In early 2017, the 28-year-old launched Hire for Hope LLC, her socially conscious recruiting firm that helps fill mid- to senior-level positions for West Michigan companies.
It's been so successful that she recently hired her first full-time employee, with an eye on adding one or two more staff members by the end of this year or early 2019.
To help accommodate her growth, Ward has plans to move her recruiting business out of her home office in Rockford and relocate it to downtown Grand Rapids.
And she recently became one of eight recipients of Local First's Good for Grand Rapids Awards in the Good for the Community category, in part for her decision to donate 10 percent of her firm's revenue to Safe Haven Ministries, a Christian domestic violence prevention and outreach agency that offers confidential emergency shelter for women and children fleeing domestic violence, as well as support groups, individual counseling and advocacy for women and children who do not require shelter.
New facility on the horizon
Safe Haven is on the grow, too. It plans to break ground for a 20,000-square foot facility at 2130 Saginaw Rd. SE in Grand Rapids in the spring, with a projected completion date in late 2018 or early 2019. The new building will double Safe Haven's capacity to serve women and children to about 60 instead of the current average of 30. Its new location will also provide better wrap-around care for its clients and more educational training opportunities for the community.
Once constructed, it will house Safe Haven's administrative offices and shelter under one roof. Currently its administrative offices are at 3501 Lake Eastbrook Blvd. and its shelter at an undisclosed site.
A knack for reading people
Ward smiles. God has been good.
"I originally wanted to get my graduate degree in counseling," said Ward. "I've always had a knack for reading people, learning people's stories and what motivates them. Come to find out, that's what recruiting is all about. What drives them? What's interesting to them? What's going to excite them in their next career endeavor? I was able to partner with Safe Haven Ministries and the reason it is important to me is, several years ago, I found myself at Safe Haven as a client."
It's that latter part that gives Ward pause. Her drumbeat of distress started because of a toxic relationship she was in with a man who was physically and emotionally abusive to her and had forced her to cut ties with the outside world.
"I wasn't allowed to leave the house," she said. "I wasn't allowed to drive. My relationships with my friends and family were cut off. I found myself isolated and trapped in my own home."
Ward knew there was a better way, not only for herself but her now-six-year-old daughter.
She found that better way in 2013 through Safe Haven. She signed-up for its eight-week educational support group that is offered to women for free; childcare also is provided at no cost.
"They really open your eyes to all the facets of abuse whether it be emotional, financial, physical - even in your faith - religious abuse," Ward said of Safe Haven. "It's what gave me the courage to leave that situation and realize that God still loves me even if I left that relationship.
Ward smiles again when she thinks of what Safe Haven made possible for her.
"I was essentially homeless and jobless at the time," said Ward, who's now married to her husband, Mark. The family attends Calvary Church.
"They (Safe Haven) were the catalyst that actually changed my life, that helped me build the confidence to believe in myself, to put myself out there, to network and find a job which is how I ended in recruiting actually."
These days, Ward's life is happy, healthy and productively challenging. And her connection with Safe Haven continues, but this time in a different vein. She serves on its event planning committee, worked as its master of ceremonies for its benefit last fall that raised $100,000 and continues to donate 10 percent of her firm's revenue stream.
She's also mulling the idea of developing a workshop for women at Safe Haven that would teach them how to write cover letters and resumes and provide job-interviewing tips.
"They (Safe Haven) doesn't get to hear the aftermath a lot of times because it's a chapter a lot of women want to close and never revisit," said Ward. "For me, it actually continues to be a healing process and I think it always will be."
Some of the people she's recruited for companies end up donating to Safe Haven as well. It's what makes the name of her firm, Hire for Hope, a hand-in-glove fit.
"We're just giving back hope to women who can be so much more than they currently are," said Ward.