Dearborn — Adam Depew of Livonia has seen firsthand the benefits of volunteering in his daughter’s Head Start program.

“She gets to show her dad off a little bit,” Depew said of Addison, 4. “It makes her feel more comfortable. ”

Depew was one of more than 150 fathers, uncles and other male figures recognized Thursday for their volunteerism in the Wayne County Head Start program. The seventh annual “An Evening with Dad” event was held at the Edward Village Hotel in Dearborn.

The fathers and their children dressed up for the evening. They had their photos taken, designed crowns and danced.

Male participation in the county’s Head Start program has increased in recent years from 500 to 800 volunteer hours annually, officials said.

Among the ways the men help are by supervising activity time, assisting with bathroom breaks and reading to the children. They also volunteer on the parent committee, policy committee and policy counsel, said Keenan Penn, parent, family, community engagement specialist assistant for male involvement with the Head Start program.

The presence of males in the classroom creates a much needed balance for the children, Penn said.

“It gives men a buy-in and it lets the community know that males are just as important in education,” he said.

The county’s Head Start programs serve children up to 5 years old and provides low income families a chance to give their child an educational head start.

Brandon Holmon of Detroit attended the celebration Thursday as an event volunteer and a former Head Start parent. He said volunteering when his son was in the program made the two of them closer.

“We bonded a lot because of it,” he said.

As a former first grade teacher in the Detroit Public Schools, Rudy Hobbs said he saw the impact of the program. Hobbs, chief of staff for Wayne County Executive Warren Evans, said Head Start is one of the most important services the county offers. He attended the event Thursday to encourage the men in their participation.

“I already knew who would have socialization skills, who had their phonics down pat, who could read,” he said. “Anyone who came from across the hall had the foundation they needed to be successful in school.”

Hobbs said 175 male volunteers were enrolled for Thursday’s event, but he would like to see that number increase to 350.

“We have to do our best to lead from the front,” he said. “We want to make sure they’re engaged in their kids’ lives.”

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