After viral Facebook post, Knoxville teen proves hard work pays off

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Friendly neighborhood restaurants like Louis Restaurant in Knoxville, are usually filled with lots of good conversation.

A conversation between a busboy and a customer over the weekend led to an outpouring of community support.

Sixteen-year-old Tarice McKinney recently started a job bussing tables at Louis Restaurant to help pay expenses on a car his parents recently purchased for him.

“It’s a very fun place to work at everybody is friendly,” Tarice said.

He’s also a football player at Gibbs High School. He recently injured his foot, which has taken him away from the field, and slowed him down a bit at work. But, the boot isn’t stopping him.

“I went to my physical trainer after school to see my foot and I asked him can I go to work, and he was like ‘I’m not going to tell a man he can’t go to work.’ I said OK,” Tarice said.

Work is exactly where Tarice was when he grabbed the attention of a curious customer, Jeana Vaughn.

“I said excuse me, he said yeah and I said can I ask you why are you coming to work with a boot on? And he said, it’s not that bad. And I got a car to pay for. And I was like man do you know how cool that is of you?” Vaughn said.

Tarice says his father worked two jobs to buy him a car. Now that he has it, his responsibility is to pay the insurance every month, fill it with gas and pay for any maintenance. He depends on his job to fund these things.

Jeana says she was touched that Tarice was still working on an injured foot. They talked for awhile, and she asked him if she could share a picture of him she had taken earlier in the evening on her Facebook page.

“I was like I kind of took your picture earlier. Do you care if I post it because I just think what you’re doing is awesome,” Vaughn said. Tarice laughed and said, “Sure I really don’t care.”

The chat started in the restaurant, but it has grown into a bigger conversation online. Hundreds have left comments, thousands have liked and shared.

“At first I was like whoa, I was just working,” Tarice said.

“I just felt like it was something people needed to see. We’ve seen so much negative and I wish people did take the time — maybe that’s what the kids need is more of us honestly acknowledging them for doing the right thing,” Vaughn said.

Now strangers are offering to support, donating money and making sure he is rewarded. Tarice’s parents, Carleasha and Tarice Sr. say they’re proud to see their son taking the lessons they’ve taught him out into the real world.

“I was proud because we always say in our family, we have the responsibility to show people something different,” Carleasha said.

“It makes us proud as parents just knowing that he does what we say and what we’re trying to teach him to be a better person,” Tarice Sr. said.

In a place where good conversations are plenty, this group never imagined one with a the busboy would show them the village still exists.

Tarice is not asking for donations, but several people have asked if they could give him a monetary gift.

Jeana Vaughn is taking checks in Tarice’s name at her store:
Vintage Etc c/o Tarice Mckinney
3006 Tazewell Pike
Knoxville, TN 37918

All checks can be made payable to Tarice McKinney. Jeana says she will personally deliver the checks to Tarice. She is asking that the public not send cash.

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