Proud Kroger employee LaShenda Williams has a new lease on life.
Before she began working at the supermarket chain last December, the 46-year-old had fallen on hard times and found it difficult to secure a job because of her history with drug addiction, abuse, and abandonment.
As a result, Williams was forced to sleep in her car, and spent many nights in the parking lot of a Nashville-area Kroger for about a year.
“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 News.
However, Williams would eventually meet Kroger hiring manager Jackie Vandal, who told her about an upcoming job fair.
“It was just a sense, a gut feeling,” Vandal recounted. “You can just tell when people are really genuine and when people, you know, are trying.”
On the day of the job fair, Williams was one of the first applicants but could not be considered for a job until she filled out an online application.
That’s when Williams grabbed an old laptop from her car and asked Vandal if she had a power cord and an outlet to plug it in.
After Williams spent two hours successfully filling out forms, Vandal surprised LaShenda by formally offering her a job.
Per USA Today, Williams immediately burst into tears and fell into Vandal’s arms.
Eight months into the job, Williams earned enough money to move into her own one-bedroom apartment.
Williams also received help from co-workers and community members, who donated furniture, decorations, and clothes for LaShenda’s new pad.
Currently, Williams assists customers in the self-checkout lanes, and comes to work every day with a big smile on her face.
“Don’t let anybody steal your joy!” she tells fellow employees and customers per USA Today. “It’s going to be a great day!”
“We are so lucky to have LaShenda as part of our Kroger family,” Melissa Eads, a corporate affairs manager for Kroger’s Nashville division, 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."
Out of everything, Williams is grateful for the love and support she has received from her Kroger family.
“For the very first time in my life, now I know what love is,” she tearfully said to NBC News. “Now I know what friendship is.”
“I was sleeping in a parking lot and looking for something to eat,” she added to USA Today. “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.”