The Pokagon Fund provides $5,000 grant for United Way of Southwest Michigan to expand Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in Harbor Country

More kids under the age of five living in Harbert, Lakeside, New Buffalo, Sawyer, Three Oaks, and Union Pier will get a jump-start on school-readiness with books mailed each month to their homes.


United Way of Southwest Michigan and The Pokagon Fund are pleased to announce a new funding partnership to promote Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in Southwest Michigan’s Harbor Country.


Dolly Parton's Imagination Library brings books into children's homes. From birth until they turn five years old, children enrolled in the program receive a new, age-appropriate book mailed to their home each month. By the time they enter kindergarten, children will have their own library of books and be more prepared to enter school and become lifelong readers.


“Meeting the needs of our youngest children requires a focus on ensuring early literacy in grades K-3,” said Rob Gow, Chair of The Pokagon Fund. “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 & 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 residing in Berrien and Cass Counties, providing this program free of charge to the children enrolled, 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 service area, which includes Harbert, Lakeside, New Buffalo, Sawyer, Three Oaks, and Union Pier. There is a total of 354 eligible children in that area. This promotional push seeks to enroll the remaining children via a campaign that targets kids 0-5 years old in the next two years beginning in the third quarter of 2019.


United Way will promote the program through a number of channels and outreach efforts, including social media, news media, churches, civic and service organizations, schools, childcare centers, libraries, businesses, and more.




Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is a book-gifting program that mails free, high-quality books to children from birth until they begin school, no matter their family’s income. In 1995, singer Dolly Parton launched this organization to foster a love of reading among preschool children and their families. The purchasing and mailing of books through the program is coordinated through the Dollywood Foundation in Sevier, Tennessee.




The Pokagon Fund is a nonprofit private foundation supported by revenue from The Four Winds Casino Resort in New Buffalo. The fund’s mission is to enhance the lives of the residents of Southwest Michigan through the financial support of initiatives in Education, Poverty Reduction, and Community Vitality. Since its inception in 2007, The Pokagon Fund has granted more than $22 million in awards and scholarships. The Four Winds New Buffalo is a casino, hotel, and entertainment venue, which opened on August 2, 2007. It is the primary property of Four Winds Casinos, which are owned and operated by the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians. 




United Way of Southwest Michigan fights for the Health, Education, and Financial Stability of every person in every community. We have the influence and relationships to make sustainable change a reality. By harnessing resources from corporate, nonprofit, and public partners, we provide immediate assistance to our most vulnerable populations while addressing the root causes of our community's longstanding challenges and changing lives for the better. To join the fight—through giving, advocating, and volunteering—visit


Jennifer TomshackComment