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NPR Arts & Life

Dolly Parton Provides Fire Victims 'Shoulder To Lean On'

Dolly Parton during the 23rd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards show at The Shrine Auditorium on January 29, 2017.
Dolly Parton during the 23rd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards show at The Shrine Auditorium on January 29, 2017.

Following a wildfire in the Great Smoky Mountains region of her native Tennessee late last year which left hundreds homeless, country legend Dolly Parton immediately launched the My People Fund, promising to give displaced families a $1,000-per-month stipend sourced from outside donations and Parton's own foundation. As of last Friday (May 5), the last of the checks have been cut — Parton had said from the outset that families would receive six months of support — with a total of $8.9 million having been distributed to the fire victims, according to a statement.

"We started the distribution in December right around the longest night of the year," writes Parton, "and I know it felt dark and lonely for so many. 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."

Parton's My People Fund also announced a partnership with the to provide an additional $3 million in support over the coming months. Additionally the Wildfire Scholarship Fund, separate from My People, will provide $4,500 scholarships to all junior and senior high school students who lost their homes to the fire.

"We want to provide a hand up to all those families that have lost everything in the fires," Parton said in a video urging support posted immediately after the fires. An update posted to her website in mid-December said the Fund had raised over $9 million following a telethon hosted by Parton which featured Kenny Rogers, Chris Stapleton and Cyndi Lauper. Four days later she announced "hundreds" of checks had been distributed.

Donations continued to arrive through January and February. In a meeting of the Pigeon Forge Hospitality Association, Dollywood Foundation president David Dotson said the fund was currently issuing 921 families monthly checks as of early March, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel.

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