HOMETOWN HERO: Heather Ryan with The Salvation Army

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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) -- As we approach the holiday season, we often think about giving back to others, but for some, giving back is their main focus all year long.

Heather Ryan, with Bowling Green's Salvation Army, is this week's Hughes and Coleman Hometown Hero.

"I grew up in a family that always helped people. We were always helping people in our community. So any time we have the opportunity or I have the opportunity to help somebody, I'm just drawn to those things, and so Salvation Army was perfect for me," says Ryan.

She's been with the Salvation Army since 2011. As Director of Social Services, her impact reaches well past the walls of the building and runs throughout the community.

"I wouldn't say there's a most important person here, but I would not put her at number two. Maybe she's one among equals," says Mike Cowles, a member of The Salvation Army's Advisory Board.

"I think since Heather has come to Salvation Army, the services have increased as far as reaching the vulnerable populations as far as single parents, veterans, elderly. She truly has broadended the spectrum of services," adds long-time friend, Lynda Love.

"You never think about those things," says Ryan. "You just do what you do. I've never considered myself a hero, I just consider myself just wanting to be useful and to help folks."

Even those who have only been at Bowling Green's Salvation Army for a few months say Heather's role is critical. Major Stephen Story, the organization's Administrator and Minister, moved to Bowling Green over the summer.

"Once of the things that makes it helpful in moving to those communities and learning those communities are having key employees in place and we've had that wherever we've been, and we're fortunate to have that here in Heather," says Story.

Heather says, "I really believe in the mission of the Salvation Army and that is just simply to love people without discrimination."

She goes on to say, "I think that sometimes we forget the impact that we have on people. It always brings me to tears when I'm out and I see a client that was here that was really struggling that's doing really great."

It's evident on people's faces just how great of an impact Heather has at Salvation Army. Just walking into the kitchen, smiles and laughs instantly shine when people see her.

With just a few words to describe Heather, Lynda says, "Compassionate, loving, caring, and a true friend."

For Heather, it's not only her goal to help those in need, but to also pass that passion onto her children.

"I think for me, God has so richly blessed me, not only with the opportunity to see growth in our community and in people, but in my family and my children. And I think that is the legacy I would want to leave so when I'm gone, they can keep this going, and keep loving people they way that they should be loved," she says.

As part of Heather's role, she's helping with the Salvation Army's Angel Tree. The tree has been set up in the Greenwood Mall since November 1, and if you're interested, you can pick a child's name to sponsor for Christmas gifts this year.

For her passion for serving others and desire to continue helping those in need, we honor Heather Ryan as this week's Hughes and Coleman Hometown Hero.

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