Dolly Parton
Knoxvile News Sentinel
May 29, 2007
Dolly Parton supports Sevier medical center

Dolly Parton has a soft spot in her heart for her native Sevier County, and the latest example is the proposed new Fort Sanders Sevier Medical Center.

The $110 million project at 720 Middle Creek Road, across from the existing medical center, will include a Sevier County branch of the Thompson Cancer Survival Center and a medical office building. Next to the new hospital will be the 30,000-square-foot Dolly Parton Center for Women's Services.

The women's center honors a woman who is not afraid to talk about her humble roots in Sevier County.

"There are few things I can think of that are more important than your health," Parton wrote in a guest column in the News Sentinel recently. "When you grew up in a rural area like I did, you did the best you and your family could. You paid the doctors with whatever your could spare.

"Back in the 1940s, a doctor named Robert F. Thomas rode his horse into our holler, and this loud-mouthed little girl was born. My daddy paid him with a sack of cornmeal. I guess that was all I was worth."

We all know better than that. Parton has raised more than $1 million toward the new medical facilities for Sevier County. She has pledged $500,000 from her Dixie Stampede and the Dollywood Foundation, and she performed a benefit concert May 20 at Smokies Park, which raised an estimated $500,000.

In addition, Parton is the honorary chair of the Dr. Robert F. Thomas Foundation, a nonprofit founded in 1983 to help improve the quality of medical services in Sevier County.

Sevier Medical Center has been the sole acute-care provider in the county since 1965, and more than 80 percent of its inpatients come from Sevier County. Officials of Covenant Health, owner and operator of the hospital, say the county's growth, one of the fastest in the state, and its large tourist population have made it necessary to replace the outdated hospital building.

"All of my family have been down there at one time or another," Parton said about the hospital.

And she is working hard to make sure both residents and tourists have a place to continue to go for health care.

In a reference to the ticket price (ranging from $33 to $150) for her benefit concert, Parton told the concert crowd, "I ain't worth it, but the folks in Sevier County are."

As she said in her guest column, "I have truly been blessed in my life, and I try to give back what I can to help others. We have a great opportunity in Sevier County and in all of the rural counties of East Tennessee."

It's an opportunity for all of us in East Tennessee, and we have a singer who has never forgotten her Sevier County roots to thank for reminding us.