On any given night, more than 500,000 Americans find themselves homeless. Many people take for granted having enough to eat, a place to stay and adequate clothing to wear. It isn’t until you are without these things that you can begin to understand the pain that comes with it.
Ametruis Knox, a FedEx Express ramp manager who has been with the company for nearly 20 years, can relate to the hardships of homelessness. She was once homeless growing up in Philadelphia.
“A lot of people believe that homelessness is always associated with those who have substance abuse problems or are lazy and don’t want to work,” said Knox. “That’s actually very far from the truth. A lot us are really just one paycheck away from being homeless. There are a lot of different circumstances involved. It could be health related, and they couldn’t afford the cost of healthcare. It could be their house burned down. There are so many reasons out there.”
As a child, Knox and her mother found themselves homeless and hungry when Knox’s father lost his job. They stayed at a women and children’s shelter and got their meals from local churches whenever they could. A little over a month later, Knox and her family moved into an abandoned home with no running water, no heat and no functioning bathroom. Knox recalls getting water from a leaking fire hydrant down the street. They had to use the stove to heat what little water they had to keep themselves clean.
“I really wasn’t sure if things would get better,” Knox said. “I didn’t think it could get any worse. I experienced a lot of anger, anxiety and depression. I didn’t understand why we had to be homeless. I knew my father had lost his job, but I never thought we would be put out of the place we lived.”
It is always darkest before the dawn
Life knocked her down, but it didn’t keep Knox from getting back up. Determined to achieve success, she ran track in high school and earned a college scholarship. After one year of college, Knox sacrificed her scholarship and returned home to take care of her mother who suffered from multiple sclerosis.
A few years later, Knox answered a newspaper ad for a customer service rep and was hired at a FedEx call center in Pennsylvania in 1997. She eventually made her way to Las Vegas and into a management training program with FedEx that would lead to a role as a ramp manager in Atlanta, a position she holds today. Knox is in charge of ramp agents, dangerous goods and material handlers.
“I never thought in a million years I would be here,” Knox said. “There was a lot of blood, sweat and tears, and it was a very long road. Someone believed in me along the way. That’s what I try to instill in my employees, to not give up and to keep going no matter what.”
Knox wasn’t always comfortable talking about her past. She felt shame for a long time and tried to forget that part of her life. Many years later, a FedEx co-worker unknowingly would help Knox face her past and use it for good.
“During our FedEx Cares campaign, a peer of mine approached me to help with Project Overcoat, a program designed to collect and distribute blankets and coats for the homeless,” Knox said. “I was somewhat reluctant at first, not sure if I wanted to open those old wounds, recall memories of my past and be involved with something that hit so close to home.”
After some hesitation, Knox agreed to participate. Her involvement led her to a women and children’s shelter where some of the coats that had been collected through the program were distributed to the homeless. While there, she saw something that caught her eye and touched a part of her past that she once tried to forget.
“I looked and saw a mother and child, and it brought tears to my eyes,” Knox said. “It was like seeing myself back in time. At that moment, I knew I had to speak up and not be ashamed any longer.”
A woman who at one time did not even want to think about her past would go on to serve as a spokesperson for Project Overcoat on TV in front of thousands of people. Knox appeared on the local FOX affiliate and told her story to encourage the people of Atlanta to donate coats and blankets. It also led her to speak at other homeless shelters and organizations, like MUST Ministries, about her experience.
“FedEx helped me find my way and provided the opportunity to take care of myself and serve others who face what I faced as a child. If my story can help someone else, then I have lived my purpose.”
By Tim Miller
June 6, 2016
Original link: http://about.van.fedex.com/blog/homeless/