Life’s challenges came all at once for Rita Stafford. Bereaved and broke, the mother of two worked through her grief even as she started a new job at age 49, the first full-time job she’d ever had.
“My husband had passed away. And there was nothing in his pension that was designated for me,” Stafford said. “It was scary because I had never supported myself.”
She sold her house to pay for his funeral and moved into a tiny apartment in Monroe, Tennessee. She found a job at a fabric store, but it barely paid enough to cover the rent. “That was a tough time. People would ask me how I was doing, and I would tell them ‘fine,’ but I really wasn’t,” said Stafford.
A friend convinced her to apply for an associate position at the Amazon fulfillment center in Lebanon. A few weeks later, she was hired—picking and packing customer orders. “I remember thinking my ship had finally come in. It was just this feeling of relief because I had been struggling for so long,” she said. “It’s just such a positive place to work.”
Stafford’s daughter, Amber Sells, remembers the change she saw in her mom when she started working at Amazon. “It’s like she started living again,” Sells said.
Witnessing her mother’s transformation inspired Sells. The single mom had been “living paycheck to paycheck” to support her children and godchildren. Stafford knew her daughter was struggling, and recalls the advice she gave her: “I told her to come to Amazon and we can work together.”
So she did, at the same fulfillment center where her mom worked. “We’ve always been close,” Sells said of her relationship with her mom. “I talk to my mom every day. To be able to see her at work has made us even closer.”
Working at Amazon had become a family tradition, so it only seemed fitting to continue it. Sells’ daughter, Tori Smithers, joined Amazon, too. Sells took product off the truck, Stafford received it into inventory, and Smithers stowed it away.
The commute ultimately proved too much for Smithers and she returned to her old job much closer to home.
Family has always come first for Rita Stafford. Working for the same company alongside her daughter and granddaughter was especially fulfilling. “It makes me proud. I got to be with both of them at work, and I still get to see my daughter and how well she’s doing at Amazon. And that’s just everything to me.”