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A Christmas visit to RSW Jail reminds us of the holiday’s true meaning

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Inmates in one cell block gather around the trio of Christmas evening visitors after hearing a message of love and redemption. Courtesy Photos/RSW-Russ Gilkison

WARREN COUNTY – Well it wasn’t Santa and reindeer, but it WAS a Christmas evening visit that brought a message of hope and seasonal cheer to inmates of the RSW Regional Jail. And if not a contingent led by a famous red-nosed reindeer, it was led by an almost-equally-famous animal of Hollywood fame – Warren County’s own Grace the performing mule, along with trainer Stevie Foster and musician Kirby Covert.

Grace, whom actor Robert Duvall told this reporter rates “right up there at the top” of all the famous leading ladies he’s worked with over a stellar movie career, was accompanied by Foster and guitarist Covert on a mission of faith, redemption and Christmas joy.

Grace is lit up like a Christmas tree under the watchful eye of handler Stevie Foster.

RSW Superintendent Russ Gilkison explains that Foster and Covert visit the jail weekly and that Foster has included RSW in his Christmas jail visits with a message since its opening.

“Stevie has been visiting inmates on Christmas day for 20 years and has been coming to RSW on Christmas since the opening in 2014. This marks the first year for Grace the mule to accompany Stevie on his annual visit,” Gilkison told Royal Examiner, adding of the visit, “Grace, adorned with garland and lights, performed a few tricks like counting out her age by stomping her hoof and smiling for the crowd, bringing holiday cheer and laughter to the jail on a day that is usually quiet and somber.

“This was followed by Kirby Covert playing his guitar and singing Christmas songs such as ‘Silent Night’ and ‘New Star Shining’. Stevie would then say a few words about his personal story of drug and alcohol addiction, spending Christmases away from his family until he final gave his life to Jesus Christ and turned his life around. Steve then lead them in prayer and let them know this could be their best Christmas, if they would make the choice to let God into their lives to help them.

“I saw many men and women with tears in their eyes and then a smile on their face as Grace would do a final trick waving a handkerchief goodbye as we moved on to the next housing unit.”

Kirby Covert sings a holiday message during visit.

Gilkison shared the thoughts of a father of one of the RSW inmates after speaking to his son following the visit.

“I would like to thank you and all involved for the special Christmas luncheon served, the commissary gifts, as well as the visit by Steve Foster and his Amazing Grace. I spoke with (his son) last evening and he explained all that happed yesterday and it was the first time in months that he had a sound of excitement in his voice.

“I’m sure yesterday’s events had a positive effect for all involved and did give hope to those that could not be home with their families. I also want to thank you personally for taking time from your family to accompany Mr. Foster and Grace during their visit.”

Thanks to Superintendent Gilkison for sharing this story with us; and a special thanks to Steve Foster, Kirby Covert and Grace for reminding us what the true meaning of Christmas is all about.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Diane

    December 30, 2017 at 12:43 pm

    Am I the only one that doesn’t think jail inmates deserve “seasonal cheer”? Especially a certain child killer that I believe is still in this jail….

  2. Michelle

    December 28, 2017 at 10:19 pm

    This is so heartwarming, it really shows that good people do good for those who can be helped. Love this story!!

  3. Rodney Haynes

    December 28, 2017 at 3:37 pm

    Steve Foster is an awesome person and always has words of hope and inspiration for the inmates at RSW. I know first hand what it is like to be separated from my children on Christmas due to my own stupid actions and honestly hearing Steve talk at the jail helped me to see that there is more to life than drugs. His words of encouragement helped me to start walking a different path in life and be the father that my children deserve. His message is real and I’m grateful I had the chance to hear it firsthand.

  4. Ruth Tyree

    December 28, 2017 at 9:54 am

    Grace, Steve, and Kirby are a blessing to all of us. Please come to the Amazing Grace Barn on the first and third Saturday of each month at 7 pm for a blessing,

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