After many months of living out of her car that was parked in a Kroger grocery store's lot, LaShenda Williams was feeling increasingly hopeless. Thanks to one attentive hiring manager, however, that supermarket has now welcomed her with a job and a fresh start.
Williams, who has faced drug addiction and abuse, was homeless for about a year. During the day she would drive around to different locations, but most nights she would park outside of the same Kroger.
"I would lean my seat all the way back so no one would see me because I knew I wasn't supposed to be there," Williams told NBC Nightly News.
Williams fate changed when she met Kroger employee Jackie Vandal, who oversees hiring at the store location where Williams would often park. Late last year, Vandal told her about an upcoming job fair.
"It was just a sense, a gut feeling," Vandal said. "You can just tell when people are really genuine and people you know are trying."
On the day of the job fair, Williams was one of the first applicants, Vandal recalled. Vandal spent several hours helping Williams fill out the job application online. After reviewing Williams credentials, she then hired her on the spot.
Williams started to work at Kroger in December, just a few days after the job fair. She currently monitors and assists customers in the self-checkout lanes. By May, Williams had moved into a one-bedroom apartment, which her new co-workers helped her set up and furnish.
Melissa Eads, a corporate affairs manager for Kroger's Nashville division, told TODAY that local community members and fellow employees donated furniture, household items, clothes and shoes to "help her get back on her feet."
Williams is grateful to have been given the opportunity to change the course of her life.
"For the very first time in my life, now I know what love is," she said tearfully. "Now I know what friendship is."
Eads said Williams has been a great employee.
"We are so lucky to have Lashenda as part of our Kroger family," said Eads. "Her uplifting spirit is contagious. She has made such a positive impact on her fellow team members, and so many customers as well."