How Dolly Parton Makes a Difference with a Melody of Giving

Dolly Parton has long captivated the world with her incredible voice and effortless charm. But despite all her accomplishments in entertainment, it’s her melody of giving that will truly serve as her lifelong legacy. Her receipt of the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy in 2022 highlights her charitable efforts, showing her commitment to furthering the good of the world. The journey began decades ago, though, starting with the creation of the Dollywood Foundation in 1988. Wondering where Dolly aims to make the biggest impact?

Here’s a look at where she seeks to make a difference:

Driven to Promote Lifelong Learning

Photo Credit by @friendsofmyrtlecreeklibrary on Instagram

While growing up in rural Tennessee, Dolly witnessed firsthand the difficulties in accessing quality education. Her experiences inspired her to give back by helping promote lifelong learning through the Dollywood Foundation.

Through her foundation, she created the Buddy Program in 1988 to help local students have brighter futures. Her program helped decrease the high school dropout rate by 29% by simply giving 7th and 8th graders $500 for graduating.

In 1989, she started her first scholarship fund and gave Sevier County students $500 toward their education at Hiwassee College. She later went on to create The Dolly Parton Scholarship to give $15,000 in college scholarships to five local high school seniors each year.

One of Dolly’s most impactful educational endeavors was the creation of the Imagination Library. It was founded in 1995 to improve literacy rates in honor of her father, who couldn’t read. Upon enrolling, kids would receive a free book each month from birth until they started school. The program began in Sevier County but would later expand worldwide.

By 2016, the library reached a huge milestone: over one million books reached kids across the globe every month. In recognition of that accomplishment, Dolly gave a $30,000 special merit scholarship to Evey Johns, a two-year-old from Arkansas. To date, the library has given away over 85 million books.

The giving is not over, either. Dolly’s most recent scholarship program rolled out in support of all Dollywood Co. employees who want to return to school. Full-time, part-time, and seasonal employees can sign up for free to complete any of the 100 degree and certificate programs offered by the company’s operating partner, Herschend Enterprises.

Dedicated to Healthcare Excellence

Photo Credit by @dollyparton on Instagram

As an extension of Dolly’s dedication to improving the wellness of people everywhere, she’s also quite involved in the healthcare world. Whenever she sees a need, she lends a hand.

For example, she raised $1 million to help build a local hospital and cancer center, LeConte Medical Center, with a benefit concert and donation matches from her Smoky Mountain organizations. She also donated $1 million to Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital after her niece got leukemia treatment there.

In 2020, she gave over $1 million to help further coronavirus research at Vanderbilt University. And she also gave the same university another $1 million for pediatric infectious disease research.

Passionate About Natural Disaster Relief

bronze dolly parton statue in sevierville tn

Any time natural disasters happen across Tennessee, you can bet Dolly Parton has reached out to help those affected. In response to the 2016 wildfires, she raised $13 million through a telethon with other greats like Kenny Rogers and Cyndi Lauper.

Not long after, she created the My People Fund to provide ongoing support to six families who lost their homes in the disaster. Through that fund, nearly $9 million has gone toward helping families pay for rent, utilities, food, and mental health care.

In 2021, Dolly provided over $700,000 in disaster relief funds to people impacted by the flooding in Middle Tennessee. The United Way of Humphreys County distributed the funds, ensuring the financial assistance reached all the right people when they needed it most.

Committed to Animal Conservation

eagle with its wings spread out at dollywood amusement park

Although Dolly Parton primarily focuses on helping people, animal conservation is also close to her heart. Bald eagles, in particular, have captured her attention, inspiring the creation of the Eagle Mountain Sanctuary at Dollywood.

The American Eagle Foundation oversees the care of the eagles and educates park guests about their need for conservation through four daily shows. People come from far and wide to see the birds of prey flying overhead, swooping down to grab morsels of food, and performing other amazing feats.

Through this partnership, Dolly and the AEF have helped bald eagles get removed from the endangered species list and thrive in the wild once again. They continue to rescue eagles that cannot survive on their own, giving them a safe place to live out their days.

Dolly Parton’s philanthropic efforts encompass many worlds, showing her true love for people and animals. Whenever the need for care and support lands on her radar, you can trust that she’ll be there to assist, especially in her home state of Tennessee.

If you’d like to accompany Dolly on this journey, all you have to do is buy her albums, visit Dollywood, and stop by for dinner and a show at Dolly Parton’s Stampede Dinner. Or you could simply do some charitable giving of your own whenever you see a chance to help.

You don’t have to donate money, either. Freely give your time and efforts as needed to assist people and animals through difficult times, and you, too, can help make the world a better place.