Kansas University freshman Kim Wiedenkeller was familiar with Hilltop Child Care Development Center long before she started a part-time job there this fall semester.
After all, she attended the non-profit center on KU's campus when she was a youngster.
"It didn't seem like school back then," said Wiedenkeller, who still has a lot of kid in her. "Now, I work 1 hours a day. Basically, my job is to play with the kids."
Wiedenkeller and hundreds of other folks with ties to Hilltop will celebrate the center's 20th anniversary next month.
Since Hilltop was established in 1972, the center's goal has been to provide children a stimulating and educational curriculum in a loving atmosphere.
HILLTOP Director Joan Reiber said the length of the center's waiting list suggests the original goal has been met and surpassed.
Hilltop opened its doors in 1972 to 54 children. The current roster contains the names of 168 children, with 215 children on a waiting list.
"We'd have a waiting list twice that long if we didn't tell people we had such a long list," said Pat Pisani, Hilltop's assistant director.
When the center opened there was one program for toddlers and two for preschool children, Reiber said. There are nine programs now, including a kindergarten, and a before-and-after-school program.
Reiber said Hilltop is the only nationally accredited child-care center in Lawrence.
Ninety percent of the children's parents are KU students, faculty or staff. The families of KU students receive first priority among applicants to the center, Reiber said.
Hilltop is searching for another building on campus that could be used to expand existing child care programs. The satellite center would serve at least an additional 100 children.
"WE ARE actively looking for a second site so we can expand. We have a special need for space for children under 3," Reiber said.
"The need for child care in 1992 is similar to 1972. Although there are more and more non-traditional students at KU," said Reiber, who has been at the center for 17 years.
Pisani, the assistant director, is serving her second stint at the center. From 1978 to 1980, she worked as a graduate student, assistant teacher and teacher. She left in 1980 to work with Headstart but returned in 1991.
Two of her children, Michael and Julie, attended Hilltop. Michael, like Kim Wiedenkeller, was a Hilltop graduate and employee.
"The center's philosophy hasn't changed much in 20 years," Pisani said. "It's mainly just the addition of children and programs."
Kim's father, Jay, taught at Hilltop for four years, leaving in 1980.
"It was exceptional experience," said Jay Wiedenkeller, director of child development at St. Joseph Health Center in Kansas City, Mo.
"We would get all the kids in a car, go out to the country, march through a cow field, find a stream and play there all morning. We'd go fishing, play in the mud and water or just explore.
"WE BECAME good friends with the parents. I had a house near Hilltop. Parents who had to go to work early would drop kids off at my house. They would play with my kids."
Sherree Sparks taught at Hilltop from 1972 to 1976. She fondly recalls the center's early years.
"It was such a wonderful group of people to work with," she said. "It was a real community of people. We were all very involved. Our lives mingled in and out of work."
Sparks, who works at the Kansas City Art Institute, painted a colorful mural of wild animals on one of the center's interior walls. The mural still exists.
At a meeting Oct. 6, the Lawrence City Commisssion is expected to proclaim October as Hilltop Anniversary Month.
Hilltop will kick off its 20th anniversary celebration with a teacher and staff reunion at 7 p.m. Oct. 3.
THE REMAINDER of the schedule:
Potluck picnic, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 4 at Perry Park.
Open house tours for KU faculty and staff, Oct. 13 and 14.
Participation in KU's homecoming parade, 2 p.m. Oct. 23.
March with homemade flags before KU's homecoming game, Oct. 24.
Hilltop reunion celebration for children and adults, 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 25 at Hilltop. Children will plant donated flower bulbs.