Head Start trough

Youngsters attending Head Start’s South Haven Center play at the new outdoor wooden water trough, which was donated to the school through a new partnership with the Kiwanis Club of South Haven.

Tri-County Head Start and the Kiwanis Club of South Haven have something in common – a dedication toward helping young children.

The two organizations decided to form a partnership to benefit youngsters attending Head Start’s South Haven Center at 541 Aylworth Ave.

Kiwanis, whose mission is to serve the children of the world, one community at a time, has donated money to Head Start for the past couple of years, according to Kiwanis board member Steve Small.

“One time I brought the check and said, ‘What else do you want besides money?’” Small said. The teachers told him he could donate school supplies, such as crayons and books. “So, I brought a box to our Kiwanis meetings and suggested members donate whatever they could to help Head Start.”

But Small thought Kiwanis could do more to help Head Start, which provides a learning environment for children 3-5 years old in the South Haven area.

He came up with an idea several months ago and asked Head Start teachers Kim Ertman and Julie Williams to come up with a wish list of equipment and supplies to improve the learning environment for students.

The two teachers created a list of teaching supplies, outdoor playground equipment and repaving the school parking lot.

Kiwanis members received the list and decided to start a formal partnership with Head Start to help fulfill the wish list.

To get the partnership off the ground, Kiwanis agreed to set aside $500 this year to allow the Head Start teachers to buy one of the items on the wish list – a set of three wooden water troughs made by Nature to Play, a division of Kaplan Early Learning that creates outdoor play equipment that engages children with nature.

“We want learning to continue outside for the kids,” Ertman said.

To continue the partnership, Kiwanis and Head Start plan to conduct events annually to not only raise money, but to raise awareness about the two organizations.

“Kiwanis is all about the kids. We want to help support them in any way we can,” Ertman said.

The COVID-19 pandemic slowed the launch of any events this spring, but tentative plans are being made for next year, according to Small.

“Our group (a Kiwanis committee) and the Head Start staff also discussed a longer-term strategy, including a yearly fundraiser that would involve the Head Start families as well as the staff and Kiwanis,” Small said. “We spoke of fundraising opportunities, one being a dinner next spring, another being a fun festival at, or near, the Head Start facility later next spring.”