Homeless worker finds a home at Kroger
After a life of addiction, abandonment and abuse, LaShenda Williams gets a job and much more from the Inglewood Kroger and its customers
NASHVILLE — After she posted a job fair flyer at her Nashville store, Kroger hiring manager Jackie Vandal heard from one of the regular customers every day.
“Will y’all hire me? You got room for me?”
Vandal didn’t know the persistent woman’s name, only recognized her face, but Vandal got good vibes from her.
“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,” Vandal said. “She was very sincere.”
On the day of a January job fair, the woman was among the first applicants. Her name was LaShenda Williams.
LaShenda Williams, who’d been living in her car in this Inglewood Kroger parking lot, now works inside the store in Nashville, Tenn. Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, (Photo: Larry McCormack / The Tennessean)
She told Vandal a powerful story of how drug addiction, abuse and abandonment led her to living out of her car — and sleeping in the parking lot right outside the door.
Well, Vandal asked, have you applied online? Adding that she really couldn’t consider Williams for a job until she did.
Williams walked out to her car, grabbed an old laptop and asked Vandal if she had a power cord and a place to plug it in.
For the next two hours, Williams pounded away on her laptop keyboard while Vandal came by between interviews to help.
As soon as the “You have successfully applied” message popped up, Vandal told the woman she was hired.
Williams burst into tears and fell into Vandal’s arms.
Inglewood Kroger assistant store manager Jackie Vandal hugs LaShenda Williams as Williams cries while telling the story of living in her car in the store’s parking lot Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020. Williams now has her own apartment and has worked at the store for eight months. (Photo: Larry McCormack / The Tennessean)
Vandal, surprised at first, hugged her and said, “Don’t you worry about anything. I’m gonna work you to death, and we’ll take care of you.”
Williams told her she would show up and work hard.
Eight months later, Williams, 46, comes in upbeat most every weekday to the self-checkout, Vandal said.
“Don’t let anybody steal your joy!” she tells fellow employees and customers. “It’s going to be a great day!”
After a few months, Williams earned enough money to get her own apartment, and a customer helped her find one. Another customer, V.L. Williams, rallied Nashvillians on Facebook to donate furniture, decorations and clothes.
LaShenda Williams, who’d been living in her car in the Kroger parking lot, now helps customers in the same store Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020. (Photo: Larry McCormack / The Tennessean)
With that kind of support, Williams said it’s easy to be enthusiastic about work.
“I was sleeping in a parking lot and looking for something to eat,” she said.
“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.”
Follow Brad Schmitt on Twitter @bradschmitt.
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