Darke Co. United Way attend First Lady luncheon

COLUMBUS — On Aug. 9, the Darke County United Way was honored to attend the 2022 Inaugural First Lady’s Luncheon that supported Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library of Ohio. The Darke County United Way is proud to be the local affiliate to have the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program available in the county. Lauren Henry, former Darke County United Way executive director, made it her mission to bring the program to Darke County in April 2010. During the past 12 years, 114,078 books have been mailed to children in Darke County. They currently have 2,002 children enrolled in the program that receive a free book monthly, which makes up approximately 60 percent of eligible children in the county.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and First Lady Fran DeWine welcomed Dolly Parton to Ohio to celebrate the statewide success of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, where every child under the age of 5 is eligible. Currently, 343,490 children are enrolled in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library of Ohio, which means 48 percent of eligible children between birth to age five years old are enrolled in the program.

“It is an incredible honor to host Dolly Parton and celebrate the success of her book gifting program here in Ohio,” said First Lady Fran DeWine. “Ohio’s Imagination Library is thriving, and we are truly blessed to have so many supporters of the program in every community across our great state. These books are changing the lives of so many children and preparing them for kindergarten—and life!”

At the luncheon, Governor DeWine introduced First Lady DeWine, noting that more Ohio children are receiving the Imagination Library books from Dolly Parton’s program than in any other state. During the luncheon, First Lady DeWine hosted a fireside chat with Dolly Parton, where Dolly explained how important the Imagination Library is to her. In 1995, Dolly Parton created Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library for children living in Sevier County, Tenn. She was initially inspired to create the Imagination Library by her father, who was illiterate. Since 1995, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has expanded nationally and internationally. The program was brought to Ohio in 2019 under the guidance of First Lady DeWine.

Parton and First Lady DeWine were each gifted a quilt from Ohio’s Imagination Library’s affiliates. Both quilts include 88 squares, one for each of Ohio’s 88 counties. Each county affiliate worked with a group of preschoolers in their community to design a square representing their county.

Ohio’s Imagination Library has 71 affiliates, who administer the program on a county level, cover 50 percent of the cost of books, and build partnerships throughout the community. The remaining cost of each book is covered by Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library of Ohio, ensuring the program remains free for all families. Through a partnership with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, each Imagination Library book is $2.10.

Parents and guardians interested in enrolling their child in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library of Ohio can visit OhioImaginationLibrary.com.