Penny McAfee is Citizen of the year

[coupongen id="1" align="left"]DALTON -- After working in Canton for all of her life, Penny McAfee ventured to Dalton four years ago to revitalize the convenience store now known as Penny's Pantry. Now, McAfee has been awarded for her efforts in the store by being named Dalton Holiday Festival's Citizen of the Year.

As Citizen of the Year, McAfee will be in the Dalton Holiday Festival's annual parade. For Dalton Holiday Festival Volunteer Committee Member Jennifer Miller, McAfee has been making a difference in the community.

"Penny's care for our community shows to everyone who talks with her. She makes an effort to connect with people, both as a grocer and as a neighbor," Miller said. "She brings new energy to our community with her innovative store promotions and displays. Several local farmers and bakers are honored that she features their produce."

McAfee said it was a great honor to receive the title of Citizen of the Year because it shows that the community has accepted her into the area. Before starting Penny's Pantry in Dalton, McAfee said she enjoyed the community.

"I always liked the store, and whenever I came here to visit," McAfee said, "I always liked the people that I saw around. It's a small town, and it's quiet and peaceful and safe."

Since opening her doors on April 1, 2009, she has found ways to give back to the area, from donating food to a local food pantry each month to fulfilling the needs of her customers outside of typical groceries.

"(A customer) really didn't know how she was going to get (her seven children) school clothes. She's a single mom," McAfee said. "I got the (children's) sizes, and boxes and bags showed up here (at the store). Then I saw the mom, I go, 'Hey, why don't you come over? I have some things for you,' and she just couldn't believe it."

McAfee said she isn't doing anything out of the ordinary, but instead is treating others as she wishes to be treated.

"(Coming through for others is) a thing I never thought about. For me, I just thought it was what I was supposed to do," McAfee said. "But a lot of times, because I say something to another person, and they have access or means, they come through. That's another reason why I love it here."

When originally opening her store, McAfee said she wanted to make her store with the intentions of having great customer service.

"I think everybody's idea of customer service is different, and I wanted to do customer service the way I wanted to be treated as a customer. Corporate looks a lot at numbers, more than anything else, but I don't. That's not the way I roll," McAfee said.

Another way of treating her customers right is by using products from local companies such as PEAK, Inc., which provides her store with specialty Dalton Local Schools spirit wear. Custom screen-printed T-shirts and sweatshirts bearing bulldog pride have been in McAfee's store for about a month, after the owner of PEAK, Inc., stopped into Penny's Pantry as a customer.

"The owner came and talked to me, and then the next time, his wife and he came, and then the next time, a box came," McAfee said.

Along with the sports memorabilia, McAfee has also dedicated time, money and effort to the high school girls' softball team that she has sponsored for the past three years. During the winter and summer seasons, McAfee sponsors the team and now has a specialty sandwich created in the shop, named the Lady Dawg, after the team.

"The first Friday ... after school started, I took them all over a sandwich and (one to) the principal and the coach and they really liked it," McAfee said of the Lady Dawg, which has buffalo-style chicken, hot pepper cheese, celery and secret 'boss' sauce on a gourmet pretzel bun.

McAfee said she is still shocked to hear that she was named Citizen of the Year by the Dalton Holiday Festival Committee since she has been "just doing what I thought I should do."

"The Dalton Holidays Festival Committee feels that Penny (McAfee) knows how to best give back to our community ­-- one person at a time," Miller said.