Dolly Parton is one of the world’s most beloved icons, and with good reason, due in part to her inspirational music and the many ways she gives back to communities. Newport News resident and Christopher Newport University alumnus, Kyle DeGood, has taken this spirit of Dolly to the next level and found a way to give back to the Hampton Roads community by starting his own chapter of Parton’s Imagination Library here on the Peninsula.
“I’ve loved Dolly since I was a kid,” says DeGood. “She’s an extraordinary human with an amazing career, and her work in literacy is significant. I’ve known about the Imagination Library program since I was little. One day I was visiting my younger siblings who love to read, and as I was going home, the theme song for Dolly’s program came on the radio and I was inspired. I went home, looked up what it took to start the program and decided to make it happen. Now the program has my name, DeGood, since it makes a good pun as we’re doing good in the community.”
DeGood founded the foundation in the summer of 2017. “We are Dolly’s local arm on the Peninsula; we are her local program partner. We personally cover 100 percent of the costs for the books and shipping, and we do all of the marketing and fundraising ourselves, not Dolly,” DeGood says. “We focus on early literacy by inspiring a love of books and reading to Hampton Roads children, and we ensure all children on the Peninsula have access to early literacy resources.”
Children between the ages of birth to five-years-old who live within the DeGood Foundation’s operating zones are eligible for the free program. The foundation mails age-appropriate books to children regardless of family income status. Hampton Roads is home to the largest sector of the Imagination Library in the Commonwealth of Virginia, with more than 5,000 children enrolled.
DeGood has a separate full-time job; however, he says running the DeGood Foundation is a labor of love and he gives time whenever he can to the foundation. He is always seeking additional volunteers to help. “It is difficult to balance my work schedule and volunteering, but I make it happen. Whenever I have time I squeeze in nonprofit work, and we have an active board and volunteers who also give of their time.”
DeGood continues, “There are a lot of late nights for me, but it’s worth it. I’m also in the Army Reserve, and that takes time. However, I get to work with Dolly, creating a great legacy, and when parents share stories about how much their kids love to read and how excited they get when the books arrive, that makes me excited and happy.”
Looking to the future, the DeGood Foundation has high hopes as it works to expand its reach, hoping that one day every child on the Peninsula will have access to the program. DeGood is also a part of a task force working to establish the Imagination Library throughout Virginia.
“It’s just such a fun and exciting program, as books fundamentally help a child become successful in school, and those formative years are so important. We want to help give all of our 5,000-plus kids in the program the best opportunity. We are a group who love and care about our children,” the founder says. “Our library partners help us promote this program and have been so supportive. Newport News Shipbuilding has been one of our biggest supporters, and we are grateful for their commitment and involvement.”
The DeGood Foundation strives to continue to grow and bring literacy resources to children in the area DeGood calls home. He and his team are always happy to receive help or donations and love hearing from parents or children about the books they read.
If and when DeGood has some extra time, he enjoys traveling, especially to the Great Smoky Mountains and Dollywood Park for “a roller coaster ride or two.” And yes, DeGood briefly saw Dolly Parton at Dollywood and was able to say hello to her.
TO THE POINT:
The DeGood Foundation
Address: 11817 Canon Blvd., Ste. 402, Newport News 23606
Contact: Kyle DeGood, founder and executive director