Since she was a baby, McPherson resident Abbey Archer-Rierson loved the McPherson Family YMCA.

"They (members at the YMCA) love to tell the story of when my mom and dad would attend the Y when I was a little baby. My mom would put the carseat at the end of the pool and swim laps and she would check on me every time she came back," Rierson laughed. "I've been using the Y since I was young and I've benefited from them in so many ways and recently, I've seen the ways I can give back now as an adult."

Archer-Rierson was named the 2018 Be a Local Hero winner this week, hosted by the United Way of McPherson County.

The Be a Local Hero campaign was a way for the United Way to showcase the contributions volunteers make to their community.

Partner organizations nominated a person involved in their program who they believe have gone above and beyond in their service to others. The community then voted for the nominee of their choice by donating to the United Way of McPherson County in their favorite nominee’s name. The hero with the most nominations wins $300 for their organization.

The other nominees in the 2018 Be a Local Hero campaign were Brynne Weber of the Lindsborg/Marquette Summer Lunch Program, Bud and Millie Star of Meals on Wheels and Neisha Dahlstrom of Circles of McPherson County.

"This campaign was a great way for us to show the importance of volunteers because if you look at our different agencies, funding is one part of what they need to do what they do, but volunteerism is finding the people to do those things is another part of what they need to do," said Kipp Cordell, head volunteer chair of the United Way.

Cordell noted that all contestants were worthy of winning the title.

"Rierson was chosen purely by votes. Our campaign committee didn't look at all the nominees and weigh the pros and cons of each — it was purely by voters. All of our nominees were very worthy and they were all fantastic people," Cordell added. "Her dedication to helping others and the area — it's amazing, she is somebody that people can look up to and follow her lead."

Along with winning the Be a Local Hero contest, the Y receives $300 to use toward anything of their choosing.

"To some people, $300 may not seem like a lot, but that can help fund any program they offer. I know they offer a lot of youth programs and they serve multiple needs. I really think that $300 can have a big impact for them and maybe cover something that they didn't know they were going to be able to cover," Cordell added.

"I'm really happy that the Y gets a little extra money on my behalf, which is really exciting. Looking at what the other contestants have done, I feel I am not deserving, but the Y is deserving and that they get some recognition. I don't do any more than anybody else, I just happened to get lucky," Rierson laughed.

Throughout the years, Rierson has been a dedicated member to the Y, and now her children and husband are involved with many activities and programs there. She also serves on the YMCA board.

"For me, I just think its a wonderful place for our small community to connect because it helps people of all ages. I have daughters that started gymnastics when they were two or three and then their grandma does exercise classes — it spans to all generations and for all ages in our community. I like the active, healthy lifestyle message they have," Rierson said. "I'm on their board along with the public policy committee. I take calls with other policy members throughout the state to make sure we're getting ahead of what can go on at the state level that affects our local Y. I have also worked with legislators on what bills they offer that can benefit the Y from a public policy stand point."

As Rierson and her husband show much appreciation to the Y, they try to give back anyway they can.

"It's just been a huge part of my life with the benefits and services. When they asked me to be on the board, I was happy to help them versus them helping me," she added.

Contact Brooke Haas by email at bhaas@mcphersonsentinel.com or follow her on Twitter @ MacSentinel.