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Country music icon Dolly Parton has sometimes been a little reluctant to talk about her charity work because she doesn’t want to seem like she’s doing it for the wrong reasons. But she recently revealed her donations reach back to her first job on The Porter Wagoner Show and said she’s “not one to hide under the covers” in scary times.

(L) Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton c. 1960 (R) Dolly Parton in 2022
(L) Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton | GAB Archive/Redferns (R) Dolly Parton | Gary Miller/WireImage

Dolly Parton said her charity work started with her local high school

According to Parton, she started making donations before venturing into some of her most famous and lucrative endeavors. “I started it before I even had the Dollywood [amusement] park,” she told Vogue. “I started giving out scholarships at the Sevier County High School, back when I had my first job with The Porter Wagoner Show.”

On top of funding scholarships, Parton said she bought school instruments and uniforms. And fortunately, wealth and fame never tampered with her charitable spirit. She donated in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, after fires in 2016, noting, “There were so many people who lost their homes and businesses.”

Furthermore, she helped raise funds for an effort by Loretta Lynn after a flood devastated the county where the late “Coal Miner’s Daughter” singer lived in Tennessee. The waters swept away Lynn’s longtime friend and ranch foreman, Wayne Spears.

Dolly Parton said she isn’t going to ‘hide under the covers when something … scary is going on’

In 2020, Parton famously donated $1 million to help Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine research, and she told Vogue, “Well, I’m not one to hide under the covers when something that scary is going on!”

She added it was “just the freakiest thing — a plague that was going to wipe us all off the face of the earth.”

“I try to keep my heart in tune with what’s going on, as well as my eyes and ears, so when I started hearing and seeing all these things, I felt I needed to do something,” she explained. Though she “didn’t know exactly what to do,” she “thought one thing we could do is to find a vaccine — to try to stop it in its tracks, or keep it from spreading further.”

She concluded that her “heart and … head said to donate money to try and get a vaccine.”

Dolly Parton takes pride in the ‘why’ of recognition for her charity work


Dolly Parton Shares How Her Father Inspired Her Successful Children’s Charity

In 2022, Parton was one of six honorees to receive the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy. And though she doesn’t seek any applause for her charity, she said she does appreciate the acknowledgment as a byproduct.

“It’s always nice to be recognized for what you do, although that’s not why you do it,” she said before correcting herself: “Some people do, but that’s not why I do it!”

“You take pride in it, but I take more pride in why I’m getting the award,” she explained. Parton said she’s honored to be celebrated for her philanthropy, particularly her work with the Imagination Library.

“We’ve done so many wonderful things through the Imagination Library,” she shared, adding she has taken part in “great things for children in their young, impressionable years so that they can learn to read and write.”