Dolly Parton has gone through a rough loss this week, but nothing has kept her from fulfilling the promise she made to families stricken last November by the raging wildfires in the Smoky Mountains. Don Warden, the man Dolly called “Mr. Everything” passed away on March 11, and like the song that Dolly sings with another longtime friend, Kenny Rogers, reminds “You can't make old friends.” Warden and Dolly had been connected since 1967 when Warden was the steel guitar player in the Porter Wagner Trio. Don Warden was featured with Wagner and Parton for every broadcast. Grief could not keep Dolly Parton from being true to her word for the afflicted families, and the hundreds have cut the checks.

Giving through grief

Dolly Parton pledged $1000 per month for six months to families whose homes were destroyed by the fires last fall, and confirmation came this week that the My People Fund has cut checks to 921 people of the Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Sevier County communities of Tennessee. Dollywood Foundation President, David Dotson, announced that 80,000 donations had flowed into the My People Fund throughout December and January. In addition to her contributions, many of Dolly Parton’s closest friends in country music gave beyond generous contributions along with their performances for the December 13 telethon, “Smoky Mountains Rise.” Employees of her Dollywood properties also contributed to the effort, even though many were personally affected by the fires.

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“We are mountain tough,” asserted 71-year-old Dolly in a Daily Mail feature. “You have to be physically tough, you have to be emotionally tough, and you have to be strong. “ The honored queen of the country gives all credit to those who “scrape their living out of the soil in a lot of ways,” just as her family did, with her among their 12 children. She declares that even though those assisted by the funds are not “my blood kin” that they indeed "really do feel like my people.” Those who scrape together also serve together, and learning to give back is part of common life.

Don Warden would be proud of Dolly at this moment. The two left “The Porter Wagoner Show” in 1974, and had a partnership in business and friendship that spanned five decades. “He was like a father, a brother, a partner, and one of my best friends,” Dolly-related in Rolling Stone. “A part of my heart is missing today, and a huge piece of my life is gone, “but along with her wishes that Don rest in peace, the country star echoed “know for sure that I will always love you.”

Dolly’s giving keeps going

Giving is as rooted in Dolly Parton’s being as breathing.

The singer-songwriter well remembers her dreams and struggles growing up, and the simple blessings that made a tremendous impact on her own and her family’s life. Her Imagination Library initiative has literally put books in the hands of children across the globe, and she contributes to a graduation project to support Sevier County students who stay in school and graduate. She funded a birthing center in Pigeon Forge, preventing pregnant mothers from having the long drive to Knoxville to deliver their babies.

For Dolly Parton, the “attitude of gratitude” was a gift from birth, and so is keeping one’s promise.