Early life and Education
Dolly Rebecca Parton grew up in rural Appalachia as one of 12 children. Although her family was poor, they loved music. Parton first began singing in church early in life and performed on local radio and TV shows in Knoxville, Tennessee.
After graduating from high school, the singer set out for Nashville to pursue her dream of a music career. There she became the protegé of Porter Wagoner and eventually achieved worldwide success.
Parton is best known as a pioneer in the music industry who bridged the gap between country and pop music.
Besides having a dazzling career that stretched over several decades, Dolly Parton is also known for incredible generosity. She has championed causes that ranged from childhood education to the environment. Some of the causes the star has supported are:
The Dollywood Foundation
The Dollywood Foundation was launched in 1988 to help reduce high school dropout rates. The foundation’s first initiative, the Buddy Program, drastically decreased the dropout rate in Parton’s home county by giving out $500 to kids who finished high school. From there, the foundation expanded to other initiatives, including the Imagination Library and the My People Fund.
The Imagination Library
In 2014 Parton launched the Imagination Library, an initiative that provides a free book to children every month from birth until they go to school. The program is now available across the world, and millions of books are donated every year.
According to Parton, many of her relatives did not have the opportunity to go to school, and her own father could not read or write. This inspired the singer to start this initiative.
The My People Fund
In 2016 wildfires catastrophically damaged part of Sevier County in Tennessee. Parton mobilized fundraising efforts for relief funds. It included a telethon and a benefit show with performances from stars like Chris Young, Kenny Rogers, Hank Williams, Sr., Alabama, and Cindy Lauper.
Parton raised over $13 million for those who lost their homes in the wildfires giving them $1,000 a month for six months and a $5,000 check as the program wound down and further donations of $8.9 million to those in dire need.
Years after the wildfires, the fund continues to help residents to pay for rent, utilities, food, and access to mental health resources.
The LeConte Medical Center
Parton generously funded and supported the LeConte Medical Center in Sevierville, Tennessee, when it replaced the Fort Sanders Sevier Medical Center. She donated $500,000 and held a benefit concert that raised an additional $500,000. The upgrade included the Dolly Parton Center for Women’s Services, a complementary unit to the center’s birthing unit.