Dollywood Foundation

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Dollywood Foundation
Dollywood Foundation Logo 2013.png
Dollywood Foundation Logo
Formation 1986
Founder Dolly Parton
Headquarters Pigeon Forge, Tennessee


The Dollywood Foundation, founded by Dolly Parton (born January 19, 1946), an American singer, songwriter, instrumentalist, record producer, actress, author, and businesswoman, began in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Shortly after the opening of the Dollywood theme park in 1986, the Dollywood Foundation was created in April 1988, and began by offering scholarships to local high school students.[1] From there it grew into the Imagination Library, started in 1995, which distributes free books to children monthly, up until the age of 5.[2] The Dollywood Foundation recently grew again into the My People Fund, which started in 2016 after wildfires ripped through Tennessee.[3] The current President of the Dollywood Company is Craig Ross. Today, the foundation continues to support people in need by providing scholarships and awards to those who deserve them and provides support to countless non-profit organizations that aim to improve the quality of life to children and others in need.[4]

Imagination Library[edit]

The Imagination Library is a free children's book distribution program started by Dolly Parton in 1995. It is based at her Dollywood theme park near Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.[5] Every child in Sevier County, Tennessee, the area where Parton was born and raised, is eligible to receive a free age-appropriate book each month in the mail until the age of five, regardless of family income. In 2000, the Imagination Library became so popular that Dolly announced that she wanted to make the program available to any community that would partner with her and support it locally. The program has since expanded to over 1600 local communities in the US, Canada, and the United Kingdom.[2] The program can be implemented in other communities by private organizations, and the Foundation is responsible for the distribution of books in those participating communities. From just a few dozen books to start, to over 80,000,000 mailed to those participation. The foundation serves roughly 1,000,000 children every month. The program has drastically improved literacy for the children enrolled.[2]

My People Fund[edit]

In November 2016, two teenage boys were charged with setting a fire in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, known as the 2016 Great Smoky Mountains wildfires, which killed fourteen people and burned down thousands of homes and businesses.[6] The death toll included two children and a woman who died escaping the flames. Dolly gathered her Dollywood companies (Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede, Dolly Parton’s Lumberjack Adventure, Pirates Voyage, The Dollywood Company) and joined together to establish the ‘My People Fund’[7] which ultimately donated $1,000 a month to all of the families who lost their homes in the fire. Those collecting charitable donations from the Dolly Foundation, can collect their funds up to six months.[8] Anyone can donate to the My People Fund online or by mail. As the Dolly Foundation website states, any family whose primary residence (renters or homeowners) is a complete loss or is uninhabitable due to the wildfires in Sevier County are eligible for charitable donations.[7] Significant donors to the fund include Verizon, Tanger Outlets, Miley CyrusHappy Hippie Foundation, CoreCivic and The Blalock Company.[9] The My People Fund for has helped about 900 families and raised over 9 million dollars.[10]

Scholarships and awards[edit]

Having graduated from Sevier County High School in 1964, Dolly Parton launched The Dollywood Foundation in 1988 with the initial intention of raising scholarship funds for local high school students.[11] The Dolly Parton Scholarship was first offered in August 2000. The scholarship would grant a total of $15,000 to four students. With further sponsorship, the scholarship was later offered to four additional high schools including Seymour, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg-Pittman.[12]

When the Imagination Library reached its 100-million total book distribution mark, Dolly Parton announced she would be awarding a scholarship to a participant in the library’s program. In November 2016, Parton granted a $30,000 scholarship to a two-year-old girl, one of the library’s newest participants. The little girl was announced as the winner during the Pure & Simple tour stop in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. The money was placed in an account that will hold the money until the girl enrolls in college. The scholarship, after the 16-year wait, will amount to nearly $50,000.[13]

The Chasing Rainbows Award was created by the National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY) in Parton's name. First presented to Dolly in 2002, the award is now given annually to a deserving teacher who has overcome hardship. The Imagination Library has since partnered with the NNSTOY.[14]


By 2006 the Dollywood Foundation’s Imagination Library had spread to 471 communities in 41 states.[15] The overall rating of the organization was given 3 out of 4 stars by charity navigator.[16] The foundation later spread to the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada. The program helps about 1 million children each month. It is broken down into 6 groups that give recommendations on books depending on when the child was born.[15]

The foundation also gives out scholarships. In 1991 Dolly Parton launched the Buddy Program that made you and one other sign a contract that both you and your buddy must graduate and upon completion you would both receive $500. The Buddy Program caused the drop-out rate to go down to 6% and kick started her community into creating initiatives to keep kids in school. Awards are made in the following areas: music, academics, and the environment.[17]

In its Form 990’s the foundation reports about 60% of its total revenue go to contributions but a total of around 80% goes to the program expenses. About 20% go to investments. The company’s total liabilities are about 2 million. The foundation scored 3 out of 4 stars on their overall score and rating on their most recent form 990 as of 12/01/2016.[18]


  1. ^ "Dolly Parton forms The Dollywood Foundation". Official Dolly Parton. 1988-04-03. Retrieved 2017-02-23. 
  2. ^ a b c "Dolly Parton's Imagination Library - USA, UK, CA, AU". Retrieved 2017-02-23. 
  3. ^ "Donate to the "My People Fund"". Official Dolly Parton. 2016-11-29. Retrieved 2017-02-23. 
  4. ^ "Community Relations Support Policy". Retrieved 2017-03-01. 
  5. ^ "Welcome to the official, historical archive of Dolly Parton". Official Dolly Parton. 2015-06-17. Retrieved 2017-02-23. 
  6. ^ "Sources: Teens toying with matches started Tennessee wildfire". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2017-02-28. 
  7. ^ a b Foundation, Dollywood (2016-11-30). "Home | My People Fund". Dollywood Foundation. Retrieved 2017-02-28. 
  8. ^ "Dolly Parton's Dollywood Foundation donating to fire-displaced families". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2017-02-28. 
  9. ^ "Dollywood Foundation Announces Details for My People Fund". Retrieved 2017-02-28. 
  10. ^ "Dolly Parton's My People Fund Serves Nearly 900 Families | Cybergrass Bluegrass Music News". Retrieved 2017-02-28. 
  11. ^ "Dolly Parton forms The Dollywood Foundation". Official Dolly Parton. 1988-04-03. Retrieved 2017-03-01. 
  12. ^ "ARTS-CULTURE - Dolly Parton gives scholarships to high school students". Hürriyet Daily News | LEADING NEWS SOURCE FOR TURKEY AND THE REGION. Retrieved 2017-03-01. 
  13. ^ "Dolly Parton Offers College Scholarship to Two-Year-Old Girl". Taste of Country. Retrieved 2017-03-01. 
  14. ^ "Chasing Rainbows Award - National Network of State Teachers". Official Dolly Parton. 2002-05-05. Retrieved 2017-03-01. 
  15. ^ a b Greene, Peter (2014-08-12). "Dolly Parton. Really". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2017-02-28. 
  16. ^ "Charity Navigator - Rating for Dollywood Foundation". Charity Navigator. Retrieved 2017-02-28. 
  17. ^ JRoan (PDF). 2017-02-28  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  18. ^ ProPublica, Mike Tigas, Sisi Wei,. "Nonprofit Explorer - ProPublica". ProPublica. Retrieved 2017-02-28. 

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