Dolly Parton Gave Stipends to People in Her Hometown After a Devastating Fire

In 2016, a wildfire ravaged Gatlinburg, Tennessee, near Dolly Parton’s childhood home. In its aftermath, the fire left hundreds of people without homes. Parton took swift action to help those impacted, raising an unprecedented amount of money and providing people with “a shoulder to lean on.” Parton provided the victims of the fire with a stipend to help them as they recovered from the disaster.

Dolly Parton wears a red dress and stands in front of a black background decorated with Grammy statues. Dolly Parton's home is in Tennessee.
Dolly Parton | David Crotty/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Dolly Parton grew up in a small home is in Tennessee

Parton was born in Sevier County, Tennessee, and grew up alongside her 11 siblings. The family had little money, but Parton said they were happy.

“We didn’t have any electricity except for the lightning bugs. If fireflies were out, we’d catch them in a mason jar and put them in our bedroom,” she explained in an appearance on The Nate Berkus Show. “Most people have four rooms and a bath; we had one room and a path. We had the little outdoor shack outback. It was a good life, and I loved growing up in the mountains. We were really just people, and God and family meant everything to us.”

Parton had such fond memories of her childhood that she bought her childhood home and built a replica to stand at her Dollywood theme park. 

She donated money to help people impacted by wildfires

At the end of 2016, wildfires destroyed roughly 15,000 acres of land in Eastern Tennessee. Parton quickly jumped in to help those affected. 

“Dolly was on tour and she called in to say what can we do and how quickly can we do it?” Dollywood Foundation CEO David Dotson told Blue Ridge Public Radio. “Her hometown means so much to her. She always calls it her Smokey Mountain DNA.”

Parton launched the My People Fund, which promised to give $1,000-per-month stipends to people displaced by the fire. The fund gave families six months of financial support.

“We started the distribution in December right around the longest night of the year and I know it felt dark and lonely for so many,” Parton said, per NPR. “But here we are in spring, a time for renewal and a time for hope. I know the money helps but most of all I want people to know we will always provide you a shoulder to lean on.”

In the final month, the nearly 900 families assisted by the fund received a $5,000 check. Parton also announced a partnership with the Mountain Tough Recovery Team to provide an additional $3 million in the coming months. She launched the Wildfire Scholarship Fund, giving $4,500 scholarships to all junior and senior high school students who lost their homes in the fire. 

In total, the My People Fund gave $12.5 million to those impacted by the wildfires. She donated the remainder of the fund to the first responders.

Dolly Parton still considers Tennessee her home

Parton and her husband, Carl Thomas Dean, still reside in Tennessee. When speaking to Southern Living about what she likes about her home state, Parton gave a straightforward answer: Everything.

“My husband and I have a camper,” she said. “We travel around all the time. Every weekend. Usually a Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. We travel all over Tennessee. We try to see all the little, out-of-the-way places [where] other people don’t go.”

Though it’s been her home for her whole life, Parton still likes exploring and finding new parts of Tennessee to fall in love with.

RELATED: Dolly Parton’s Family Cow Saved Her by Dragging Her Bloodied Through the Forest