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Dolly Parton gets $100 million from Jeff Bezos to spend on charity

Singer-songwriter Dolly Parton is the latest celebrity to receive a $100 million gift from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, to be used for charitable purposes. Parton is seen here at the recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Los Angeles.
Valerie Macon
/
AFP via Getty Images
Singer-songwriter Dolly Parton is the latest celebrity to receive a $100 million gift from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, to be used for charitable purposes. Parton is seen here at the recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Los Angeles.

Dolly Parton has famously used her success to help others, especially in areas of literacy and education. She just got a huge boost in those efforts: a $100 million gift from billionaire Jeff Bezos.

"Did you say a hundred million?!" Parton said after Bezos announced the gift over the weekend.

Parton can use the money to support any charitable cause she chooses, similar to the deal Bezos made last year when he gave $100 million each to humanitarian chef José Andrés and activist/pundit Van Jones.

"I try to put my money where my heart is," Parton said of receiving the Courage and Civility award. "I will do my best to do good things with this money."

Parton's ongoing charitable projects include the Imagination Library, a popular literacy effort that is now closing in on sending its 200 millionth free book to young children in five countries.

After receiving last year's award, Andrés committed half of the money to seed the Climate Disaster Fund, amplifying its existing efforts to help communities cope with life-threatening conditions. His group also rushed to provide hot meals for Ukrainians after Russia's wide-scale invasion.

Unlike Andrés, Jones was not operating a global-scale charity when he was chosen for the Bezos award. In an update on his plans for the money earlier this year, Jones said that while he knows many nonprofits could sorely use part of the $100 million, he has assembled a team to look for strategies that could have long-lasting benefits for people in struggling Black, brown and poor communities.

"Fortunately, I can take time to be strategic and deliberate about this process," Jones said. "Bezos has given award recipients 10 years to disburse the funds."

Unlike last year's award, Bezos did not announce his largesse just after returning from space — a juxtaposition that immediately raised questions about his commitment to helping others.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.