Burns, Saint Francis to launch Dolly Parton Imagination Library later this month

Children’s book program made possible thanks to state grant

EBENSBURG, Sept. 2 – After more than a year of work, state Rep. Frank Burns and Saint Francis University will hold a kick-off event later this month to celebrate the launch of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program in Cambria County.

The literacy program started by the country music legend sends free books to children from birth to age 5 each month in communities around the world. Burns became interested in bringing to program to Cambria County after hearing Dolly speak about it at a national legislative conference.

“When I heard that Dolly Parton had a program to send free books to every child in our county, I knew that we had to be involved,” Burns said. “I searched high and low for funding for this program, even meeting with the governor to bring it to his attention. Now that hard work has paid off.”

Last year, Burns was able to secure a $50,000 state grant with a portion of the funds being used to include Cambria County in the program. Saint Francis University agreed to partner with Burns to be the program’s local administrator.

To celebrate the official launch, Burns and Saint Francis will hold a free kick-off event for interested families at Saint Francis University on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021 from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. in the Maurice Stokes Athletics Center Auxiliary gym.

While the program is free, parents will still need to register their children to receive the free books. That can either be done in-person at the kick-off event or at a later date online.

For more than a year, Burns has worked to bring The Imagination Library to Cambria County and was thrilled when Saint Francis University agreed to be the local partnering organization. The state grant was an important piece of the puzzle, enabling the university to move forward in partnering with The Dollywood Foundation to get the program up and running in Cambria County.

The Imagination Library started in 1995 with just 1,700 books. Today, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library sends more than one million books per month to children around the world. The grant Burns secured will pay for one year of the program, which will be administered by Saint Francis.

“When I was growing up in the hills of East Tennessee, I knew my dreams would come true. I know there are children in your community with their own dreams,” Dolly Parton has said about the program. “The seeds of these dreams are often found in books and the seeds you help plant in your community can grow across the world.”