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A Parting Thanks to the Incomparable Chris Dudley

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Chris working hard at Read to Them’s old office

Chris Dudley came to work for Read to Them in December of 2014. He was Read to Them’s sixth employee.  Like many who work for Read to Them, especially in the early days, he came to do one thing only to turn into a human swiss army knife.  He was an invaluable part of Read to Them’s startling growth over that period.  Chris elected to step away from Read to Them this summer, and so we must say goodbye and pay tribute to his myriad contributions over these seven years.

Chris came to assist our Executive Director at the end of 2014,  but we quickly learned that the guy who once had A READER as his license plate had more to contribute than helping with accounts.  Chris brought a deep-seated love of children’s literature with him, something he displayed every day he worked and contributed at Read to Them.

Chris helped read and especially recommend books.  He continues to make it a personal project to read every Newbery Medal AND Honor winning books. All of them. As well as Pulitzers, National Book Awards, Scott O’Dells, Corretta Scott Kings, and the Pura Belprés…  The man is dedicated – and Read to Them was fortunate to reap the benefits. For an organization that likes to recommend books, what will we do without our #1 book recommender?!

Chris is a tenacious problem solver.  With no special training in graphics or software or web design or office system interfaces, Chris was tireless and dedicated, dogged and creative, in helping us solve and manage a plethora of technical challenges.  He was the go to guy, and such people are rarely properly appreciated: Chris, we appreciate you!  And thank you!  Again and again.

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Chris keeping the shipping area in tip-top shape

As Read to Them continued to grow, Chris took on the responsibility of our burgeoning shipping tasks.  Ordering bookmarks and posters (for over 150 books on our list!) and stickers, organizing and keeping track of them (are those bookmarks banded in bundles of 100?) – and shipping them out to each client school.  He also trained and supervised an evolving array of volunteers and high school and college interns with good cheer and reliability.

Chris is also a master proofreader – no mean task at an organization with an array of writers, a bevy of books, and an atmosphere of bookishness all around.  Just when we thought the newsletter was ready to go, Chris might come in for a ‘final check’ and catch a bunch of inconsistent em dashes and irregularly aligned columns.  Chris was always the real final check and the standard of those who aspired to proofreader pride measured themselves against.

Chris is a natural librarian and while pursuing a degree in Library Science, he served as a part-time Librarian in nearby Henrico County until fatherhood – and the demands of Read to Them – pulled him away.

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One of Chris’s favorite place to grab a bite from – Mrs. Yoder’s Kitchen

Chris is a foodie.  He doesn’t love to cook it, but he does love to read about it and talk about it and eat it. Whenever Read to Them staff convened convivially, Chris was there to suggest a puzzle, or a game of Scrabble, or a round of Trivia HQ.  He functioned as a vital morale officer for all of us.

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Chris working with staff to pack an order for a state read

In his last year with Read to Them, Chris helped create our Book Selection Committee, reading about dozens of new (and old) children’s books. Their merits are debated, their strengths and weaknesses for reading aloud assessed; the potential for sharing at home and reading across a broad population taken into consideration over an intense reading period.  As is natural to the Book Selection Committee, Chris was always passionate – and always a reliable resource for publisher information, paperback status, and Spanish translations.  While we cry, “What will we do without him?”, in fact we are blessed that Chris has agreed to stay on  as a volunteer  and continue to serve on our Book Selection Committee.

It’s fitting that he is leaving us to take more personal care of his young daughters, who he affectionately refers to as Thing One and Thing Two, to be a family man to his wife and mother, and to explore some entrepreneurial ideas simmering in his creative mind.

Thank you, Chris, for seven unforgettable and vital years. And good fortune to you as you tread a new path through the world. Holy bagumba!

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