BENNINGTON -- Home Depot has been named employer of the year by a local workforce development group. The Bennington location of the national home improvement chain was recognized Wednesday at a ceremony, where a woman employed at National Hanger Company stole the show with her speech.

"Two hundred and thirty eight. It could be the number of stars in the sky in a certain space, it could be the number of dots on the floor of one square foot of my office. But that number is the number of applications I submitted in a 30-mile radius of Bennington looking for employment," said Haley Nelson.

The 31-year-old single mother of one is a full-time employee of National Hanger and a full-time college student. Such was not always the case. In September Nelson was homeless and sought the help of the Bennington County Coalition for the Homeless, which found shelter for her and her daughter at the Thatcher House on Pleasant Street while Nelson looked for work.

She got help from Creative Workforce Solutions, an arm of the Vermont Association of Business Industry and Rehabilitation, which presented the employer of the year award to Home Depot and recognized Label Shopper, Bennington Beverage Outlet, and Price Chopper for their efforts in taking the extra time and effort to hire people facing challenges.

Nelson said she had a mock interview with Brian J. Maroney, business account manager for CWS, who gave her tips and pointers on her interview style.


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"I'll never forget that day, not only for the great advice Brian gave me, but that was the day I reached my lowest point," she said. "I had to go to Kmart that day to take my daughter's Christmas gifts off layaway so I could put a gallon of milk in the fridge and $5 worth of gas in my car."

She had tears in her eyes during the mock interview, Nelson said, and Maroney told her it would be all right and she would find employment. Nelson interviewed at National Hanger in North Bennington with a heavy, hopeful heart, she said, and did not hear back from the company for a week. "Thursday, December 19, the call came in. The call that gave me a heart attack and almost caused my car to hit a snow bank." At first she could not wrap her mind around the fact she was being offered the position, but it soon became clear her long job search was over. "I accepted the position with a smile on my face and tears of joy streaming down my cheeks," she said.

"During the rough patches and times I was struggling with money, food, fixing my car, and just trying to keep my spirits up, help was there," Nelson said.

In addition to helping to place 17 people, Home Depot Manager Scott Found was recognized by CWS for leading customer service workshops and giving CWS members a tour of the Home Depot store. Barb Barber, manager of the Label Shopper in Bennington, helped a client get a position at Kmart and has aided several clients with work experience as well as teaching them to dress well for job interviews. In 2012, Dennis Noel, of Bennington Beverage Outlet, contacted CWS to hire a client. Although it was not a good experience, Noel did not give up on the program and ended up hiring two people though CWS, according to Maroney. No one was on hand to represent the local Price Chopper, but the store was honored for working extensively with CWS and hiring a number of its clients.

Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at kwhitcomb@benningtonbanner.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.