Dolly Parton’s Charity Work: Imagination Library, the Dollywood Foundation + More Important Efforts
In 2019, Dolly Parton became the first country artist ever to be named the MusiCares Person of the Year. The honor came in recognition of the country icon's years of charity work and giving back -- and rightfully so -- but it's difficult not to think that the award was long overdue.
Parton's charity efforts are legendary, not just in her home state of Tennessee -- where she's worked for years to improve literacy and promote education via programs such as her Imagination Library -- but worldwide. Over the years, she has supported the United Way and the Save the Music Foundation; donated items to charity; and participated in the Make-a-Wish program.
Additionally, Parton has also dedicated money, time and support toward animal rights: In 2003, for instance, she received the Partnership Award from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in connection with Dollywood's American Eagle Foundation bald eagle sanctuary. She's also worked with HIV/AIDS charities -- for example, she contributed the tune "You Gotta Be My Baby" to the benefit album Red Hot + Country -- and health-related causes.
In 2017, meanwhile, Parton donated $1 million to the Monroe Carell Jr. Vanderbilt Children's Hospital. One year later, the Sevier County Senior Center was renamed the My People Senior Activity Center in her honor. In 2020, amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, Parton gave $1 million to help fund research into a cure for the virus at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
"I am impressed that Dolly doesn’t do anything that doesn’t grow to have a widespread impact," Parton's longtime friend and musical foil Kenny Rogers told Parade in 2015. "It may start locally, but because of her focus and determination, whatever it may be grows to have influence in a much larger way."
Although it's tough to narrow down Parton's most impressive charity achievements, these are five of the most important ones: