NEW YORK (AP) — Dolly Parton is scoffing at the idea that she’s some kind of secret philanthropist.
Of course, social media sleuths discovered this week that the country superstar has been quietly paying for band uniforms at many Tennessee high schools for years. And yes, it took her decades to reveal that she used the writing royalties she earned from Whitney Houston’s version of “I Will Always Love You” to buy a mall in Nashville to support the surrounding black neighborhood in his honor. Oh, and it finally emerged that Parton had donated $1 million for the research that helped create the Moderna vaccine for COVID-19.
“I don’t do it to get attention,” she told The Associated Press in an interview, shortly before receiving the Carnegie Medal for Philanthropy at New York’s Gotham Hall on Thursday night. “But look! I get a lot of attention doing it.
In fact, Parton thinks she gets too much attention for her philanthropic work – which ranges from promoting children’s literacy to supporting those affected by natural disasters and awarding numerous college scholarships through of his Dollywood Foundation.
“I get more attention than maybe others who do more than me,” Parton said, adding that she hopes that attention inspires more people to help others.
In her Carnegie Medal for Philanthropy speech, Parton said she didn’t really have a strategy for her giving.
“I just give with my heart,” she said. “I never know what I’m going to do or why I’m going to do it. I just see a need and if I can fill it, then I will.
One need that Parton focuses on filling is fostering a love of reading in children. Its Imagination Library initiative sends a free book each month to children under five whose parents request it. Currently, Parton sends around 2 million free books each month.
“It actually started because my dad couldn’t read or write and I saw how crippling it could be,” she said. “My father was a very intelligent man. And I often wondered what he could have done if he had known how to read and write. So that’s the inspiration. »
This program continues to grow. And last month, the state of California has partnered with Imagination Library to make the program available to the millions of children under five in the state.
“It’s a big deal,” she said. “That’s a lot of kids. And we’re so honored and proud to have all the communities making this happen because I get a lot of credit for the work that a lot of people do.
Parton said she would accept the attention because it advances the cause. “I’m proud to be the voice doing what I can to put more books in the hands of more children,” she said.
Eric Isaacs, president of the Carnegie Institution for Science and a member of the medal selection committee, said Parton is a “tremendous example” of someone who understands the importance of philanthropy.
“Everyone knows his music,” he said. “They may know Dollywood for entertainment, more broadly. But now they’re going to know her for her philanthropy, which I’m not sure they’ve done before.
If Parton didn’t make philanthropy a priority in his life, it might be difficult to balance it with all of his other pursuits.
She released “Run, Rose, Run,” a bestselling novel co-written with James Patterson, in March. She shot the holiday movie “Dolly Parton’s Mountain Magic Christmas” with Willie Nelson, Miley Cyrus and Jimmy Fallon for NBC. And she will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on November 5, alongside Eminem, Lionel Richie and Pat Benatar – an honor she initially declined, but later graciously accepted.
“I’m ready to rock,” she said, adding that she had already written a new song, especially for this ceremony in Los Angeles.
But Parton is also ready to expand her philanthropic work. This year, it launched the Care More initiative at its Dollywood Parks and Resorts, which gives employees a day off to volunteer at a nonprofit of their choice.
“I think it’s important for everyone to do their part to help others,” she said. “This world is so crazy. I don’t think we even know what we’re doing to each other and to this world.
Parton says she hopes the day of service will make people realize that “when you help someone, it helps them, but it can help you more”.
“That’s what we should be doing as human beings,” she said. “I never really understood why we have to let religion and politics and things like that get in the way of us just being good human beings. I think it’s important from that point of view to feel that you’re doing your part, that you’re doing something decent and good and right.
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