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Dolly Parton is not only wildly talented, but she’s also charitable.
As the coronavirus began to spread worldwide in April 2020, the icon donated $1 million to the disease’s research at Vanderbilt University, which helped fund Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine. Data released this week shows that Moderna’s vaccine is 94.5% effective against coronavirus, marking the second vaccine with a high success rate.
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But her coronavirus efforts are hardly the first time Parton has used her success for good. Besides her support for the Black and LGBTQ+ communities, plus generous donations to the Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes, Save the Music Foundation, the Boot Campaign and more, see below for a timeline of the country star’s biggest philanthropic efforts.
1988 – The Dollywood Foundation
Parton originally launched the organization in her home county of Sevier County, Tennessee, with the goal of decreasing high school drop out rates. She then started the Buddy Program, in which Parton gave $500 to every seventh and eighth grader who finished high school. According to the organization, the initiative was successful and the dropout rate declined from 35 percent to just 6 percent.
1989 – $500 scholarship
Parton offered a $500 scholarship to every student in Sevier County who wished to attend Hiwassee College.
1991 – Eagle Mountain Sanctuary at Dollywood
The 30,000-square-foot aviary managed by the American Eagle Foundation shelters the largest collection of “non-releasable” bald eagles. Parton’s efforts to preserve the bald eagle earned her the Partnership Award from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2003.
1995 – Imagination Library
The Dollywood Foundation’s Imagination Library began sending one book per month to each enrolled child in Sevier County from birth until their first year of school. The library was founded in honor of Parton’s father, who was unable to read.
2000 – The Dolly Parton Scholarship
Every year, the $15,000 college scholarship is offered to five high school seniors in Sevier County, Tennessee. According to the Dollywood Foundation, the scholarship is awarded to those who “have a dream they wish to pursue and who can successfully communicate their plan and commitment to realize their dreams.”
2007 – Benefit concert for new Sevier County hospital
The concert raised $500,000, and both Dollywood and Parton’s Dixie Stampede dinner theater pledged $250,000 each to the project, for a total of $1 million. LeConte Medical Center, the new hospital and cancer center in Sevier County, opened in 2010 and features a 30,000-square-foot Dolly Parton Center for Women’s Services.
2016 – Telethon after devastating East Tennessee wildfires
The Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund, which aimed to help residents hit hardest in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, raised more than $13 million. Chris Stapleton, Chris Young, Kenny Rogers, Lauren Alaina, Alison Krauss, Reba McEntire, Cyndi Lauper and more appeared at the event.
2016 – My People Fund
To continue her wildfire relief efforts, Parton launched the My People Fund, which provided $1,000 a month for six months to families whose homes were completely destroyed amid the natural disaster. The fund also donated around $8.9 million to those in need. The initiative still helps residents pay for rent and utilities, plus food and mental health resources.
2016 – Special Merit Scholarship
Parton awarded a $30,000 scholarship to two-year-old Evey Johns in celebration of Imagination Library’s accomplishment of shipping out one million books per month.
2017 – $1 million donation
Following the release of her I Believe in You children’s album, Parton donated $1 million to the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in honor of her niece, who was treated for leukemia at that hospital.
2020 – Coronavirus efforts
Parton donated $1 million to coronavirus research at Vanderbilt University, which helped fund Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine. Moderna’s vaccine is 94.5% effective against coronavirus, according to early data.
2021 – Middle Tennessee Flooding Relief
Parton and her Smoky Mountain businesses raised $700,000 to help residents impacted by the catastrophic flooding in Middle Tennessee in October 2021. Parton chose United Way of Humphreys County to receive and distribute the donation at the suggestion of her friend and fellow country music legend Loretta Lynn.
“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 at the time. “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. I hope that this money can be put to good use to help the people of Middle Tennessee with what they need during their recovery.”
2022 – Dollywood Education Coverage
The Dollywood Co. announced in February 2022 that it will cover 100% of tuition, fees and books for any employee who is furthering their education.
The investment in employee education was made via Herschend Enterprises, Dollywood’s operating partner. The program is available to all seasonal, part-time and full-time employees at Dollywood Parks & Resorts. Herschuend’s GROW U. offers more than 100 fully funded diploma, degree and certificate programs with 30 learning partners in areas including business administration and leadership, culinary, finance, technology and marketing. The company also provides partial funding — up to $5,250 per year — for 150 additional programs in fields including hospitality, engineering, human resources and more. Employees can enroll in the program on their first day of employment.
2022 – Pediatric Infectious Disease Research Donation
Parton made yet another $1 million donation to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville in June 2022, this time aimed at helping pediatric infectious disease research.
The donation will aid Vanderbilt’s Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases to continue its effort in understanding how viruses and bacteria cause disease, understanding and preventing resistance to antibiotics, diagnosing and treating infections in children with cancer and more.
2022 – Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy
Parton received the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy in 2022. The award, presented by the international family of Carnegie institutions to honor innovative philanthropists, debuted in 2001 and is normally awarded every two years. It was not issued in 2021 due to the pandemic.