According to The Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library [OGIL], Washington County experienced the highest growth rates out of every county in Ohio that had an established Dolly Parton Imagination Library [DPIL] program.

While other counties saw an average of 9% registration growth, Washington County, thanks to the DPIL affiliate, Marietta Community Foundation, saw a 23% growth in registrations.

“I am proud of our board, staff, and donors who made this accomplishment possible,” said Heather Allender, President & CEO of Marietta Community Foundation. “Helping hundreds of our local children hit developmental milestones has been an incredible experience for all of us!”

The DPIL is a book gifting program for children, ages birth to five years old. Each month a registered child receives a high-quality book in the mail, free of charge.

In July of 2019, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine allocated $5 million, in the State of Ohio’s budget, to be used for a state-wide reading initiative called the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library [OGIL]. This initiative is in partnership with the DPIL and matches every dollar raised by DPIL Ohio affiliates, which includes the Foundation.

With almost 30% of Washington County’s population, ages birth to five years old enrolled in the program and regulations due to COVID-19, the Foundation has shifted to a plan of sustainability by turning off registration of the DPIL program.

“This is an incredible program, but we need to be smart in our approach,” said Allender. “There is always going to be a balance of funds versus registrations, and we have reached our funding capacity with the number of registered children. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 regulations, we had to postpone two major fundraising events for the program, which forced us to turn off registration for the program.”

One event that was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns was a premiere of Dolly Parton’s new documentary “The Library That Dolly Built,” which would have premiered at People Bank Theatre in April. The documentary focuses on the singer’s life and journey to creating a global reading program for all children to enjoy. Proceeds from ticket sales would have gone towards the DPIL program.

Despite the setbacks, the Foundation would like to reassure members of Washington County that registration is not turned off permanently, but as a precaution to ensure the current children who are registered will continue to receive their books in the mail.

“Though we realize this may come as a disappointment in the short-term, we need to think long-term,” said Allender. “The dollar-for-dollar match by the state is only guaranteed through 2021, so we need to start planning now in case that isn’t renewed.”

In the meantime, local children and their families can tune into Dolly Parton’s “Goodnight With Dolly” series to watch the renowned artist read a bedtime story each week. Participants who sign-up through the DPIL website can win an autographed “Goodnight With Dolly” printed book series.

Registration for the program costs $25 per year for each child and there are currently 888 children registered in the Foundation’s program. Total costs for the current program is approximately $22,200 per year, and children can be eligible for up to five years.

“When looking at program sustainability, for every 5% of growth we see in registration, there needs to be $75,000 raised for the endowment,” said Allender. “Rest assured, we are working to make sure our local children are given every opportunity to succeed and we invite donors to achieve this vision!”

The Marietta Community Foundation meets National Standards for operational quality, donor service, and accountability in the community foundation sector. Founded in 1974, Marietta Community Foundation has grown over the years thanks to a number of generous gifts. Marietta Community Foundation works to improve Washington County through grants and initiatives, if you are inspired to donate to the Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program, please contact Heather Allender at 740-373-3286 or