Ike Heller's granddaughter, Liza Kaufman, remembers the first time she visited the John Kenney Child Care Center at Heller Park. She was four years old and came here with her mother to pick up her two-year-brother Adam, who had attended the center for just one year. Liza is now a teacher at the center.
EDISON, NEW JERSEY, JANUARY 24, 2013: This center has always been very special to me. I know that my grandpa put so much hard work into creating his company and this school with Donna. Whenever I call him, the first thing he says to me is “How's the child care center?” It means a lot to him.
‘THIS IS WHAT I WANT TO DO'
Before I came here I worked in the Keansburg school district as a special education teacher in a self-contained autistic classroom. All the children had autism and the majority of them had no language, so they couldn't be in the general population.
I lost my job in 2008 because of the budget cuts in New Jersey that year. I was looking for a job and I found out they were hiring at the child care center, so I applied for the job and was hired.
I love teaching, working in the school and being with children. It is extra-special, just because I know that this is what I want to do.
VISITS TO DENMARK
Donna Lambdin is a very special person too, and she has done so much for this company. It's great to work for her. She told me how the center was created and she shared stories with me about how they went to Denmark to look at their childcare centers and playgrounds. Grandpa became interested in Denmark through a company that makes top-quality wooden playground equipment. That in turn led to contacts with Danish educators and a series of visits back and forth over the years.
GRANDPA'S PONTOON BOAT
How is he as a grandpa? He's the best grandpa and I have many memories of him when I was growing up.
My favorite memories were about the times we spent with him at their beach house in Long Beach Island where we saw the big inventions that he made. He had this vision that he was going to buy carousel horses and put them on a pontoon boat. The boat he created was a big piece of fiberglass. He had a motor put on to it and a steering wheel and carousel horses were mounted on to this big piece of fiberglass. And he had a dream of sailing this thing in Barnegat Bay. He always had lots of interesting ideas.
I remember my mom telling me about the Remco Company toys, especially the Beatles dolls. I know he still has stuff in the basement in the Scotch Plains house.
WEEKENDS WITH GRANDMA AND GRANDPA
When we were younger my cousins Carrie Tomlinson and Abby Brockman and my brother and I used to spend weekends with Grandma and Grandpa at their New York City apartment. We would shop at FAO Schwartz then and go out to dinner. It was always fun. He let each of us buy a toy and that was very exciting. One time, my brother bought talking handcuffs, handcuffed himself to the table and wouldn't tell my grandpa where the key was.
Grandpa doesn't visit the center that often anymore. Once in a while he'll come in and I make it a point to say hi to him. He's just so happy when he's here. He's smiling, he wants to go visit the children and see everybody playing in the playground.
‘THIS IS MY GRANDPA'
I asked him to come down one day because the plan was to take pictures for the scrapbook I was making. It was so nice to see him here.
When he comes into my room I introduce him to the children. I say, “This is my grandpa.” The children love to say hello to him and give him hugs. It's really nice. He enjoys it. I think his gift is wonderful and it's great that he can come back to the place that he spent so much time creating. This means a lot to him.
‘THE KIDS WANT TO HOLD HIS HAND'
He was here with my grandma and my mother was here too in June of 2012 to celebrate the center's 25th anniversary. A photographer took pictures for that party. He really loves the little kids. When he sits in the chair they want to be hugged and they like when he reads stories to them. When he was playing with them in the gym, they wanted to hold his hand. He is a very loving person and he loves everybody here.
I had majored in special education, elementary education and then I had my minor in English. I'm in graduate school right now, finishing up my pre-school certification at Georgian Court University in Lakewood. I hope to start my masters' in school administration this summer.
I became engaged on to Barry Minihin on January 15th of this year. Barry is the director at a day camp in Freehold, New Jersey and we hope to get married this October or November.
I grew up being close to my grandparents. I love them and I don't know what I would do without them. Especially, I need them to be at my wedding. That's very important to me.