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Imagination Library program going countywide

The Dolly Parton Imagination Library is growing within Shelby County.

In 1995, Dolly Parton created the Dolly Parton Imagination Library in Sevier County, Tennessee. The program provided high-quality books to children each month through the mail from birth through age five to encourage an early love of reading and learning. The books were provided at no cost to families no matter their income.

The program initially was only available to members of Sevier County but it grew rapidly. By 2000, the program was starting an effort to become available nationwide.

In 2007, the communities of Morristown and Waldron raised funds from a large number of donors and created endowment funds to support Imagination Libraries for their communities with matching dollars from Blue River Community Foundation (BRCF). Fundraising was so successful that in 2019, Waldron, with the help of fundraising in the southwestern part of Shelby County, was able to expand their program to include the Southwestern school district.

In the past few months, this has allowed 75 additional children to participate, with room to grow.

Although program availability had reached another corner of Shelby County, there were still two districts where children were not eligible to participate – Shelbyville Central Schools and Northwestern Consolidated Schools (Triton Central).

BRCF has received many inquiries over the years from grandparents and parents who live in the county’s two largest school districts not served by the program. It also has been a dream of the foundation to be able to expand the program countywide.

During review of the 2019 racino grant applications, BRCF and the Shelby County Council realized there was more funding available than actual requests. Together, they realized this was the perfect opportunity to expand the Imagination Library.

The Shelby County Council agreed to combine the excess funds with current funds to create the Dolly Parton Imagination Library Fund for Shelby County. This grant from the Shelby County Council is a permanent investment in early education, creating a love of reading and learning.

Although the program is free to the children, the cost is $25 per year per child. To support the continued growth of the program and create a love of learning and reading at an early age, you can donate at, or mail a check to BRCF at 54 W. Broadway, Suite 1, Shelbyville, Indiana (46176). Your donation is tax deductible.

Suggested donation levels are $25 for one child for one year; $125 will support that child from birth through age five; or $667 contributed to the endowment fund will continue to support a child forever.

BRCF will be partnering with local schools, churches, pediatricians and Early Learning Shelby County to help communicate this information and how families can register.

Families may sign up their qualifying children now at

Registration forms also are available at the Shelby County Public Library, 57 W. Broadway in Shelbyville, and the Velma Wortman Morristown Branch of the Shelby County Public Library, 127 E. Main Street in Morristown.

For more information, contact a foundation representative at or call 317-392-7955.

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