Back in 1995, Dolly Parton started Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to benefit children by sending them, from birth through age five, a selected book each month. My children certainly enjoyed receiving these books in the mail when they were small. The program expanded beyond Sevier County, through the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation, to every county in Tennessee. To celebrate a decade of this fantastic service, Tennessee First Lady Crissy Haslam is touring the state in a big bus to promote literacy in Tennessee. My employer, Johnson City Public Library, was fortunate to be the third tour stop as it crosses the entire state in the weeks to come.
In the course of my work, I have had the pleasure of taking photos for the Washington County Imagination Library (the affiliate that raises funds for supporting the program in Washington County), including a picture of Tim and Suzy Bomgardner reading an Imagination Library book to their boys about two years ago.
As I shot event photos for today’s tour stop at the library, I was pleasantly surprised to see the Bomgardner’s photo on the tour bus! While I was having one of those “Hey, that’s my picture!” moments, the Bomgardners, who must have known they were joining the state-wide tour in 2D, came around the bus to look at their picture.
I really appreciate what I see Dolly Parton doing with her considerable fortune. She has invested hundreds of millions in building tourism in Sevier County, Tennessee. The investments include Dollywood, Dixie Stampede, Splash Country, and the new DreamMore resort. Those businesses help local families, provide summer work opportunities for teens, and bring a great deal of happiness to the people who visit them.
It seems to me that a large majority of celebrities lead tabloid lives; it is a breath of fresh air when a radically successful (by worldly standards) personality sows her prosperity in ventures that create enormous good will and benefit so many others.
Two or three dozen children and their caregivers attended the event. Each child received a gift bag and snacks, listened to the governor’s wife and other dignitaries speak, and watched a story time and puppet show performed by library staff. For more photos from today’s celebration, see the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation Tour album on Flickr.