Dolly Parton, to quote one of your most famous songs, “I will always love you!”
Dolly is one of those celebrities who has never lost sight of her roots. This self-proclaimed “Smoky Mountain girl” has always gone out of her way to help the people of Sevierville, Tennessee, the place where she grew up. Dolly’s popular theme park, Dollywood, employs thousands of Sevier County residents, and she thinks of them all as extended family.
When wildfires broke out in Gatlinburg, Dolly was one of the first celebrities to step up and send much-needed money and supplies to help victims of the fire. The humanitarian singer-songwriter has also invested millions in her Imagination Library program, an initiative that sends free books to children all over the world in order to expand literacy and instill a love of reading in kids everywhere.
In spite of her enduring fame, Dolly always keeps it humble, so when Sevier County representatives asked if she’d appear at the local senior center in honor of their upcoming name change, she said she wouldn’t miss it for the world! She decided to rename the center the “My People Senior Activity Center,” in honor of her late parents, Robert and Avie Lee Parton.
“Now of course, when I started Dollywood and the employees there, I thought of them as my family, and they became my people, and of course when we … actually got involved in the fires up here in the heart of the Smokies. We call that My People, so I was just thinking, you know, I’m looking out at you, and I think you are, all of you, you’re my people, and this is great, and I’m so proud and so honored that I’m a Smoky Mountain girl, and I’m so proud of my home, and I’m so proud of my family.”
Sevier County Mayor, Larry Waters, says the senior center is a vital part of their community, and it’s “bursting at the seams right now.” Along with the name change, they’re planning to expand the center to cater to even more activities to keep seniors active as they age.
During Dolly’s visit, the 72-year-old country music legend not only appeared at the dedication ceremony to rename the facility, but she also popped into a few of the senior classes that were happening that day.
Dolly admired the quilts being made in one room, telling the ladies there that she’d love to come sew with them some day, even though her long acrylic nails might hinder her a little bit.
Next up was the woodworking table, where Dolly admired the creative works of art made by local craftsmen.
By far the most entertaining part of Dolly’s visit must have been when she surprised everyone by dropping into an exercise class, picking up a set of dumbbells and doing a few hip thrusts with the instructor.
Dolly’s outgoing, hilarious personality was on full display, and everyone was absolutely thrilled to meet Sevierville’s most famous former resident.
— Page Six (@PageSix) May 8, 2018
“I love her … everybody says she’s such a real person. She’s just easy. She’s approachable. I get the feeling that she means everything that she says from the heart, and she’s adorable, so it was great to see her. I had not seen her before,” said Christine Flammang, a local resident who frequents the senior center’s woodworking class.
Dolly told everyone that Sevierville will always be her home, and she loves her roots.
“I am so excited to be part of this today. Of course, you know I’m a senior too. When I was over in Sevier County High School, I couldn’t wait to be a senior, and now that I’m in my second childhood, I’m a senior again.”
The legendary songstress even treated the crowd to a song.
When it comes to staying young, Dolly told everyone she takes it all one day at a time, and tries to stay grateful for her good health. She believes the My People Senior Center is one way the aging population of her beloved hometown can stay engaged, fit, and active in their community.
“I just keep myself busy, and I think that’s the key to staying young, and I’m proud to be a senior citizen. Of course, we all wish we could stay 30 forever, but we can’t, so I think it’s important that we stay active. We stay with a good attitude and get out and stay involved, make friends and be whatever, and I think being a part of this whole thing is really great, and it is my pleasure to dedicate this to my people.”
And here we thought we couldn’t love Dolly any more than we already did! We wish more celebrities would take the time to help out the people who got them where they are today. Dolly is an inspiration to us all!
Watch Dolly’s speech at the dedication ceremony below, and don’t forget to share!