CommunityHeroes Among Us


Heroes Among Us: How a Jessamine County woman is changing lives for those behind bars

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Posted at 6:25 PM, Feb 21, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-21 18:25:41-05

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. (LEX 18) — Last week, we introduced you to Barbara Burton, a retired lawyer who volunteers some of her time to spreading love and joy to the residents at Sayre Christian Village. I asked Barbara where her passion comes from.

“My family, we were always in church. They were good, good parents!”, smiles Barbara.

Barbara grew up in Miami with her parents and younger sister. She married a man from the Bluegrass and, after raising their daughter and practicing law for 30 years, they retired and moved to central Kentucky.


For the past 7 ½ years, her main passion has been her prison ministry, spearheading an effort to bring the church to inmates at the Jessamine County Detention Center.

“She came to me, called, and said ‘they said to pray in the parking lot, but I want to pray inside the jail’”, remembers Jessamine County jailer Jon Sallee. “She came in and she said ‘well, I wanna pray over the inmates.’ And I said ‘well, it’s a little complicated.’”

But they worked it out and the response has been overwhelming. What began as one visit has become a parade of new believers. To date, more than 750 inmates have been baptized, all seeking a new way of life.

“They’re attentive, they listen, and there are many that are down here every time we’re here”, says Barbara. “They’ve lost their way. I tell them ‘orange is your worst color. Get out of here! Get away from orange!’”

Pastor Dalton King of Jessamine Christian Church has joined Barbara over the past several months to perform the baptisms. “Just to see that they want change in their life. They know that their former way of living wasn’t working”, he says.

On this day, Jeremiah Atkinson-Rodney, Elijah Couch, and Jesse Abel lined up to take their turn in the giant metal tub Barbara affectionately calls the “River Jordan”.

“She’s a big inspiration cause I don’t have anybody in life. My parents passed away at an early age, so it’s just to have somebody to talk to about God”, says Atkinson-Rodney.

Abel agrees. “She’s a sweet woman, sweet woman. I feel the love from her every time I see her. She gives us big hugs and I don’t get much love like that.”

As touching as the scene is, to see Barbara’s interaction leaves most in attendance dabbing at their eyes.

“To watch her interact with the inmates and the love that she shows them, it’s beautiful”, says Sallee.

“I’ve wondered if I’m ever going to get burned out and the answer is no”, says Barbara. “As long as they’ll let us come in, we’ll be here. It’s in my heart – I love these guys! This ministry has blessed me far more than I could have ever blessed them.”