Sometimes people just need to be given a chance. When this store manager gave a job to a homeless woman living in her store’s parking lot, that’s exactly what she did. It proved to be one of the best hiring decisions she ever made.
Manager Gives Job to Homeless Woman LaShenda Williams has not had it easy. At a particularly low point in her life, she was living out of her car and sleeping in the parking lot of her local Kruger in Nashville, Tennessee. While most people wouldn’t give a job to a homeless woman, the store manager Jackie Vandal saw something special in Williams. Vandal gave Williams the job, a decision that both changed Williams’ life and improved those of every other customer and employee of the store (1).
A Challenging History She spent the majority of her childhood in a variety of foster homes, many of which were abusive. “In the end, nobody wanted me, and I stayed in the system until my senior year [of high school].” she recalls. (1) On top of being passed between foster homes, Williams has a learning disability. This meant she spent most of her school years in special education. Her adult figures and peers constantly told her that she wasn’t intelligent and that she would never be able to support herself or live an independent adult life.
When she finished high school and was no longer a part of the foster care system, she left her hometown of Mobile, Alabama, and moved to Nashville to find her biological family. She found her parents, however, the reunion did not go as she thought it would. “I wanted love from my parents,” she said, “but unfortunately, that was not the case.” (1) Knowing she was on her own, she began working odd jobs to get by. Unfortunately, most employers were hesitant to take a chance on her or help her succeed. A Positive Attitude Goes a Long Way Throughout all of her struggles she always worked hard to maintain a positive outlook.
“I remember being in a park one day after I lost those two jobs and I was just so tired; I was ready to give up. I prayed about it and just listened for that quiet, still voice to tell me what I needed to do.” (1) She went to her local Kruger in Inglewood, Nashville in search of a friendly face to lift her spirits and something to fill her belly. The staff were so warm and inviting that she decided to keep going back. Homeless at the time, she was living out of her car that she parked in the Kruger parking lot. Every day she went inside the store to eat and chat with the staff, then she would move her car so that they wouldn’t know that was actually where she was living.
Williams told the staff that one day, she would work there.
A Kind Heart Vandal took notice of Williams’s desire to work at the store and told her about the upcoming job fair. From her perspective, Williams had everything it takes to be a great employee: Captivating personality Warm smile Willingness to work hard “I really was just doing my job, hiring friendly people who I thought would be dependable. I just felt like she had that warm, caring personality and she was so persistent.” Vandal explains. (1)
On the day of the Kroger job fair, Vandal worked with Williams to help her with her resume and make sure she had everything she needed to succeed. It was the help and support that she had always needed but never received. This was so much more than just ‘giving a job to a homeless woman.’ “When Jackie said, ‘You’re hired,’ my whole body just collapsed in her arms.” Williams recalled. “I still get so emotional. When she did that, it just changed my life and I promised her that I’d work hard every day.” (1) Employee of the Year Williams worked hard to be the best employee she could be, and it paid off. In just one month she had a promotion from part-time cashier to a full-time check-out associate. She saved enough money within a couple of months of working to get her own place, which her coworkers then helped her furnish.
She loves coming to work every day and maintains that everyone at the store – managers, coworkers, and customers – are family to her. “From every department to the front end,” Williams says. “they are my family. This is where I belong with my Kroger family and all my customers who are my babies. It just fills my heart with joy.” (1) Vandal maintains that Williams is one of the best hiring decisions she has ever made, stating that she wishes she could have a whole team of people like Lashenda. Despite everything Williams has been through in her life, she never let it make her bitter. Instead, it is her goal to put a smile on as many people’s faces as possible each day. “If I could just put one smile on someone’s face or put a laugh in someone’s heart and tell them ‘I love you’ and ‘I’m proud of you,’ that’s what I try to do every day.” (1)