As the reigning queen of country music with over 100 singles and an induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, Dolly Parton has a reputation for being able to craft killer songs. But she’s also known for something of more eternal importance: her incredible generosity.
For example, Parton launched Imagination Library in 1995. The program sent brand-new books to every child living in Sevier County, Tennessee, where Parton herself was born and raised. “Well, it all goes back to my Daddy,” she said in an interview with FOX411.com. “He was a good provider for us, but I often wondered just how far he could have gone if he could read or write.”
The program itself certainly went far, expanding internationally and mailing out some 76 million books. But it’s not Parton’s only charitable outreach. In 2016, wildfires swept through Sevier County, doing nearly $1 billion in damages. Hurricane-force winds had swept sparks from a fire near the Chimney Tops Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains through miles of drought-stricken forest, destroying homes and killing 14 people.
As soon as authorities had the blaze under control, Parton jumped into action. She formed the My People Fund, and pledged to provide $1,000 per month in cash to the 921 individuals in Sevier County whose homes had been destroyed by the fire. The program was only supposed to run for six months. But when families showed up to get their final checks at Pigeon Forge’s LeConte Center this month, they got an amazing surprise.
Instead of checks for $1,000, they discovered the checks were for $5,000. That brought the total funds each individual received to $10,000. David Dotson, president of Dollywood Foundation, which administered the My People Fund, explained, “We had a surplus with the money we raised and have been talking about doing this for the last couple weeks. We talked about the best route we wanted to take to properly distribute the funds that we had remaining.”
“I just don’t know what we would have done without this Dolly fund,” resident Amanda Green told Knoxville News Sentinel. “I’m still in shock.” But that wasn’t the only surprise Parton had in store. She also announced the creation of an organization called Mountain Tough. Mountain Tough will pick up immediately after the conclusion of the My People Fund project. The $3 million organization has pledged to support fire victims for the next three years.
When asked about the outreach, Parton said, “It makes me feel humble. … [W]hen you’re in a position to help, you should help.” Indeed, that seems to have always been Parton’s way of doing things. In 2011, she told Fox News that “when I leave this Earth, I hope that my journey made things just a little bit better.”
“A little bit better” may be a bit of an understatement, though. For 921 Tennessee families, Parton’s help is making all the difference in the world.