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Dolly Parton gives support to wildfire victims, 'my people'

Associated Press logo Associated Press 12/13/2016 By KRISTIN M. HALL, Associated Press
Dolly Parton talks with Randy Owen of the group Alabama during tapings for Parton's Smoky Mountain Rise Telethon Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. Parton has lined up an all-star list of performers for a three-hour telethon to raise money for thousands of people whose homes were damaged or destroyed in Tennessee wildfires. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey) © The Associated Press Dolly Parton talks with Randy Owen of the group Alabama during tapings for Parton's Smoky Mountain Rise Telethon Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. Parton has lined up an all-star list of performers for a three-hour telethon to raise money for thousands of people whose homes were damaged or destroyed in Tennessee wildfires. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Country music icon Dolly Parton's home and businesses in East Tennessee were spared from deadly wildfires last month, but she's pitching in to help her neighbors recover from the devastation.

Dolly Parton talks with Kenny Alphin, center, and John Rich, right, of the country music duo Big & Rich, during tapings for Dolly Parton's Smoky Mountain Rise Telethon Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. Parton has lined up an all-star list of performers for a three-hour telethon to raise money for thousands of people whose homes were damaged or destroyed in Tennessee wildfires. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey) © The Associated Press Dolly Parton talks with Kenny Alphin, center, and John Rich, right, of the country music duo Big & Rich, during tapings for Dolly Parton's Smoky Mountain Rise Telethon Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. Parton has lined up an all-star list of performers for a three-hour telethon to raise money for thousands of people whose homes were damaged or destroyed in Tennessee wildfires. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

She was to headline a telethon Tuesday from Nashville, featuring performances from Reba McEntire, Kenny Rogers, Hank Williams Jr., Chris Stapleton, Cyndi Lauper and more. The telethon was to be broadcast on Great American Country, AXS-TV, RFD and The Heartland Network at 8 p.m. Eastern and streamed live on USAToday.com and affiliate newspapers in Tennessee.

Dolly Parton is interviewed for her Smoky Mountain Rise Telethon Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. Parton has lined up an all-star list of performers for a three-hour telethon to raise money for thousands of people whose homes were damaged or destroyed in Tennessee wildfires. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey) © The Associated Press Dolly Parton is interviewed for her Smoky Mountain Rise Telethon Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. Parton has lined up an all-star list of performers for a three-hour telethon to raise money for thousands of people whose homes were damaged or destroyed in Tennessee wildfires. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Parton set a lofty goal of giving $1,000 to every family that has lost their primary residence through the Dollywood Foundation My People Fund.

Randy Owen, right, and Jeff Cook of the group Alabama perform a song during a taping for Dolly Parton's Smoky Mountain Rise Telethon Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. Parton has lined up an all-star list of performers for a three-hour telethon to raise money for thousands of people whose homes were damaged or destroyed in Tennessee wildfires. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey) © The Associated Press Randy Owen, right, and Jeff Cook of the group Alabama perform a song during a taping for Dolly Parton's Smoky Mountain Rise Telethon Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. Parton has lined up an all-star list of performers for a three-hour telethon to raise money for thousands of people whose homes were damaged or destroyed in Tennessee wildfires. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

"It doesn't sound like a lot of money but we're talking about thousands of people, hundreds and hundreds of people," Parton said Tuesday. "If we could give $1,000 a month for six months, that would give people a chance. And if we raise more money than we hope to, then we'll just do more."

Hank Williams Jr. tapes a segment for Dolly Parton's Smoky Mountain Rise Telethon Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. Parton has lined up an all-star list of performers for a three-hour telethon to raise money for thousands of people whose homes were damaged or destroyed in Tennessee wildfires. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey) © The Associated Press Hank Williams Jr. tapes a segment for Dolly Parton's Smoky Mountain Rise Telethon Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. Parton has lined up an all-star list of performers for a three-hour telethon to raise money for thousands of people whose homes were damaged or destroyed in Tennessee wildfires. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

This Christmas, she'll return home to East Tennessee to see the damage from the fires that spread to more than 2,500 structures in Sevier County and killed 14 people.

"I'll get to have Christmas with my family in those warm cozy houses, but we know that there are so many this time of year that are not going to get to have Christmas in a warm cozy house because they are gone," Parton said. "So that's why it is so important that we do what we can. But I am sure I will be devastated when I see some of the stuff."

Her famous friends stepped up to help before the telethon even began, with large donations from Kenny Chesney, Taylor Swift, the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.

Parton said she feels a kinship to all the hard-working mountain people who have lost so much around her.

"We are mountain tough," Parton said. "They have to be tough. You have to be physically tough, you have to be emotionally tough, and you have to be strong. People have to scrape their living out of the soil in a lot of ways."

She added: "That's why it is so important because all of these people, even though they are not blood kin, they really do feel like my people."

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For more information, visit dollywoodfoundation.org

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Follow Kristin M. Hall at Twitter.com/kmhall

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