Dolly Parton Talks About Her Philanthropy: ‘Something I Can Take Pride In’

by Clayton Edwards
(Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for SXSW)

In recent years, we’ve seen that Dolly Parton is much more than a country music icon. Among the many titles that we could throw at her feet, philanthropist might be the one she’s proudest to carry. Whether she’s putting books in the hands of kids, funding vaccine research, investing in Dollywood employees, or any number of other charitable things, Dolly gives with an open heart and a big smile.

This month, Dolly Parton received the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy. Parton is the first female entertainer to win this award. So, that makes the whole thing a little more special. She spoke about that and what drives her philanthropic work with People before the award ceremony.

Dolly Parton on Receiving the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy

“It’s great to be recognized, especially something as big as [Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy] with all these wonderful, intelligent people that have done so much for the world,” Dolly Parton told People ahead of the ceremony. “Just to be one of them is an honor to me.”

Dolly Parton is no stranger to recognition. Her musical talents have netted her a trophy case full of awards. Dolly has taken home multiple Grammys, ACM, and CMA awards. Additionally, Parton just won two awards from the International Bluegrass Music Association. She’ll be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame later this year. However, this is the first time she’s won an award for her philanthropy.

“It’s always wonderful to get recognition for anything you’ve done that might’ve helped people,” Dolly Parton said. “I’m always proud to accept the awards, and I’m always humbled by it. I’m as proud of the Imagination Library as anything I’ve ever done in my life. To get an award for the things you’ve done just says, ‘Hey, people are noticing and it’s doing some good!’ It must be, or you wouldn’t be recognized to that extent.”

 What Drives Dolly’s Philanthropy

Dolly Parton said that she lets her heart guide her to the causes she supports. “I always want to do things that I can be proud to talk about, things that I believe in,” Parton said. “I cannot be a hypocrite and just say I’m going to donate this money for a tax write-off. I’d really like for it to mean something to me – something I can take pride in.”

Dolly went on to say that she feels that it is her duty to help others because she’s been so successful. “I know it’s a lot of work, but there’s a scripture in the Bible that says ‘To whom much is given, much is required.’ So, that’s kind of how I feel when I think I’m working too much toward something. When it’s something you love, you’re happy to do the work, and I’ll continue to do it as long as I last.”