Dolly Parton isn’t one of the most popular celebrities in the world — if not the most popular — just because she’s a country music icon, although that certainly helps. Parton is also widely loved and admired for her various philanthropic endeavors and charities, which is why she was honored with a Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy in 2022. Through her Dollywood Foundation Imagination Library, the star has helped millions of children learn to read since she first started in 1995. She has also donated generously to various other causes and organizations over the years. “With her philanthropy and artistry, she has empowered and uplifted the citizens of her home county of Tennessee and millions more around the world,” the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy said in its statement, per People.
Many wealthy celebrities donate a portion of their income to charity or lend their names to worthy organizations, but Parton makes it clear that she’s not concerned with clout or financial gain.
Dolly Parton wants her charity to matter to her
When Dolly Parton decides to give back, she wants to make sure she’s donating to a cause she cares about. “I always want to do things that I can be proud of, things that I believe in,” Parton told People. “I can’t be a hypocrite and just say I’m going to donate this money to a tax write-off. I really want it to mean something to me – something to be proud of.”
Take the Imagination Library for example. Parton has often said in interviews that the organization, which gives children a free book once a month from birth to age five, was inspired by her father. “The Imagination Library came from a very serious place in my heart. My dad and a lot of my relatives who grew up hard too, big families, they actually didn’t have a chance to go to school because they had to work,” the singer-songwriter told CNBC in 2016.
Though Parton’s father was smart and talented, he never learned to read and write, which is why the “9 to 5” singer decided to focus on child literacy. “When I decided what I was going to do for a big charity, I thought, well, this is what I’m going to do: put books into the hands of children, because if you can learn to read, you can educate yourself.” , she said.