Dolly Parton made a very special visit to the residents of a senior center facility in her hometown in Sevier County, Tenn., on Monday morning (May 7) for a surprise re-naming ceremony: The building, which was formerly named the Sevier County Senior Center, will be re-named the My People Senior Activity Center, in honor of Parton's parents, Robert and Avie Lee Parton.

"I'm so honored and so proud to be here, and I want to thank everybody that's had a part in this," Parton tells Knox News. "For years, I talked about my brothers and my sisters, my mom and dad and aunts, uncles, cousins, and I call them my people."

"Now, of course, when I started Dollywood ... the employees there, I thought of them as my family," the country star goes on to say, "and they became my people. 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, I'm looking out at you, and I think that you are, all of you, my people. This is great, and I'm so proud and honored that I'm a Smoky Mountain girl, and I'm so proud of my home, and I'm so proud of my family."

Jane Howes, the executive director of the center, explained that the event had to be a secret, because the space lacked the capacity to hold everyone who would turn out if they knew Parton was going to be there. "I've been so excited, and we knew we had to keep it under wraps because we have 3,000 members here," she says. "We knew we couldn't fit everyone."

At 72, Parton knows a little something about staying young throughout every stage in life, and she addressed the residents to offer some thoughts about why she's proud to be a senior citizen.

"I remember when I was over in Sevier County High School I couldn't wait to be a senior," Parton says with a laugh. "And now I'm in my second childhood, I'm a senior again!

"We all wish we could stay 30 forever, but we can't, so I think it's important that we stay active," she goes on to say. "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."

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