[June 1, 2021: Catherine Garcia]
It was a chain reaction — had a stranger not purchased a $100 gift card to an Outback Steakhouse in Fort Worth, Texas, Kenneth Smith might never have met managing partner Laura Hodges, who became his friend, mentor, and boss.
About four years ago, Smith, 50, became homeless after being evicted from his apartment. Earlier this year, he fell asleep outside of the Outback Steakhouse, and a woman woke him up to make sure he was okay. After finding out he was hungry, she went inside the restaurant and returned with a gift card, telling Smith to enjoy dinner on her.
Hodges told Good Morning America she thought this was "really awesome," and sat down with Smith while he ate. Wanting to "pass forward the good favor," she told Smith to "save that gift card" for the next time he needed food, and over a few months, they became friends, chatting when Smith came in to eat. Smith told Hodges how hard it was to find work during the pandemic, and asked if there were any odd jobs that needed to be done at the restaurant. "He was never looking for handouts, he always wanted to earn money," Hodges said.
She extended a full-time job offer to him, and Smith accepted, saying he would be most comfortable working as a busser. "I was so happy, I couldn't believe it," he said. "I feel good knowing that I have a job, knowing that I can smile, knowing that I can do good things." He has been at Outback for nearly three months, and turned to Hodges when he needed help finding new affordable housing. She asked a local Facebook group for suggestions, and in one day, they raised $2,000 for Smith, plus donations of grocery store gift cards, clothes, and a bike.
"That was awesome," Smith told GMA. "I was so honored and grateful." His grandmother was a "great cook," he said, and his dream is to one day own a restaurant. "I learned everything from her," Smith added. "I want to cook some good food and have people taste my food as well."
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