KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – A Kingsport business owner says he is not alone in the hunt for employees. So, he decided to think outside the box.
Jonathan Russell welcomes people who have struggled to find work because of their appearance or their past. Russell told News Channel 11 that he believes people deserve a second chance.
“It’s a constant rotation,” Russell said. “Either we need servers or we need kitchen staff almost all the time. So we’re constantly accepting applications.”
Russell is like most business owners; he fights to hire and keep employees at Backwoods Burger Bar in Kingsport. He said he found part of the community who wanted to work and wanted a better life.
“They just kind of more or less came to me,” he said. “These people, technically, they have a background of some kind, lived a hard, rough life. They’re constantly looking for that [work], and people don’t necessarily think that they’re best suited for it.”
The chance to work can spark change not only in the person’s situation but in the way they see themselves, Russel said.
“To have someone that actually believes in them and gives them that opportunity, it gives them that chance to prove they do want to do something better with their lives,” he said.
Russell follows the law but invites those who may have a record to give it a shot and earn a paycheck. He says those who want a second chance work hard to prove their worth.
“They’ll do anything for you,” he said. “If anyone else calls out, they’ll be down here in a heartbeat to pick up extra time, or whatever. Just to be here and work.”
Changing lives and giving that second chance, one or two people at a time, can add up.
“There have been several that have moved onto bigger and better jobs,” Russell said. “I just hope to be a stepping stone to help them in their lives.”
Those lives are worth giving a second chance to improve their position in life, and that can help the community as well.
“It just makes me feel better like I’m actually doing something to help,” Russell said. “I might just own a burger restaurant, but if it gives someone a chance, that’s all I’m here for.”