The Pokagon Fund has awarded a $5,000 grant to the United Way of Southwest Michigan so it can expand the Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in Harbor Country.

More children younger than 5 who live in Harbert, Lakeside, New Buffalo, Sawyer, Three Oaks and Union Pier will get a jump-start on school readiness with books mailed to their homes.

From birth through age 5, children enrolled in the program receive a new, age-appropriate book at their house each month. By the time they enter kindergarten, children will have their own library of books.

“Meeting the needs of our youngest children requires a focus on ensuring early literacy in grades K-3,” Rob Gow, chair of The Pokagon Fund, said in a news release. “The fund’s collaboration with United Way to provide books to Harbor Country preschoolers through Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library will foster in them a love of learning and increase their chances for success in school.”

“We are excited about the support and opportunity that The Pokagon Fund has given us to encourage more kids in Harbor Country to embrace a love of reading,” said Anna Murphy, president and CEO of United Way of Southwest Michigan. “Supporting education is one of the pillars of United Way’s mission, and this grant helps us pursue that goal.”

United Way offers Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to preschool children in Berrien and Cass counties for free, regardless of financial need.

The actual cost to provide this program to the community is $25 per year per child. These costs are covered by United Way with additional support from grants and sponsorships.

There are currently 195 children enrolled in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in The Pokagon Fund’s service area, which includes Harbert, Lakeside, New Buffalo, Sawyer, Three Oaks and Union Pier, according to the release. There are 354 eligible children in that area.

The Pokagon Fund and United Way are seeking to enroll the unenrolled children.

For more information, to register a child or to make a donation, visit