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Kenny McAleenan, center, was recently gifted a 2022 GMC Sierra by his employers, Fred and Carol Zinda, for four decades of service at Joto’s Pizza.

SEMINOLE — A longtime employee of a staple Seminole restaurant has been recognized for four decades of service.

Kenny McAleenan began his career at Joto’s Pizza in Seminole on St. Patrick’s Day in 1982 as a 17-year-old dishwasher. The business he had been working for was purchased by Carol and Fred Zinda, who asked McAleenan if he wanted to stay on.

“I liked it, I liked the people,” McAleena said, “so, I stuck around.”

Within three years, he was named assistant manager, and two years after that, he was named manager. 

“We are so proud of the fact that he is still with us,” Carol Zinda said. “Kenny is like the son we never had.”

In recognition of his 40 years of service, the Zindas showed their appreciation by gifting McAleenan a 2022 GMC Sierra on March 17 — St. Patrick’s Day — exactly 40 years to the day he started working for the restaurant.

“He has stuck with us for 40 years,” Zinda said. “As a result of his dedication, we’ve had a good life, so we wanted to give him in a special way to thank him and show our appreciation and loyalty to Joto’s.”

McAleenan said he knew the Zindas planned to recognize his achievement in some way, but he was shocked to learn the couple was purchasing him a new truck.

“It’s incredible,” McAleenan said. “I can’t thank them enough. They are great people.”

A family-operated business for 48 years, Joto’s is named after the Zinda’s two daughters — Jodi and Tori. The Zindas, originally from Wisconsin, opened the first location of the business in Pinellas Park in 1974.

“We just sold everything we had, went into debt, and tried something completely out of the ordinary for us,” Zinda said. “Now, here we are 48 years later.”

Zinda said her two daughters now run the business, and keeping with tradition, not only has McAleenan worked for Joto’s, but so has his wife, Stacey, and his three children. 

“They are like a second mom and dad to me,” McAleenan said of the Zindas. “I can always talk to them about problems. They’ve always been there for me.”