KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) — For 35 years, our Community Hero committed her time and energy to the children of the greater Kingsport area. She has implemented programs that help hundreds of children each year.

“This is something that I have been very passionate about, and I’ll miss it,” says Rhonda Helton.

Helton loves her job at the Kingsport YMCA. She got her start decades ago right out of college after a conversation with a friend.

“She asked me if I was interested in working for the Y,” Helton remembers. “And so I started out actually working in our after-school programs.”

The after-school programs grew, and so did her responsibilities. Now, as the Vice President of Childcare Services at the YMCA of Greater Kingsport, she provides resources and opportunities for kids to learn and grow.

“I oversee a program with 800 kids, and so I work with the staff that are working with the kids,” she explains. “I work with the staff who actually get to make a difference [in] the kids’ life.”

Helton says some staff members have been inspired to commit their lives to children.

“Just by working here and helping them and [guiding] them, then they were able to decide they chose their path in life and they were going to work with kids. Just seeing the difference it’s making in our staff lives not just the kids, that they are able to give back to their own community,” she explains.

After decades of service, Helton is calling it quits. But, she says she won’t be able to stay away. She hopes to come back and volunteer for the Y, and continue to be a champion for kids.

“The Y will always be a part of my life in some way,” she says.