Not that long ago, LaShenda Williams was living in her car and wondering where her next meal was coming from. Raised in the foster care system, Williams never had a stable home life.
“I spent my life moving from foster care to foster care, dealing with child abuse and things like that,” Williams told CNN. “In the end, nobody wanted me, and I stayed in the system until my senior year [of high school].”
In addition to the abuse she suffered in foster care, Williams was hampered by a learning disability that made finding jobs more difficult. But even so, she never stopped trying.
Whether it was luck or fate that led her to the parking lot of an East Nashville, Tennessee Kroger grocery store, Williams’ life was about to change for the better.
By day, she became a store regular, striking up conversations and making friends, even when she couldn’t afford to buy food. At night, she’d move her car to a new location, hoping that the staff wouldn’t realize she was living in the parking lot.
When associate store manager Jackie Vandal heard Williams mention her goal of working at the store one day, she told her about an upcoming job fair.
Impressed by Williams’ can-do, upbeat people skills, Vandal made sure she made the cut from candidate to new hire, helping Williams with her application and even tweaking her résumé.
It only took Williams a month to get her first promotion, from part-time cashier to full-time checkout associate. Soon after, she was able to afford a new place to live. As it turned out, it was the very first apartment she’d ever had with her name on the lease.
When Kroger customer V.L. Williams (no relation) learned his favorite sales associate was getting her first place but didn’t have anything to furnish it with, he looked to social media for help. “She is always trying to help someone always trying to be a light in a world that may seem very dark,” V.L. told WZTV Nashville.
His post to the East Nashville Facebook group got more than 200 responses. Furniture, small appliances, and just about anything you’d need to furnish a home started pouring in.
“You don’t know how good this feels. I’ve been through a lot. Thank you… this means the world to me,” an emotional Williams told her benefactors.
Thanks to the life-altering chain of events that started in a Kroger parking lot, Williams now considers her co-workers and her customers—whom she calls “her babies”—to be her true family.
“When I was hungry, they fed me. When I needed a pair of gloves, they gave them to me. These workers that I work with, they are my family,” she told Good Morning America.
The feeling is more than mutual, with manager Jackie saying, “I wish we had 120 of her!
With her indomitable spirit, welcoming attitude, and warm as sunshine energy, happily for Williams, sometimes what goes around really does come around—and nowhere has it been more well-deserved.