Holly Tillman, of Montoursville, began her collection of lambs when she started her preschool in 1987. The preschool, aptly named Little Lambs since it is Christian based, is primarily located on the second floor of St. Mark Lutheran Church on North Market Street. Her collection of lambs started the same year as her preschool, with a plush sheep adorned with a gold bell around its neck. The sheep was given to her by her mother, along with a note of encouragement. "My mom saw my vision, and she supported it," Tillman said.
Little Lambs started at City Church. Although Little Lambs only was there for its initial three years, Tillman continues to display a beautiful drawing of the Lord with a lamb in His arms that she got from the church.
Since then, Tillman has come to own the preschool and has worked closely with her director, Debby Neubold from the start. Her husband, Tom, also plays a big role in supporting her dream that led to this collection.
Lamb and alphabet book collector, Holly Tillman, stands with some of her alphabet books.
Tillman's collection includes a statuette of Jesus with a child and a lamb.
One of Tillman's more unusual items in her collection is a lamb at the bottom of a coffee mug.
"He's more of my sounding board. He keeps me stable," she said.
Since receiving her first sheep 26 years ago, she started a collection that she keeps on display on a bookshelf at the preschool. Every year it grows a little more with lambs given to her as gifts by friends, family and members of the church and school. Up to this point, she has built her collection to a total of 80 lamb and sheep items.
Tillman said it is hard for her to pick a favorite; she has many. Among them are the first sheep she received from her mother, the drawing from City Church, a ceramic cauliflower lamb she purchased herself, a clay lamb her daughter made and a mug with a sheep sitting at the bottom. Most of the lambs are gifts, but occasionally Tillman will pick one up for herself if it is something out of the ordinary, such as the cauliflower lamb.
The collection also consists of several Beanie Babies, large and small. She has a couple different lamb Pez dispensers as well as a lamb that drops brown jelly beans from its hind end. This fact alone prevents the children from eating the jelly beans, so she has never had to refill it. A Pennsylvania license plate is also on display that she had on her car for years; it reads, "LIL LAMS." On the door to her office, greeting each visitor, hangs a small quilt with a lamb on it that a past student's mother had made. She even has a Lambchops puppet that is used sometimes for the kids in classes at the preschool.
Tillman even has a Precious Moments shepherd with a staff and lamb. This figure, along with one of Jesus and a lamb, embody one of Tillman's favorite Bible passages, Psalm 23, beginning, "The Lord is my shepherd " and continuing to describe the way the Lord leads his followers, also referred to as his flock.
Tillman said, "We [she and her husband] are in the process of preparing the next generation." She loves to bring in new teachers to add fresh blood, but also feels it is necessary to have seasoned ones as well. Recently, Tillman even purchased a stuffed ram she intends to leave behind after she passes on the preschool to the next generation. She will be taking her lamb collection with her and said she is leaving behind "a ram to produce more lambs." It is incentive for the next generation to continue the collection by beginning one of their own.
In addition to her lamb collection, Tillman also collects alphabet books. She has acquired quite a few and has even written one of her own. Her alphabet book recently was published, and it addresses emotions from A-Z, including photos of children (many of whom went to Little Lambs) emoting each one. A small Bible passage illustrating each emotion also is found at the bottom of the page, coupled with a tiny animal beginning with each corresponding letter next to the written emotion.
Tillman plans to write another alphabet book in the future. Ten percent of the profit from her books goes back into Little Lambs Preschool. Look for it on Amazon.com, at Christian Light Bookstore or at Otto Bookstore.