Springfield, MO

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2018 40 Under 40: Ashley Harkness, 34

Jobs For Life and community relations director, Jesus Was Homeless Inc.

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Finding a job isn’t easy. And after Ashley Harkness founded Jesus Was Homeless Inc.’s Jobs For Life program, she realized in addition to writing resumes, her clients needed soft-skill training on how to become the best employees they could be.

It worked. Four years later, the program has graduated 144 individuals – of which 77 percent are working full-time jobs, and 55 percent who lived in hotels now have permanent housing.

Jesus Was Homeless delivers about 1,400 sack meals weekly, but health needs extend from there, Harkness says. That’s why she’s working to open a telemedicine clinic with Cox Branson within walking distance of half of the city’s extended-stay motels. To house the nonprofit’s many growing programs, Harkness also led the construction of a new 17,000-square-foot facility. And she does it all with a staff of five and a passion for helping others.

What was your professional aha moment? When people began asking me to serve on the different boards for various community groups, I realized, “Aha, what I’m doing really is making an impact in the Branson area.”

What about your job would shock clients? The hardest thing I do is tell people no. Sometimes I go home and cry. Clients rarely see that side of me.

What is your best productivity hack? Alexa.

What did you learn the hard way?
Public speaking. I learned it by trial and error. Now I speak before groups, both big and large, all the time.


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