S.C. bakers to deliver 1,600 dozen cookies to inmates
Cookie bakers from prison ministry groups plan to deliver 19,200 home-baked and store-bought cookies to inmates at Trenton Correctional Institution
By Bill Bengtson
Aiken Standard, S.C.
AIKEN, S.C. — Chocolate chips, butter, eggs, sugar, oats and prayer were major ingredients in thousands of creations this week via the efforts of dozens of volunteers, with the idea of reaching out to Edgefield County and McCormick County neighbors who have run afoul of the law.
Kairos Prison Ministry, which was largely shut down from 2020 through 2022 and began to rebound from pandemic exile this year, has cookies as a major part of its outreach. The Christ Central facility in Graniteville had a cookie-baking crew in high gear Sept. 7, as did St. John's United Methodist Church. Volunteers representing Millbrook Baptist were a major part of the effort, as were their counterparts from Grace Church of Aiken.
Dozens of inmates at Trenton Correctional Institution are on track to take part in a behind-bars session of interdenominational fellowship Sept. 12-15, and the same plan is in place for McCormick Correctional Institution Sept. 19-22, with cookies as a major component of the gathering.
One volunteer noted that large-scale Kairos events often get an exceptionally friendly reception from prison officials. The idea is that "when Kairos comes in, there is no violence, or hardly ever any violence, because we give cookies to everybody in the prison, and everybody loves that," one said.
Steve Jerger, with Millbrook, helps lead a Connect group (equivalent to a Sunday-school class) at Millbrook and has some of his church neighbors on board for the Graniteville baking sessions — one two-hour run in the morning, and another in the afternoon. "It's all about the service for the Lord," he said, noting that his group wanted "to be able to serve someone in our fellowship, and the Kairos was a natural extension of that."
Goals currently being discussed among local Kairos boosters include having a 24-hour baking session at Hope Center (Christ Central's Graniteville facility for adult education). Such a marathon effort could provide enough cookies for a full-scale session of outreach at both the Trenton and McCormick prisons, one organizer said.
A Christian men's group that meets weekly on Friday mornings at Woodside Country Club is also part of this year's recipe and had workers on hand for the Graniteville effort.
Cookie bakers, considering the destination, have to keep a variety of rules in mind, to help reduce the likelihood of broken cookies or excessive creativity by inmates, such as use of sugar or fruit to make adult beverages. The general request is for relatively small cookies — about 2 inches in diameter — and nothing that is particularly thin or crisp, since delicate cookies are not likely to survive the process of packing, transportation and unpacking.
"The heartbeat of Kairos is the continuous ministry, and that's going back month after month in small groups and also having a great time," one booster said, noting that the outreach is not a Bible study but does devote plenty of time to Bible basics and helping inmates steer clear of despair and make the most of an exceptionally challenging environment, whether en route to decades of further incarceration or a release within the next couple of years.
One member of the Sept. 7 crew noted that the plan is for "1,600 dozen" cookies — 19,200 — to go to Trenton Correctional Institution, and any surplus will go to McCormick Correctional Institution, for which volunteers have more time to prepare cookies and other essential ingredients.
Home-baked and store-bought cookies alike are usually welcomed, although rules have fluctuated under the South Carolina Department of Corrections' guidance, and COVID-19 regulations have also meant major adjustments if not outright cancellation of Kairos events, as the agency and its counterparts around the country have continued to struggle with a shortage of personnel — corrections officers and otherwise.
The ministry's name is rooted in a Greek word sometimes translated as "God's special time" or "in the fulness of time," and the mission, as described on the state organization's website, is "to share the transforming love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ to impact the hearts and lives of incarcerated men, women and youth, as well as their families, to become loving and productive citizens of their communities."
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