Heidi Zaentz, above left, who has led the Monmouth Day Care Center in Red Bank for the past 22 years, worked one  last, tearful day before retirement Friday.

“This is my family and my love,” said the Marlboro resident. “People are coming out of the woodwork, people I haven’t seen in years,” including former students, to wish her well, she said.

Zaentz’s retirement comes amid a “challenging” pandemic that required the nonprofit facility to adopt healthcare measures, including mask-wearing for all staff and students, and reduce enrollment to about 100 students, from the usual 125, she said. The facility also maintains a food pantry, and helps families find homes and disability services.

After taking some time to rest, Zaentz said she plans to look for part-time work, perhaps as a volunteer with an organization that assists people with disabilities.

Meantime, she handed the directorship of the 52-year-old center to Matilde Quezada, seen with Zaentz at above right. The Elizabeth resident has 11 years of experience in early childhood education and was most recently the director of the Playhouse Child Development Center in Plainfield. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)