FRONTENAC — They call her nana.
Thursday was Dolores Casey’s last day of being the Kids First Daycare Center director. She’s held that position for 18 years and was the very first, and only director, since the center opened in 2001.

A special reception was hosted for her retirement. giving the parents and community an opportunity to congratulate Dolores. There were lots of hugs and many eyes filled with tears — including some from incoming director Tammie Faucett. Her own children — now adults — went to the daycare too. Faucett had worked for the daycare center for nearly a decade before being hired as the director.

What will Dolores miss the most?

The children of course, especially the tiniest from the daycare — the babies from the “Baby Bunnies” room. However, all of the children are special to her and she said will miss the children from the entire center — from the Turtle Room, Lamb Room, Bee Room and the Dandy Dinos Room.

What has really opened her eyes about the daycare is that children often toddle into the center when they are younger and over time, grow out of the program. Years later they come back as adults and ask if they could work there.
“I’m like oh my goodness, I had you here when you were about this tall,” she said, holding her hand about two-to-three feet off the floor.

Dolores actually started her career in childcare in 1983 when she began working for Headstart. The Frontenac United Methodist Church remodeled its building to create a nonprofit facility which they called Kids First Child Care and Preschool, a dream of then-patstor the Rev. Verl Strong.

Now the daycare facility staffs 22 people and serves approximately 60 families.

Dolores’ own grandchildren went to daycare and preschool there —  including her granddaughter Hunter Casey, who is working at the daycare while studying at Pittsburg State University.
“I’ve had grandchildren here and they called me nana and now half the kids here call me nana,” Dolores said. “It’s nice that we’ve connected with a lot of people and made a lot of friends.”

Dolores must have made an impact on the children because a high school student and a college student — among several other local residents — who went to the facility when they were younger came to visit her on her last day.
“Two teenage boys — that means a lot,” she said.

Her plans afterward — made by her husband Ernest who has been awaiting her retirement — is to take their camper out across the states for vacation.

For in between vacationing, her friends brought her plants during her retirement ceremony. They joked that it was something to keep her busy, being as she won’t be at the daycare center keeping things in order and the children happy.

Francis Hamm was chair of the Kid’s First Daycare Center when it opened and when Dolores was hired. She traveled down from Wichita just to see Dolores during the retirement party.  
“I know it’s [retirement] going to be hard for her because its [the daycare] been part of her life for all of these years,” Francis said. “You really get invested with the kids, her own grandchildren were among the first clients.”

Francis applauded Dolores’ organization skills which helped keep fundraisers organized.
“She just managed to do whatever needed to be done to keep the costs down to a reasonable level,” Francis said.  

The current chair, Larry Willis, praised Dolores for her efforts at the facility.
“She’s been a godsend,” Larry said. “We’re going to miss her, that's for sure.”

At one point, Larry and the others counted how many children who have stepped foot through the door. Larry speculates over 500 children, if not more, went to the daycare and preschool.
“We’ve had a lot of kids come through here that’s for sure,” he said. “We’re going to miss her.”

Dolores said she is going to miss coming in and being with the children.
“I’m going to miss them,” she said while she snuggling one of the babies.