It is not because of the holiday season that the 39-year-old takes the initiative in meeting and greeting strangers. Her sincere smile and polite demeanor is who she is all year round, according to those who know her.
Many people will recognize Yates’ cheerful disposition day in and day out as the friendly worker in the Deli section at Food Lion on Stuart Road or as the obliging worker at Stevi B’s Pizza on Frontage Road.
“I’ve always been like this,” said Yates. “My family values have always been to treat everyone like I want to be treated. People always respond to me — one way or another — they respond. (She laughs.) I have had several people who — when I’m not there — say they miss me.
“My mother says I cannot go anywhere without knowing somebody. I try to respect other people’s feelings. My mom is like that too. I think I inherited it. My grandmother has not met a stranger as far as I know. She’s a talkative person too. She’ll come up to you in a store and talk to you.”
Not only does Yates work two part-time jobs, she also attends Bryan’s college in Athens and is learning Spanish to broaden her horizons, greet more people and expand her career opportunities.
She said her life is currently all about self-improvement, learning more and enjoying the company of a variety of people, which she believes makes for a better and happier world.
“The best thing about Cleveland is the environment, how much the community is expanding, the weather and the people. I love talking to people of different cultures and religions — it’s great,” said Yates, who was born in Winnsboro, S.C.
“I graduated last May with my associate degree and certificate in supervisory management at Cleveland State. Now I’m attending Bryan College to get my bachelor’s in business administration.”
Yates said one of the reasons she enrolled at Bryan College is to increase her knowledge of the Bible and enjoy more social activities.
“I like their Aspire Program. It’s a great way to meet new people and learn more about the Bible. It takes 14 to 18 months to complete,” said Yates who prefers being an easygoing person with an outgoing personality.
“I think of myself as a simple person. Almost anything will make me happy. I like to read. I like to play games on the computer. I like to learn, meet new people, make new friends — basically that’s what makes me happy.”
While Yates stays busy with work, her education and a fulfilling personal life, she doesn’t dismiss the possibility of sharing her life with the right person and having a family someday.
The answer to that question, according to Yates, is in the hands of someone she knows she can trust, adding, “If it comes, it comes. If God wants me to meet the right person, that’s fine with me. Right now I’m focused on improving myself and enjoying my immediate family.”
After spending more than a decade meeting, greeting and providing services in the food industry, the well-mannered woman who resides in Calhoun said she would love to explore a new career.
“I’ve been in the food business for 12 years and I’m ready to work in customer service or as a receptionist — something along those lines,” she said. “I’m easy to get along with. I’d be happy to be an intern just to get into the right field. I’d just like an opportunity.”
In a perfect world Yates said she would be “debt free and working at a job she loves” as much as her current ones.
Whatever happens next for this ambassador of goodwill, one thing is certain, she will meet it with grace, kindness and a smile.