Parton is known for doing charity work without requiring any public recognition and fanfare for it.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on October 9, 2022. It has since been updated.
Dolly Parton is known for going out of her way to help others. While it is common knowledge that she has helped many people, a lot of it goes under the radar. Michael Harriot, journalist and writer, revealed that Parton has been sponsoring the uniforms in several Black high schools for years. The author of "Black AF History" wrote in a tweet, "Here’s a quietly wonderful thing I noticed: If you talk to someone who was in choir or band at a majority Black HS, you’ll eventually discuss those annoying fundraisers for uniforms, instruments, etc. & a SURPRISING number will casually say: 'Oh, Dolly Parton paid for ours.'"
Here’s a quietly wonderful thing I noticed:— Michael Harriot (@michaelharriot) October 6, 2022
If you talk to someone who was in choir or band at a majority Black HS, you’ll eventually discuss those annoying fundraisers for uniforms, instruments, etc. & a SURPRISING number will casually say:
“Oh, Dolly Parton paid for ours”
A student from one of those schools commented on Harriot's tweet and wrote, "30+ years ago I was in high school marching band in East Tennessee. One year we played Sevier County High School...and DANG that band was equipped — uniforms, instruments, flags, everything. Mountain area, much poverty. Paid for by Dolly Parton. That woman is a national treasure."
Another person who was a student at the time shared their own experience, writing, "Around the same time period, Pigeon Forge was growing. Middle School bursting at the seams and 2+ kids sharing lockers. She called up the BOE and told them to replace the lockers so we all had our own and to send her the bill. She's amazing."
The news doesn't come as a surprise to Parton's fans, considering how she is known for doing charity work without caring about publicity. She has constantly worked on donating to schools, especially in her hometown, Sevier County. In 1988, she started a program called Buddy Contract, in which she pledged to give $1000 to every paired student in 7th and 8th grade upon graduation, per Chicago Tribune. The only conditions of her program were that they don't drop out of school and help each other with issues that might lead them into leaving school. These students were also asked to write to Parton herself with any issues that they weren't able to solve.
She also founded the Imagination Library, "dedicated to inspiring a love of reading by gifting books free of charge to children from birth to age five." The library has been running for almost 27 years in her home county. The foundation also partnered with Penguin Random House this year to provide free books to 200 refugee children in London, reported The Guardian.
I work with a bunch of guys from the same area as Dolly. One of them used to be a funeral director. He said Dolly regularly paid for funerals of folks who couldn't otherwise afford them. For years. She's the real deal.— CCP (@HobokenCricco) October 7, 2022
The singer is paying the full tuition of all her employees at Dollywood who are going to college, reported The Guardian. She is also funding 100% of their additional fees and sourcebooks. This offer includes almost all 11,000 full-time, part-time and seasonal employees that are working at 25 amusement and theme parks under her company.
In another aid to her community, the singer gave almost $12.5 million dollars to families affected by the devastating fires in the town of Gatlinburg, Tennessee in 2018. She gave $1000 per month to about 900 families impacted by the fire for about six months. When the donation requests increased, her foundation amped up the donation to $5000 for each family for the last month, as reported by BPR News.
Parton has contributed to the medical field as well. As the world battled the coronavirus pandemic and the Covid vaccine was rushed through trials, Parton donated $1 million to Vanderbilt University Medical Center. They were working with Moderna to develop the first Covid-19 vaccine to be authorized in the United States, per New York Times. Dr. Mark Denison, the leader of the clinical trials, said that even though the federal government later invested $1 billion, Parton's contribution funded their initial stages.
Years ago, my grandma was in first class next to Dolly. People kept coming over to say hello, so eventually grandma somewhat snobbishly asked if greeting all those fans annoyed her. Dolly just said "those people are why I'm in first class." That stuck with my grandma.— Andrew Ballard (@BallardAndrew) October 6, 2022
She is also a staunch supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement. She said in an interview with Billboard in 2020, "Of course, Black lives matter. Do we think our little white asses are the only ones that matter? No."Dolly Parton has continued to give back to her community at every possible opportunity. One Twitter user said it best, "Dolly may be the closest thing to a saint on our planet. She doesn’t want her good works publicized and goes about her work quietly."