the Dudding house

Photo courtesy of: Libby Dudding

Libby Dudding in kitchen

Libby Dudding (blue shirt) helps prepare a meal for the inmates with other Kairos volunteers

Photo courtesy of: Libby Dudding

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Classified employee taking love and hope message behind bars

Meals provide a taste of home to inmates

"Classified Information" is a ongoing series that shares the interesting stories of Ohio University classified employees outside of work.

Ohio University classified employee Libby Dudding has been busy recently.

She has been satisfying prison inmates' sweet tooth with dozens of cookies.  

Dudding has worked at Ohio University for 26 years and is an administrative associate with Lifelong and Distance Learning. She primarily works with Summer Sessions, Ohio University Online and Winter Intercession.

When Dudding is not working at the university, she and her husband are actively involved with Kairos, an international, Christian prison ministry.

The ministry is staffed by volunteers and, according to its website, its mission is "to bring Christ's love and forgiveness to all incarcerated individuals, their families and those who work with them, and to assist in the transition of becoming a productive citizen.”

"I take days off to go up, it is so much fun and I have a great time doing it," Dudding said.

Two crews of Kairos volunteers are assembled twice a year. The men's group, which includes Dudding's husband Dennis, speaks to the inmates about religion. The kitchen crew, which has both men and women, prepares meals and snacks for the incarcerated men and Kairos team members.  

Dudding has served on the kitchen crew for the past five Kairos missions. She also is involved in recruiting volunteers to bake the many dozens of cookies needed for this program.

Each facility is different, depending on its population, but for the Kairos program at the Hocking Correctional Facility in Nelsonville, more than 7,000 dozen cookies are provided by countless churches and organizations to be given out throughout the weekend. Dudding said more than 20,000 dozen cookies are passed out by Kairos volunteers during visits to the much larger Ross Correctional Institution in Chillicothe, Ohio.

According to Dudding, many of the inmates take extra cookies to share with their cellmates and friends.

"The nice thing about the cookies is that they allow the inmates to create a sense of sharing with each other," Dudding said.

For two and half years, Dudding has shared her religious faith and cooking skills with nearly 120 inmates in Nelsonville.

"You're changing the atmosphere from no hope to one with hope, and that changes everything," she said.

Dudding said she first heard about Kairos when her husband became involved at the Ross facility. Later, the couple was asked to join the Kairos ministry at the Hocking facility.

"A lot of people do it once, and they are sort of hooked," she said. "It is a ministry that allows you to see people who could not believe that people cared enough to come in and give up their time to be with them. It's amazing."

The Kairos visits always end with a closing ceremony that offers an opportunity for inmates to share their thoughts or personal testimonies about their prison experience.

"It's amazing to know the sincerity of the inmates’ hearts," Dudding said. "They have met complete strangers who gave up their own leisure time to work with them, and they are so grateful. It's very moving."

In the future, Dudding said she hopes the ministry would be asked to visit one of the two women’s correctional facilities in Ohio.

"If I got a chance to go into the women's prison and actually serve as a team member, I would do it in a heartbeat," she said.