Dolly Parton Philanthropy: Exploring the Charitable Legacy of Country Music Icon!

Dolly Rebecca Parton, an American singer-songwriter, actor, philanthropist, and businesswoman, was born on January 19, 1946. She has had a long-standing, successful career in country music. After finding success as a composer for other people, Dolly Parton issued her debut album, Hello, I’m Dolly, in 1967.

She enjoyed popularity for the rest of the 1960s as a solo singer and through a number of duet albums with Porter Wagoner, before her sales and chart peak occurred in the 1970s and continued into the 1980s. In the 1990s, Parton’s albums enjoyed less commercial success, but in the new century, she once again enjoyed popular popularity. She has since released music through a number of independent companies, including the one she formed, Dolly Records.

Dolly Parton Philanthropy

dolly parton philanthropy

Dolly Parton is not only talented, but she’s also charitable. In April 2020, as the coronavirus started to spread internationally, the icon gave $1 million to Vanderbilt University’s study of the illness, which helped pay for Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine. Moderna’s vaccine is 94.5% effective against coronavirus, according to data presented this week, making it the second vaccination with a high success rate.

But Parton’s efforts to combat the coronavirus are far from the first time she has done so. See below for a timeline of the country star’s major charitable endeavors, including her support for the Black and LGBTQ+ communities, generous donations to the Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes, Save the Music Foundation, the Boot Campaign, and more.

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1988 – The Dollywood Foundation

In order to lower the high school dropout rate in Sevier County, Tennessee, where Parton was born and raised, she first established the organization. Once the Buddy Program was established, Parton gave $500 to each seventh- and eighth-grader who successfully completed high school. The organization claims that the project was effective because the dropout rate dropped from 35% to only 6%.

1991 – Eagle Mountain Sanctuary at Dollywood

The largest group of “non-releasable” bald eagles is housed in the 30,000-square-foot aviary run by the American Eagle Foundation. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service presented Parton with the Partnership Award in 2003 in recognition of her work to protect the bald eagle.

1995 – Imagination Library

dolly parton philanthropy

Each enrolled kid in Sevier County from birth until their first year of school started receiving one book each month from the Imagination Library of the Dollywood Foundation. The library was established in memory of Parton’s illiterate father.

2000 – The Dolly Parton Scholarship

In Sevier County, Tennessee, five seniors in high school are given the opportunity to apply for the $15,000 college scholarship each year. The scholarship is given out, in the words of the Dollywood Foundation, to those who “have a dream they wish to pursue and who can successfully communicate their plan and commitment to realize their dreams.”

2007 – A benefit concert for the new Sevier County hospital

The concert raised $500,000 for the cause, while a combined $1 million was donated by Dollywood and Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede dinner theater. A 30,000-square-foot Dolly Parton Center for Women’s Services is part of the brand-new hospital and cancer center in Sevier County, LeConte Medical Center, which opened its doors in 2010.

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2016 – Telethon after devastating East Tennessee wildfires

More than $13 million was raised during The Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund, which aimed to aid those in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge who were severely devastated. The evening featured performances by Chris Stapleton, Chris Young, Kenny Rogers, Lauren Alaina, Alison Krauss, Reba McEntire, Cyndi Lauper, and others.

2016 – My People Fund

dolly parton philanthropy

Parton established the My People Fund to expand her wildfire relief efforts, giving families whose houses were totally devastated by the natural disaster $1,000 per month for six months. Additionally, almost $8.9 million was given to those in need through the charity. The program continues to assist individuals in covering the costs of their housing, electricity, food, and mental health services.

2016 – Special Merit Scholarship

In honor of the achievement of sending one million books every month via Imagination Library, Parton gave a $30,000 scholarship to two-year-old Evey Johns.

2017 – $1 million donation

Parton gave $1 million to the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University Medical Center after the release of her children’s album I Believe in You in memory of her niece, who received leukemia treatment there.

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2020 – Coronavirus efforts

Parton contributed $1 million to Vanderbilt University’s coronavirus study, aiding in the funding of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine. Early results show that Moderna’s vaccine is 94.5% effective against coronavirus.

2021 – Middle Tennessee Flooding Relief

dolly parton philanthropy

In order to assist Middle Tennessee communities affected by the devastating flooding in October 2021, Parton and her Smoky Mountain companies raised $700,000. Loretta Lynn, a friend, and fellow country music legend, suggested that Parton choose United Way of Humphreys County to accept and deliver the money.

Parton noted in a statement at the time that “Loretta was one of the first who reached out to offer anything she could after the Sevier County wildfires in 2016.” “The fact that Loretta and so many other people were willing to contribute in whatever manner they could mean the world to me. In exchange for everything they did to assist my people, this was just a small way I could repay Loretta’s people. I hope that this money will be used effectively to provide Middle Tennessee residents with the necessities throughout their recovery.

2022 – Dollywood Education Coverage

The Dollywood Co. declared in February 2022 that it will fully fund all employees who are continuing their education in terms of tuition, fees, and books. Herschend Enterprises, Dollywood’s operating partner, contributed to employee education. All seasonal, part-time, and full-time employees of Dollywood Parks & Resorts are eligible for the program.

With 30 learning partners, Herschuend’s GROW University provides over 100 fully financed diploma, degree, and certificate programs in subjects like business administration and leadership, culinary arts, finance, technology, and marketing. Additionally, the business offers partial funding for 150 additional programs in areas including hospitality, engineering, human resources, and more, up to $5,250 annually. On the day they start working for the company, employees can sign up for the program.

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2022 – Pediatric Infectious Disease Research Donation

dolly parton philanthropy

In June 2022, Parton gave a further $1 million gift to Nashville’s Vanderbilt University Medical Center, this time to support pediatric infectious disease research.

The gift will help Vanderbilt’s Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases in its ongoing research into how viruses and bacteria create disease, how to recognize and stop antibiotic resistance, how to identify and treat infections in children with cancer, and other topics.

2022 – Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy

In 2022, Parton was awarded the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy. The award was established in 2001 and is typically given out every two years to recognize innovative philanthropists. It is sponsored by the global family of Carnegie institutions. In 2021, it was not released because of the epidemic.