Some people simply need to be given a chance. A store manager gave a job to a homeless woman who lived in the parking lot of her store. It proved to be one of the best hiring decisions she ever made.
Lashenda Williams has not had it easy. At her lowest point of life she lived out of her car and slept in the parking lot of her local Kruger in Nashville, Tennessee. While most people would never give a homeless woman a job, store manager Jackie Vandal saw something special in Lashenda.
She spent most of her childhood in various foster homes, some of which were abusive. On top of this, she had a learning disability after visiting care homes. This meant that she spent most of her schooling in special education. In the end, no one wanted her, so she stayed in the system until her high school graduation.
Her peers told her that she was not intelligent and that she would never be able to feed herself and live an independent adult life. When she finished high school and was no longer part of the foster care system, she left her hometown of Mobile, Alabama, and moved to Nashville to find her biological family. But when she found her, the reunion did not go as well as she had imagined. “I wanted to love my parents,” she said, “but that wasn’t the case.”
Knowing that she was on her own, she started taking odd jobs. Despite struggling financially, she worked hard to maintain a positive outlook. But most employers were reluctant to take a risk and help her succeed.
“I remember being in the park the day after losing two jobs, tired and ready to give up. I prayed about it and listened to the low voice telling me that I had to do something.”
She went to her local Kruger in Inglewood just outside Nashville looking for a friendly face to lift her spirits and fill her stomach. The staff was warm and welcoming, and she decided to move on.
Since she was homeless at the time, she lived out of the car she had parked in the Kruger parking lot. Every day she would go to the shop to eat and chat with the staff, but she moved her car so often that the staff did not know where it was or where she lived. Vandal noted her desire to work for Kruger and told her about an upcoming job fair.
I felt that she had a warm, caring personality and was persistent. When I was doing my job, I was hired because I was friendly and people thought I was reliable.
On the day of the Kroger job fair, Vandal worked with Williams to help her with her resume and ensure that she had everything she needed to succeed. It was more than just giving a homeless woman a job. It helped her get the support she needed, something she had never received before.
“When Jackie said you’re hiring, my whole body broke down in her arms. I got very emotional and I was like, Wow.”
She worked hard and was a good employee. She did it and it changed my life and I promised her to work every day.
She has saved enough money over a few months to work towards her own place, which her staff gave her. A month later, she was promoted from part-time cashier to full-time cashier. She loved coming to work every day and maintaining the store with managers, employees, customers and family around her.
Vandal claims Williams is one of the best personnel decisions he has ever made and says she wants a whole team of people like Lashenda. It fills her heart with joy. The department is the front end of it all, “Williams said.
But Williams has been through so much in her life, and she never lets it get her down. Your goal is to put a smile on the face of as many people as possible every day. “I put a smile on someone’s face, I put a smile on someone’s heart, I tell them I love them, I’m proud of them and every day I try to do something for everyone.”