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Tag Archives: philanthropy

The Book Lady and the Philanthropist

Harold Grinspoon credits Dolly Parton with inspiring him to send books to Jewish children at no cost.  In four years, he has given away two million Jewish-themed books to Jewish families.

Parton’s book program Imagination Library was started in 1996 to promote reading among children in Sevier County, Tennessee, where she grew up in the Great Smoky Mountains.

In 1996, Dolly Parton launched an exciting new effort to benefit the children of her home county in east Tennessee. Dolly wanted to foster a love of reading among her county’s preschool children and their families. She wanted children to be excited about books and to feel the magic that books can create. Moreover, she could insure that every child would have books, regardless of their family’s income.

So she decided to mail a brand new, age appropriate book each month to every child under 5 in Sevier County. With the arrival of every child’s first book, the classic The Little Engine That Could ™, every child could now experience the joy of finding their very own book in their mail box. These moments continue each month until the child turns 5—and in their very last month in the program they receive Look Out Kindergarten Here I Come.

Needless to say the experience has been a smashing success. So much so that many other communities clamored to provide the Imagination Library to their children. Dolly thought long and hard about it and decided her Foundation should develop a way for other communities to participate. The Foundation asked a blue ribbon panel of experts to select just the right books and secured Penguin Group USA to be the exclusive publisher for the Imagination Library. Moreover a database was built to keep track of the information.

Consequently, in March of 2000 she stood at the podium of The National Press Club in Washington, D.C. and revealed the plan for other communities to provide the Imagination Library to their children. And as only Dolly can say it, she wanted to “put her money where her mouth is – and with such a big mouth that’s a pretty large sum of money” and provide the books herself to the children of Branson, Missouri and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina – communities where her businesses now operate. If other leaders in their communities were willing to do the same, well something big might just happen.

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In Pursuit of the Common Good

I first read Paul Newman’s novel In Pursuit of the Common Good when Hubby and I were on a road trip; he always drives and I always read aloud.  We both laughed all the way to our destination while reading this book by Paul Newman and his friend A. E. Hotchner.

Some snippets from the book ( I guarantee you will be laughing too!):

It is December 1980, a week before Christmas, Westport, Connecticut, a blanket of snow on the ground, wood smoke from fireplaces redolent in the air, tree lights festooning the houses, a pervasive Yuletide lilt, but we are laboring in the subterranean space beneath Paul’s converted barn, an area that had once been a stable for farm horses.  There is a bucket filled with ice-blanked Budweisers and an array of bottles of olive oil, vinegar, mustard,condiments, and so forth.  There is also an empty tub and collection of old bottles dating back to Revolutionary times by their appearance, bottles of various shapes and sizes that had been somewhat sanitized for this occasion.

Paul Newman, known to his friends as ol’ PL or Calezzo de Wesso (Bonehead), had asked his buddy A. E. Hotchner (Hotch), sometimes called Sawtooth, to help him with a Christmas project that he was assembling in this basement, which wasn’t a basement in the usual sense.  There were crusty stones, a dirt floor, crumbling cement, and overhead timbers covered with active cobwebs.  Also three long since vacated horse stalls, but the unmistakable aroma of horses remained.  There were desiccated manure fragments here and there, and there was evidence that certain field animals were still occupying the premises.  A very picturesque place in which to mix salad dressing.

The project was to mix up a batch of PL’s salad dressing in the washtub and fill all those old wine bottles using the assembled funnels and corks and labels, and on Christmas Eve our collective families would go around the neighborhood singing carols and distributing these gift bottles of PL’s dressing.

. . . Occasionally, during the hours we labored, somebody would show up–Caroline, the housekeeper, or Joanne or one of Paul’s kids.  But they had the good sense to stop at the door.  The smell of vintage horse piss and mold had not commingled with the aroma of Budweiser and the salad dressing ingredients, a combination that did not exactly beckon.  So they stood near the door and announced that dinner was ready, or Aunt Margaret was here, or the police wanted to invalidate Paul’s driver’s, but Paul said we still had work to do, whereupon everyone seemed to scatter in a hurry.  No one dared venture into that place.  It was forbidding, or sanctified, maybe.

As we know, all profits from Paul Newman’s products: the salad oil, popcorn, spaghetti sauce, lemonade, salsa, and steak sauce – go to deserving charities.  In September 1986, Paul Newman envisioned his own charity – a camp for children with cancer and December 1986, ground was broken for the  Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.

“I cannot lay claim to some terribly philanthropic instinct in my base nature,” PL says.  “It was just a combination of circumstances.  If the business had stayed small and had just been in three local stores, it would never have gone charitable.  It was just an abhorrence of combining tackiness, exploitation, and putting money in my pocket, which was excessive in every direction. . . . One thing that really bothers is what I call ‘noisy philanthropy.’  Philanthropy ought to be anonymous, but in order for this to be successful you have to be noisy.  Because when a shopper walks up to the shelf and says, ‘Should I take this one or that one?’ you’ve got to let her know that the money goes to a good purpose.  So there goes all your anonymity and the whole thing that you really cherish. Publicize the generosity in order to become more generous.  That’s been the most difficult part of it.  But overcoming that dichotomy has provided us with the means of bringing thousands of unlucky children to the Hole in the Wall Gang Camps.”