Liz Sparrow has been the matriarch of the Uniting Child Care Centre for 24 years.
As centre's director or "a fancy name for someone who changes nappies" as she calls it, Mrs Sparrow has played a major role in the early childhood development of many south-west families.
"It's been a real privilege to be a part of so many families' lives, I've really enjoyed it," she said.
Mrs Sparrow decided to go back to studying childcare to further her career after volunteering for the playgroup at the Uniting Church.
"At the start I was doing a childcare course, working at a fish and chip shop and raising a family," she said.
"I couldn't have done it without the support of my husband. I came from a large family and a lot of my sisters and foster sisters now work in childcare. I started working in the building when it was built in 1995."
Mrs Sparrow has welcomed hundreds of children through the years into the colourful centre and delighted them with stories, playtime and Toorrongkeel the Tortoise.
"The most precious gift I've received from a child was when a boy bought in part of his lunch to share with me," she said.
"We shared a bag of crinkle cut chips.
"That's what he wanted to do to thank me for the year and his wonderful mother let him do it. I'll always remember that."
Mrs Sparrow said she loved playing with children and kept up with the different directions in life they took.
She said she often walked down the street and saw a familiar face or family and was often stopped by people to give her a hug.
"I've always wanted to work in childcare, I just love being with kids," Mrs Sparrow said.
"I get to be down on their level and be a bit silly with them. I'm a hands-on teacher and I like to be out playing with the kids.
"There's still children who see me down the street and will come and give me a hug.
"I'm very lucky to have been in a job I've loved for so long."
After retiring on December 20, Mrs Sparrow is planning to spend time with her grandchildren based in Warrnambool and Melbourne.
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