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The Dolly Chapter

The Dolly Chapter

We give back to our communities in three primary ways: time, talent, and treasure.

At First National Bank, we offer our collective time to help those who need it, talents to serve those who will benefit most, and treasure to support the causes we’re passionate about.

The Impact of Stewardship

One of our favorite causes is the Sioux Empire United Way. They support over 40 nonprofits that sponsor more than 90 different programs helping children, senior citizens, and the less fortunate.

First National Bank accepting the award for Business of the Year from the Sioux Empire United Way.

First National Bank accepts the award for Business of the Year from the Sioux Empire United Way.

For years, former-President & CEO Bill Baker would ask everyone to stand at our annual United Way employee campaign kickoff.

Then, he would ask one question: “Please sit down if you, or someone in your family, has been positively impacted by one of these organizations: the YMCA, EmBe, Boys and Girls Clubs, Active Generations, Volunteers of America, Feeding South Dakota, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America…”

Bill’s list goes on and on and on — but by the time he’s finished, not one out of hundreds is left standing. The charitable organizations we support are exactly the ones who support us (another by-product of relationships).

One particularly memorable volunteer experience came in 2002.

“Ready to Read”

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is one of the greatest childhood literacy programs ever.

It’s a book gifting program that sends free books monthly to kids from birth to age 5.

To date, they’ve mailed nearly 130 million books — and, because of our collaboration in 2002, over 2,000,000 have been to kids in South Dakota.

Prior to 2002, the Imagination Library program hadn’t launched in our state. Because Bill Baker was chairing United Way’s “2002 Ready to Read” campaign, we saw it as an opportunity to promote reading not only to kids in our city, but throughout the state.

Dolly Parton grew up impoverished in the hills of East Tennessee.

No matter how humble, she had grand dreams — as, she believes, every child does.

For her part, she says, “The seeds of these dreams are often found in books, and the seeds you help plant in your community can grow across the world.”

Dolly wanted kids to have great books in their home, regardless of their economic situation.

This vision married perfectly with what we saw for our own children.

So the next question was, how on earth would we raise the money it would take to launch the program into South Dakota?

That’s when Bill wrote Dolly a personal letter asking, “Will you help us raise money to do a state-wide launch of Imagination Library by donating a performance at our Washington Pavilion?”

An autographed photo of Bill Baker with Dolly Parton in 2002.She had just launched a new album and would actually be passing through on a massive tour.

So she replied, “Yes! But I’ll have a big production crew with me and it’ll be about $40,000 to cover just the cost of us coming to perform.”

“Done. We’ll see you soon,” Bill said.

You see, we only had two weeks to secure the money and get people rallied to attend the performance.

So, Bill immediately picked up the phone and called all of his best friends — and within two weeks, the concert was sold out and the fundraising money was secured to launch the Imagination Library.

Dolly performed the night of September 4, 2002, and it was spectacular.

She put on a knockout show that the Argus Leader called the best concert of the year.

Dolly Parton with Bill Baker and family in Sioux Falls in 2002.

Bill Baker and family pose for a picture with Dolly Parton the night of the concert.

Between sponsorships, grants, and ticket sales, the concert raised more than $250,000 to fund the successful launch of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library statewide through every local United Way chapter in South Dakota.

From the fundraising account, Bill wrote one last check in the amount of $40,000 to Dolly Parton Productions, sent it off, and then settled back into life.

Books started arriving for the kids every month, and the program was in full swing.

An autographed photo of Dolly Parton with mothers and their children in Sioux Falls. Meanwhile, Christmas rolled around and the check to Dolly still hadn’t cleared.

Just as Bill was going to look into it, he got a letter in the mail from her. It contained the uncashed check and a handwritten note that read, “I’ve covered the band. Give the money to the kids for books.”

That fall, magic happened at the Pavilion.

Not simply for entertainment, but for our children.

Dolly Parton’s program and heart have beamed brightly ever since, bringing inspiration to the minds of thousands of kids. And for us at First National Bank, it was one of those moments when time stands still for a moment and everything comes full circle.

It was beautiful to see Dolly Parton performing in the very performance center we knew could be created to anchor the growth of our downtown.

As she and her band stood on that stage, they proved the value of stewardship and investment in communities.

It’s so worthwhile to be a creator and community builder, and we’ve doubled down on this role with each passing year by giving of our time, talent, and treasure.

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We give back to our communities in three primary ways: time, talent, and treasure.

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