Dolly Parton must work longer than 9 to 5 to balance her music and impressive charitable efforts.
In 2022, Parton was honored with the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy for her decades of good deeds and gushed over how “proud” she was to receive the recognition. Her acts of kindness include the creation of The Dollywood Foundation and donating funds to vaccine research after the coronavirus pandemic outbreak in 2020.
“What an honor it is just to be here. I really am just honored and proud to be amongst these great people and doing all these great things to help the world, as they say,” Parton said in October 2022 while accepting the medal. “I just give from my heart. I never know what I’m going to do or why I’m going to do it. I just see a need and if I can fill it then I will.”
The Grammy winner continued: “If I can just do my small part in this world then that’s all that I ask in this world. I am very proud of the Imagination Library, so that is very dear to me. I just hope that I can continue to do good things.”
Scroll down to see some of Parton’s most charitable moments:
Parton launched her non-profit organization The Dollywood Foundation in April 1988 in Sevierville, Tennessee. The goal was to increase the number of local high school graduates and decrease the dropout rate.
The “Jolene” singer also created the Buddy Program, which gave $500 to every seventh and eighth grader in the area who finished high school. The initiation was successful with the dropout rate going from 35 percent to only 6 percent, according to the foundation’s website.
As part of her successful theme park, Dollywood, Parton opened the Eagle Mountain Sanctuary. The space spans 30,000 square feet and is managed by the American Eagle Foundations shelters to help ensure the safety of the bald eagles.
The musician expanded The Dollywood Foundation with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. The program gifts children under five a book monthly to help with literacy and further learning in all areas of the country — and internationally. In 2018, Parton reached a milestone as the Imagination Library sent out its 100 millionth book.
The foundation began five scholarships of $15,000, dubbed the Dolly Parton Scholarship, to Sevier County’s high school seniors to help students continue their studies at an accredited university. “The scholarships are for students who have a dream they wish to pursue and who can successfully communicate their plan and commitment to realize their dreams,” the website reads.
Parton once again gave back to her community by helping raise $500,000 for the Sevier County Hospital by putting on a benefit concert. Dollywood and Parton’s Dixie Stampede dinner theater each pledged $250,000, totalling $1 million for the fundraiser. The funds were used to open the LeConte Medical Center, which is a hospital and cancer center, in 2010.
Following devastating wildfires in Tennessee that tore through the Great Smoky Mountains, Parton created the My People Fund under her Dollywood Foundation umbrella. The fund distributed $1,000 per month for six months to families who lost their main residence. The foundation revealed in 2017 that more than $12 million was raised and distributed to those in need during that past year.
After releasing her children’s album, I Believe in You, Patron donated $1 million to Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital. The donation was made in honor of Parton’s niece who was treated for leukemia at the hospital.
In spring of 2020, Parton was one of many celebrities who designed a spatula for Williams-Sonoma’s collection of charitable kitchenware. Parton’s design helped earn money for the company’s annual Cook for a Cause campaign.
That same year, the actress made headlines for donating money to coronavirus vaccine research following the worldwide pandemic spike. Parton gave $1 million to assist Moderna’s vaccine research, which was reported to be 94.5 percent effective against the virus.
“I’m just happy that anything I do can help somebody else,” Parton told Today at the time. “When I donated the money to the COVID fund, I just wanted it to do good. Evidently, it is. Let’s just hope we find a cure real soon.”
When Tennessee’s Humphreys County experienced unprecedented flooding and damage, Parton stepped up and raised $700,000 to get people back on their feet. Parton’s Dollywood and Pigeon Forge dinner show properties gifted a portion of the ticket sales during two October 2021 dates to benefit the United Way of Humphreys County.
Parton’s late friend Loretta Lynn was responsible for the choice in charity. “After the Sevier County wildfires in 2016, Loretta was one of the first who reached out to offer anything she could,” Parton said in a statement. “It meant so much to me that Loretta — and so many folks — were ready to give in any way they could. This was just one small way I could help Loretta’s people for all they did to help my people.”
Earlier that year, Parton revealed that she used some of the royalties from Whitney Houston’s cover of her song “I Will Always Love You” to give back to a Black neighborhood in Nashville. “It was mostly just Black families and people that lived around there,” Parton said during an August 2021 appearance on Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen, sharing that she invested in an office complex in the area. “It was a whole strip mall. And I thought, ‘This is the perfect place for me to be, considering it was Whitney.’”
She continued: “I just thought, ‘This was great. I’m going to be down here with her people, who are my people as well.’ And so I just love the fact that I spent that money on a complex. And I think, ‘This is the house that Whitney built.’”
Parton announced in February 2022 that Dollywood — through its operating partner Herschend Enterprises — would start covering 100 percent of tuition, fees and book costs for any employee who is going to college to further their education.
Four months later, the “Here You Come Again” singer donated $1 million to Vanderbilt University Medical Center to help the hospital’s pediatric infectious disease research.