I’ve never really understood the concept of sainthood, but I’ll tell you what: If there’s a way for a person such as myself to make a nomination, I would like those in authority to consider the astounding Dolly Parton.

Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at [email protected]

Seriously. The woman is the real deal.

I admit I am biased. As a child of the ’70s, most, if not all, of my childhood memories have an imprint of Dolly on them somewhere.

Parton came from a large family in a small town in rural Tennessee. Money was scarce, though talent and humor were not. Several of her 11 siblings are also successful musicians.

Parton’s professional accolades are plentiful. She’s written scores of hits, won Grammy awards, been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and starred in several major movies.

But that’s not the whole picture.

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Parton famously quipped, “It costs a lot of money to look this cheap!” That is just so her. She is a living contradiction of assumptions.

An A-list, front-page, bona fide celebrity, she’s been quietly married to the same man for 56 years. Relentlessly reduced by water cooler conversations to an outline, she is deeply intelligent and funny. Famous for her wigs and acrylics, there is no one more genuine.

It’s no wonder everyone just loves her.

In addition to sharing her gifts as a performer, where she commands the spotlight, Parton has been giving gifts as a philanthropist, often quietly and without fanfare. A quick search will reveal millions and millions of dollars given away in an attempt to make this world a kinder, gentler, more humane place for us all to live.

Parton has funded disaster relief, eagle sanctuaries, support for black and LGBTQ+ communities and health initiatives, just to name a few. When COVID hit, she donated $1 million towards the creation of the Moderna vaccine.

Her major focus in giving, however, has been on education. Building on her work through The Dollywood Foundation, she went on to create the Imagination Library, a program that delivers free books to children – one book every month from the time they are born until they turn 5. She did this in honor of her father, who never learned to read.

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Maine has just become the 13th state to partner with the Imagination Library, contributing $200,000 as part of the current administration’s dedication to delivering children’s literature into the hands of our youngest as part of the overall campaign to improve early childhood education.

A worthy investment.

If you want to see the numbers and crunch the data, they are out there. It has been shown over and over again through a lot of studies that children who are read to achieve more academically, are more likely to be lifelong learners and are better able to navigate emotions and setbacks.

A good book is so much more, though. That magical moment when you crack the code and the squiggles on the pages start to make sense or when the illustrations transport you to another place and time – the glorious luxury of having your own little library!

Books. They’re magic.

I’m so grateful that this program is coming to Maine. I’m so grateful for Dolly Parton. I suppose, after all, she doesn’t need official sainthood conferred. Dolly can just go on being Dolly. We know who she is.

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