Tri-County Head Start to celebrate 50 years of serving children

Published 5:36 pm Thursday, May 5, 2022

SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN – In 1972, Orion Flowers started Tri-County Head Start with a vision to change the lives of the most vulnerable children and families in his community. 

Fifty years later, the organization has served more than 40,000 children in Berrien, Cass and Van Buren counties, with 44 classrooms in 20 locations and more than 900 children and families served each year. 

To celebrate its 50th anniversary, Tri-County Head Start is hosting a public celebration from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 14, at the Berrien County Youth Fair site, 9122 Old 31, Berrien Springs. The free event will include free food, books, t-shirts, games, touch-a-truck, cardio drumming and more. 

Flowers, the son of the first African American Grade A dairy producers in Michigan according to his obituary, was executive director of Tri-County Head Start for 34 years. While he died in 2014, the organization has continued to thrive in his absence. 

“It’s a wonderful feeling that we’ve been able to make an impact in the community and have a service that’s been sustaining in the community,” said Tri-County Head Start Family Services Manager Holly Pomranka. “Just to see the kids grow. … I was at Brandywine Elementary today, and to see the older kids in there and say ‘Hey, that kid was in our program and they’re doing great,’ that’s kind of neat to see.”

Tri-County Head Start Provides school-based and home-based services for children birth through age 5, as well as expectant families, according to Pomranka. They serve both the children and their families by providing a preschool program for children to get Kindergarten ready while also connecting families with needed resources, educational, and leadership opportunities. 

“As the family service manager, I’m the family advocate who works with the families,” Pomranka said. “I’m getting them in the program, but also goal-setting and resources.”

According to Pomranka, Tri-County Head Start currently has classrooms at schools in Niles, Cassopolis, Edwardsburg and Marcellus. In Dowagiac, there is a classroom at Southwestern Michigan College and they have a separate building in Dowagiac at 708 Chestnut St. There is also a location in The Bell Building in Niles, where children from Buchanan also are served.

Additionally, they offer dual language services, nutritional support services, health and mental health services, speech and language screenings and more. Services are free for eligible families. 

According to the organization, festivities also will include a celebration of the organization’s history, highlighting alumni, current and former staff, as well as community partners. On its Facebook page, Tri-County Head Start has been featuring the stories and photos of former students in advance of the celebration. For more information or to apply, visit