While second chances are rare, this formerly homeless woman from Nashville was lucky enough to get one.
LaShenda Williams, 46, has been through many difficulties in her life. These unfortunate events led to her being homeless and forced her to live in her car for almost a year. There were days when she had almost given up, but thankfully, hope came in the person of Jackie Vandal, a hiring manager at the Inglewood Kroger, where LaShenda parked her vehicle every night.
Ever since Vandal posted a job fair flier at the store, she’s been hearing from one persistent woman every day.
“Will y’all hire me? You got room for me?” Williams would ask her.
At the time, Vandal didn’t know her name yet, but she recognized her face. Despite being strangers to each other, Vandal had a good feeling about Williams.
“You get a feel if someone’s sincere or if they’re just trying to get a job to say they got one and then quit a month later,” she said. “She was very sincere.”
What Vandal didn’t know at the time was that Williams was homeless and living in her car. During the day, she would drive around different locations. But when the evening comes, she would park outside the Inglewood Kroger, making sure she remains inconspicuous.
“I would lean my seat all the way back so no one would see me because, you know, I knew I wasn’t supposed to be there,” Williams told NBC Nightly News.
On the day of the job fair, the eager Williams was among the first applicants. Vandal asked her if she had already submitted an online application, but she said she hadn’t. Vandal told her she needed one to be considered for the job. So, Williams walked back to her car to fetch an old laptop. She asked the manager if she had a power cord and place to plug it in, and then she typed away.
For the next several hours, Vandal helped her fill out the online application in between interviews. As soon as the “You have successfully applied” prompt appeared on the computer, she hired her on the spot.
Williams cried with joy and fell into Vandal’s arms. The manager hugged her and reassured her that everything was going to be okay.
“Don’t you worry about anything. I’m gonna work you to death, and we’ll take care of you,” she said.
Williams promised her she would always show up and do her best.
And since December last year, that’s exactly what she’s been doing. She showed up to work every day to monitor and assist customers in the self-checkout lanes.
10 months in, Williams continues to inspire her coworkers and customers with her positive attitude. Vandal said she’s been an outstanding employee and wished she “had 120 of her.”
Melissa Eads, corporate affairs manager for Kroger’s Nashville division, agrees with her.
“We are so lucky to have Lashenda as part of our Kroger family,” she told TODAY. “Her uplifting spirit is contagious. She has made such a positive impact on her fellow team members, and so many customers as well.”
Now, Williams has earned enough money to afford her own one-bedroom apartment! Eads said her coworkers and local community members also donated furniture, household items, clothes, and shoes to help her start over.
On the other hand, Williams is grateful to have been given a second chance by Kroger to turn her life around.
“I was sleeping in a parking lot and looking for something to eat. Now, all my babies here love on me. No one abuses me, and no one calls me dumb and stupid. For the first time in my life, I finally got peace,” she said.
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