202-737-9311 | info@thrivedc.org

Harm Reduction

Thrive DC has been operating in Ward 1 for more than 15 years, focused on building relationships and deepening trust with our clients. As housing prices continue to soar across Washington, DC, we believe people should not be pushed out of communities where they have connection and support. People in Columbia Heights have come to rely on the consistency of a hot meal for breakfast and the fresh food distributed at our weekly food pantry. They know that, in the bitter cold of the winter, they can come to Thrive for a winter coat or launder their clothes as the summer heat rises.

Empowering Change Through Harm Reduction: Nurturing Growth in Individuals

At Thrive DC, we stand firm in our commitment to the holistic well-being of our clients, and this commitment is underscored by our embrace of harm reduction. Born from the field of addictions, harm reduction is not just a strategy, but a philosophy that guides our approach in supporting individuals to make positive changes in their lives, no matter the challenges they face.


At Thrive DC, we're more than a service provider; we're a community that believes in the power of incremental change. Our commitment to harm reduction is a testament to our dedication to nurturing growth, fostering understanding, and embracing the complexities of each individual's journey. Together, we're building a future where progress is celebrated, setbacks are seen as opportunities, and everyone's potential to thrive is recognized.


Thrive DC has been operating in Ward 1 for more than 15 years, focused on building relationships and deepening trust with our clients. As housing prices continue to soar across Washington, DC, we believe people should not be pushed out of communities where they have connection and support. People in Columbia Heights have come to rely on the consistency of a hot meal for breakfast and the fresh food distributed at our weekly food pantry. They know that, in the bitter cold of the winter, they can come to Thrive for a winter coat or launder their clothes as the summer heat rises.

Thrive DC: A Low-Barrier Organization Welcoming All Individuals Experiencing Homelessness

Every person deserves access to basic needs, such as food, shelter, and essential support, regardless of their circumstances. Thrive DC’s services extend to all individuals; documentation, background, or past experiences should not hinder anyone from seeking assistance and rebuilding their lives by creating a safe and non-judgmental space where they can access essential services.

We meet people where they are, in the community they live in.

Clients typically come to us first for basic emergency services, including hot meals, shower and laundry facilities, personal care items, and clothing. Our clients often experience mental illnesses, addiction, domestic violence, and trauma exacerbated by long term homelessness; a subset of our client population are individuals re-entering the community after a period of incarceration. As we get to know an individual, understand their background, and assess their needs, we can provide more robust, wrap-around services.

Based on our work we firmly assert that:

Supporting homeless individuals in the community they reside in is not just a compassionate response, but a necessity for building a stronger, more inclusive society. Thrive DC remains dedicated to our low-barrier approach, welcoming all homeless individuals to access emergency services and assistance without judgment or discrimination in their community.

Our 7th Annual VIDA Thrive 5k will be virtual this year and can be done from anywhere! All of the proceeds from the event will go towards Thrive DC and it's programs helping prevent and end homelessness in the DC area.

Join us to help our clients get back on their feet!

Post Your 5k!

There will be prizes for runners who raise the most money, as well as people who post their walk/run on social media. Join the fun to win VIDA memberships and Thrive DC swag!

Complete your 5k anytime between 10/8 and 10/18, then post a picture of yourself to Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter with the #VIDAThrive5k. We will be giving prizes to the posts with the most likes as well the ones we find the most inspiring who answer the question: "why is it important to end homelessness in DC?"

  1. Post a picture of your run to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram
  2. Use the #VIDAThrive5k hashtag
  3. Answer the question: "Why is it important to end homelessness in DC?"

Winners will be announced Tuesday, October 19th! Sign up today to be a part of the fun!

Meet Spencer Imbach, a recent returning citizen who is running a 50k ultra marathon on December 11th of this year. He has teamed with Thrive DC to create a fundraiser for his race to donate towards their “New Directions” program which assists those who have been recently incarcerated and/or released from jail or prison, and helps them get back on track towards becoming successful returning citizens and avoiding recidivism. New Directions does this by offering case management, basic needs assistance (meals, toiletries, clothing etc.), life skills education, job training, and access to sobriety maintenance assistance and support.
This is personal for him, because from 2017 to 2019 he was incarcerated four times, kicked out of homeless shelters, and living on the streets for a period of time. Being incarcerated significantly impacts your mental health and well-being by creating new mental health issues and worsening pre-existing conditions. He is beyond grateful to have found fitness as a productive outlet to clear his mind, build character, and strengthen his mindset, which is why he has chosen to use this opportunity as a way to give back to those who feel helpless, suicidal, or are lacking their sense of purpose after being released from incarceration.
To learn more about Spencer and why he's creating this fundraiser, we have asked him a few questions to hear more about his personal story and overall mission.

Why Thrive DC for your fundraiser? What should others know about it?

I knew I wanted to donate to an organization that helps with reentry since this is something I struggled with tremendously.  I like Thrive DC because they are local to me so it was a great opportunity to give back to my immediate community. Also, after reaching out to the staff they were incredibly genuine and sincere in working with me and supporting this venture. This organization, rooted in good will, truly represents a humane approach towards making positive changes in society. They do this by working to address issues like homelessness and recidivism, which are often overlooked by those unaffected, and as someone who has experienced both it is both appreciated and inspiring beyond words.

What was it like coming home after incarceration? What was it like socially and professionally for you?

I came home with a completely new perspective on my life and focused much of my energy on maintaining a positive and optimistic outlook. In one way, it was somewhat refreshing to be back at square one with nothing more to lose, however I quickly faced many hurdles socially and professionally. Incarceration was extremely traumatic on several levels, and having no way to explain this to someone who can't relate, I learned to focus on what was within my control and prioritized my mental health. I still experience judgements from others about my past, but as my overall mental health has improved I now recognize the trauma as a necessary part of my journey that made me a stronger man today. I choose to remain patient and grateful, rather than resentful or frustrated. In addition, I am still facing professional obstacles as I was recently offered a financial advisor career but could not pass the background check. My reaction was to let this motivate me to stay resilient and to get more creative in regards to a career path.

What do you have to say to others who may be facing the same challenges?

We are not defined by our past, and no human is perfect. Give yourself time to heal, practice patience and remain consistent in striving for your goals. View your adversity as a gift, not a hindrance, and use that to propel your life forward- whether that be by improving your morale, serving others, offering your experience in a way that benefits society, etc. Focus on progression and your overall direction rather than your pace, slow and steady wins the race.

Why has exercise/running helped you overcome? How can it help others?

Running has revealed to me that we are capable of much more than our mind tells us. It has also taught me the value of consistency and allows me to practice patience. I think running can help others by showing them the importance of self discipline, and how integrating that into your life will develop traits like confidence, perseverance, and grit, which are all major components required to be successful in life because no matter how low your bottom is life will continue to test you.
To learn more about Spencer's story and his acquired love of running, check the story below:

What Is Period Poverty?

“Period poverty” is an important issue - did you know many women don’t have access to safe, hygienic sanitary products or awareness of where to go for help?

Statistics from a Harvard University study show that there are nearly 22 million women living in poverty in the US that can’t afford items like pads or tampons. These individuals are first concerned with living day to day, and worrying about where they're going to sleep and eat; the problem of how they’re going to manage their period and bodily fluids is something they don’t have the convenience of preparing for until it happens. 

It’s important for everyone to understand that menstrual hygiene products are a necessity, not a luxury. When we think of menstrual health equality, we also have to take into consideration that homeless women of older age who no longer have periods sometimes have to rely on adult diapers, because they don’t have access to public restrooms and rely on diapers to take care of all of their bodily fluids. A new bill was recently proposed in Washington, DC to create public bathrooms within the city limits that are accessible in multiple areas to those in need. 

A Story

I have witnessed many women rely solely on Thrive DC’s menstrual products; however, two individuals stick out the most. Both individuals were/are chronically homeless, meaning sleeping in places not meant for habitation. 

During our Dinner Program one would come in with soiled adult diapers because she relied on them for all of her bodily needs during her time on the streets where bathrooms were not accessible or available because she looked a certain way, or could not afford to patronize a business to have access to their bathroom.  This individual would come into the women’s program to eat a hot meal and shower and request adult diapers. Sometimes, she would not come in for a few days and then we would discover she was wearing the same diaper she received from us days prior and it was heavily soiled.

I offered assistance with creating a hygiene kit “to go” but she would always refuse, telling me that she couldn’t carry the items along with her other belongings. The solution was that she’d promise me to come in daily to get fresh diapers and she agreed. The fact that this individual know that there is an organization in her community like Thrive DC that she can come in and take care of her hygiene is what I want the entire homeless community to be informed and aware of, they may not come in today or tomorrow, but by informing them we are here is what matters. 

Basic Physical Needs Are The Foundation Of Success

If individuals can’t take care of their basic needs it’s hard for them to think about bigger goals like finding housing or getting a job. A stepping stone to ending and preventing period poverty is that some states and cities across the nation including Washington, DC have made purchasing of menstrual products tax free, a right step in the right direction. 

I have witnessed many women rely solely on Thrive DC’s menstrual products. One individual would come into Thrive DC every month to retrieve feminine hygiene items, but she wasn’t interested in any other services despite us repeatedly offering them to her. She came in three months in a row until she finally asked “Can you help me obtain an ID?” 

She was hesitant to ask because she was living day to day, wondering where she would eat and sleep. However, once she felt that her basic needs were being met consistently, it was one less thing she had to worry about and she felt able to begin tackling her longer term goals. We hope that telling these stories will give others hope, knowing that they can walk in during business hours on any given day to receive these items and support at no cost with no judgements. 

You Can Help Women In Need

Thrive is always looking for menstrual pads and adult diapers. If you or anyone you know feels inspired to help by donating these types of products, or has an idea to help in another way, please reach out to our In-Kind Donations Coordinator, Rose Osburn through email rose@thrivedc.org or call at 202-503-1533.

When the heat index reaches 95 degrees outside or hotter, the District issues a Heat Alert.

During a Heat Alert, the District’s top advice is to:

This is impossible for many in our homeless community. We’ve talked before about how extreme heat can be just as or more dangerous than extreme cold.

With conditions becoming riskier for people forced to stay outside, we need everyone’s help to look out for our vulnerable neighbors. Here are 5 things you can do to help the homeless during a heat emergency.

Know What To Look For

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are the most serious conditions than can result from overexposure.

The symptoms of heat exhaustion to look out for are: dark colored urine, pale skin, profuse sweating, rapid heartbeat, muscle or abdominal cramps, dizziness, confusion, and fainting.

If left unaddressed, heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke.

Heat stroke is a medical emergency. Symptoms include throbbing headaches, red, hot, and dry skin, lack of sweating despite the heat, muscle weakness or cramps, rapid heartbeat, rapid, shallow breathing, seizures, and unconsciousness.

Don’t Ignore Someone

If you think that someone is having a hard time, ask how they’re doing!

Introduce yourself and ask their name, and see when the last time they had water was. Have a conversation around how their feeling, and see if they are experiencing any of the symptoms above. If they are, show them where to go! DC has lots of options to escape the heat, see the map below for places in your area.

If someone is thirsty, offer water. Staying hydrated is one of the most important things to do in the heat, and you can make a big difference in someone’s day with $1.50 bottle of water.

If you run into someone who looks passed out in the heat, check to see if they’re ok. If they look like they’re sleeping then let them be, but if they’re unresponsive, remember your Red Cross training and call 911 immediately.

Who You Gonna’ Call?

If someone needs help getting out of the heat, call the hyperthermia hotline at 1-800-535-7252. The United Planning Organization (UPO) will send a van and can provide water and transport to the nearest cooling station.

In the event of a heat stroke or if a person is unconscious, call 911 immediately.

Know Your Options

Like DC says at the top of the page, the best way to avoid suffering from the heat is to stay inside as much as possible. As the map to the right illustrates, there are many resources available for the homeless to take refuge in and escape the heat.

Click on the slider in the upper left of the map to see more options.

Know the resources in your area, and be prepared to direct someone to their nearest cooling shelter, library, spray park, or shelter.

Go Beyond The Crisis

At Thrive DC, we are on the front lines helping individuals without homes to have the resources they need to survive their situation, like helping them out water bottles, sunscreen, emergency clothing, hats or bug spray.

Whether or not we have these items depends on the generosity of our donors. You can help us by donating these items either in person or through our Amazon Wishlist.

There are other ways to help out too. Supporting Thrive DC financially helps us have the resources we need to help our clients, and volunteering with us gives our staff the chance to work more closely with our clients. The more people we have helping, the more one-on-one attention we can give.

To learn more about DC’s Heat Emergency Plan, click here.

Every 10 years, the federal government embarks on a massive undertaking that involves counting everyone who lives in the United States, called the census. This colossal data collection effort informs federal funding for many different programs, including school lunches, mental health services, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP. The data is also used to determine the number of seats each state has in the House of Representatives. The lower the count, the less representation in government and the less funding toward vital programs.

Many of these programs are critical for people who are homeless or housing insecure, which is why Thrive DC is concerned that everyone will indeed be counted, especially our clients. “Nationally, it is estimated that every year over 3.5 million people are homeless,” says Alicia Horton, Thrive DC Executive Director. “The disastrous impact of this pandemic is likely to raise that number even higher, which is why we need to make sure there are enough resources to address the needs of the most vulnerable. A lot more new people are queuing up for food assistance. We cannot underestimate the economic impact of this public health crisis.”

The systemic inequities that plague our society are reflected among the homeless population, which is why it is even more critical to capture the data and ensure there are services in place. For example, according to Census Count, in 2010 African American family members were seven times as likely to be in a homeless shelter as white family members. Veterans were also disproportionately represented among those experiencing homelessness, making up about nine percent of homeless adults in 2016. While addiction and mental health conditions are common.

Persons experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity are included in the “hard to count” group identified by the Census with some of the lowest response rates. Not having a permanent mailing address or access to the internet are some of the barriers that make it especially difficult to count this population. As is residing in hard-to-reach places, such as emergency shelters, transitional housing or being in the streets.  Young children are traditionally hard to count and, according to Census Counts, about 22 percent of people experiencing homelessness are children.

“Before Covid-19 forced us to reduce our onsite programs,” continues Horton, “we had planned a series of educational workshops for clients on the importance of being counted by the Census. Our computer room was also open, so they could fill out the survey online. All our plans went out of the window when the pandemic hit us, and we had to pivot to adjust to a new reality.”

The good news is that the Census 2020 data collection effort has been extended from July 31 to October 31. How best to count the homeless population in light of Covid-19, is still under review but there is increased coordination with all stakeholders who interact regularly with this population. On our part, we will continue to educate our clients on the need to get counted and find ways to facilitate that process through sister organizations that manage shelters and transitional homes. Our mission is to ensure no one falls through the cracks and the Census is one way to do that. Do your part. Get counted.


The Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality has compiled some of the information contained above and more in Counting People Experiencing Homelessness: Guide to 2020 Census Information.

As authorities work to address this unprecedented public health crisis, everyone is frightened and unsure in their heart. Those of us who have the security of jobs, health insurance, homes, friends, and family can rest a bit more assured knowing that these blessings can help us stay buoyed. But, imagine if your life was already in a state of chaos; if you did not have a safety net to draw upon; and you if felt things spiraling out of control as those services that were keeping you afloat began to gradually disappear. 

The place where you would usually go to take a shower and do a load of laundry is now closed. The dining hall where you could have a hot meal is no longer serving food. The office where your case manager or mental health worker would normally meet with you is shut down until further notice. The place where you would collect your mail, make a phone call and use the computer now has a sign that reads, “Closed Due to Corona Virus.”

This is not fictional. This is what our clients are already experiencing across the nation’s capital and the country. As I watch the disoriented faces of our client community today, my heart aches. I see fear in their eyes as they feel the only rug under their feet is being snatched away. Some are dazed and moving around aimlessly. Others are asking a million questions that we don't have answers to. I am getting e-mails where people are saying, "I just don't know what to do!"  

Several weeks ago, when things still seemed normal, a gentleman we will call Jack came into Thrive DC. He was about to lose his housing. He needed to work and wanted to work. We enrolled him in our Job Readiness program. We helped strengthen his resume and do a targeted job search. To our delight, he got two offers: one part-time job in a restaurant kitchen and one as a full-time bartender. We got him shoes, pants, and a white shirt. We provided transportation for his first few weeks until he got paid. He was thrilled to have things going in his favor. He completed his training for the full-time position last week only to find out that there is no more bar service now and that the restaurant is putting all new hires on hold. In one day, both of his job prospects were gone. They vanished. A week ago Jack’s life was full of hope, positive things were happening. Jack felt like he was finally breaking through a dark place and seeing the light. Now, through no fault of his own, he is back in the dark. 

This is just one of the thousands of stories that homeless people and those with unstable housing are experiencing at the moment. As one of the most disadvantaged, overlooked, belittled and vulnerable communities, their fear and anxiety are palpable. And rightfully so. We cannot just do the right thing for the most wealthy and visible. What about those who live on the margins of society? Our current response for this incredibly vulnerable community is to herd them into shelters and wait for the worst to happen. There are no effective policies or real plans for those with the least among us. One client told me," I am just waiting, waiting for this thing to knock me over and drag me through the S*&%$. I know it is coming.” My heart sank.

Despite our best intentions, I feel like we have failed a huge segment of our society. Affordable housing has continued to diminish. At the same time, over-incarceration, unemployment, and broken systems (i.e., mental health services) have fueled a miasma of social ills that have penned people to a life of poverty that may even cost them their lives. Last month, when I felt like there was nothing else I could do for a client, at the very least I could at least offer them a hug. Now, in the era of social distancing, I can't even do that. When we come up for air and this tragic time is behind us, I hope that we can do the hard work to create a proper safety net for the most vulnerable. Our national lack of planning, resource allocation and adequate response will hopefully spur new levels of action so that we can be better prepared to protect the lives of the most vulnerable during the next crisis. 

1. Interact with someone and check in on how their feeling in the heat, carry portable sized items like gold bond, sunscreen, or a spare bottle of water to share with a neighbor experiencing homelessness during the summer

Jack Read, Volunteer & In Kind Coordinator at Thrive DC, says that you can help in the heat by “carrying sunscreen with you, you’d be surprised how many of our clients would ask a stranger for a simple tube of sunblock. When people think about being asked for something by someone on the street, most of the time people assume money or food. Carrying sunscreen can be a really huge thing for someone” and that it’s important to “try not to assume what people need or will ask for.”

2. Know the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke

Heat exhaustion symptoms: general weakness, increased heavy sweating, a weak but faster pulse or heart rate, nausea or vomiting, possible fainting, pale, cold, clammy skin

Heat stroke symptoms: elevated body temperature above 103F (39.4C), rapid and strong pulse or heart rate, loss or change of consciousness, hot, red, dry, or moist skin

Alicia Horton, Executive Director at Thrive DC, shares that; “it’s most important that people are aware and that if you see someone on the street who looks like they may be in danger of heat exhaustion or heat related stress/illness than call an ambulance or the shelter hotline so they can get to a cooling center or hospital. There are cooling centers and different facilities available in the city where folks can get out of the heat and stay healthy from what can be pretty torturous summers in this area.”

3. Utilize resources like the interactive map of cooling centers in the District and free transportation hotline

Horton says, “it’s always interesting to me when people don’t associate the same kinds of weather related dangers in the summertime as people do in the wintertime. I think it’s really important that people understand that it’s just as dangerous for folks who are unsheltered or homeless when the weather hits extreme heat temperatures.”  

“I honestly worry a little bit more about clients in the summertime because sometimes I don’t even think they realize the danger. When it’s cold, it’s more obvious and people seek shelter but when it’s hot people think they may be okay or don’t hydrate sufficiently. A lot of times, people will continue to wear clothes that they don’t want to lose. So then they’re very layered which is dangerous in high heat and there are not as many resources available when it’s hot.

I want to impress upon people how dangerous it is and how important it is for folks to have opportunities for respite from the heat.”

You can find cooling centers near you by using the Interactive Map of Cooling Centers in the District.

 4. Donate in kind items to help our clients experiencing homelessness, we’re a source of refuge during the summer heat and community all year round. We give out hundreds of in kind items including toiletries, socks, sunscreen, bags, and more each month.

“We help to prepare our clients for dangerously hot weather and exposure to the sun with sunblock/sunscreen and visors; some of these things we all take for granted during the summertime”, says Horton.

“Even things like sunglasses can be very important for somebody, particularly our senior clients when it’s really bright outside. Lighter wear clothing that we can make available is always nice to have on hand like a good white t-shirt. There’s nothing better than a nice clean white t-shirt. Another thing that we go through a lot of are towels and washcloths. People want something to relieve from sweat so it’s harder to keep in stock during the Summer since they go fast.”

Jack Read, Volunteer and In-Kind Coordinator at Thrive DC, shares that, “Sunscreen is THE thing and we need all types and SPF’s. Our clients use sunscreen for different reasons, sometimes it’s as simple as skin dryness since it also doubles as lotion and is easy to carry. We also need goldbond foot powder. We need it year round but especially in the summer because our clients are walking in the heat and their feet are getting sweaty just like ours do. Foot powder is huge because it helps cuts down on discomfort and odor, a small but crucial item. The other one and this is genuinely huge: flip flops. We’ll take new and gently used if they’re in very good condition. It’s too hot to be wearing some of the shoes we provide clients during the winter.”

5. For free transportation to a cooling center for yourself or someone else, call: 202-399-7093 or 311. For more information on the District’s heat emergency plan, please visit heat.dc.gov.

If you’re interested in volunteering or how to get your group involved, email Jack at jack@thrivedc.org. To volunteer at Thrive DC, there are just a few simple steps: sign up for a volunteer orientation that works with your schedule on our website, come to the orientation, complete a background check, and last but not least- start volunteering with us!

We couldn’t do this critical work without your help and continued support for our clients whether that be helping Chef Terrance in the kitchen to sorting mail and everything in between, the impact is helping us better serve the community. We are sharing stories that resonate with our clients, staff, and volunteers though weekly Stories of Hope emails and our monthly Volunteer Spotlight series.

Mariah, our Communications Coordinator, sat down with Camille to learn more about why she got involved with us and how others can get started. Camille has been volunteering with us since we were still the Dinner Program for Homeless Women. She has served on our board of directors, and continues to be involved through her weekly mindfulness group and volunteering on our advisory board. She’s been a dedicated supporter of all things Thrive DC since 1995 and we’re proud to have her as part of the Thrive DC family!

Read more about her story below:

I know that you’ve been volunteering with Thrive DC for a while but I’d love to know exactly how long and how you first heard about Thrive DC.

So I believe it would be 1995 because my son was in kindergarten at Janney Elementary School and we had this program in place where we provided a lasagna dinner once a month for clients. We would come and make lasagna, then join in the kitchen and help serve. This was when Thrive DC was still called the Dinner Program for Homeless Women and we came in the evening. I’d take my son after school and we’d help serve, this was three places ago near Martin Luther King library.

All three of my kids were at Janney so when the person who coordinated that partnership left Janney, I took over as the coordinator of that partnership.

What made you continue to volunteer with us?

Well, because I think it’s an amazing program! I just think it’s a great program and I wanted my kids to stay involved. After Janney they still came occasionally and sometimes we’d come on Thanksgiving together to volunteer. My daughter has come a few times with CREW DC (Commercial Real Estate Women). I just wanted to lead by example for my kids and say, hey this is important. There are people less fortunate than us and we need to help out when we can. Shortly after Fiona left Janney in 2012, we were at a Gala and my husband said to Alicia: “You should get Camille on the board!” and I was like, “Oh, thank you Larry.” I’m joking, it was great! So then I got on the board!

Sometimes I still come to help with meals. I mostly do my mindfulness and meditation group now. I’ve transitioned from the board because my term was up but we started an advisory board so we’re getting that going right now. I’m really happy to be on the advisory board and to have served on the board but glad I had a connection to the work before that so I knew I would continue to come and help in a different way. I like the fact that I can still be hands on too. Everyone has a different skill set to offer. I’ve gotten to know the clients quite a bit so I like when I get to see them and touch base. When I don’t see a client for a while, I get worried.

I wanna hear more about your mindfulness and meditation group. When did you start it and how did you see it fitting in to client needs?

It was already started by another board member. Gracy was teaching yoga and I remember talking to her when she was pregnant with her son. A lot of the times when people hear yoga they think of difficult poses so I wanted to help change the perspective. I said I’d be happy to take over it and I may have a different spin on it. I think it’s been over a year now!

We meet Wednesday mornings for a half an hour so they can get downstairs to eat breakfast. I call it mindfulness, meditation, and movement practice which is yoga too. Yoga is a little bit of everything: mindfulness, meditation, breathing, and it’s spiritual. We meet in the sanctuary and the most we’ve had is 7 participants and sometimes it’s as small as two people joining. I really liek it because I’ve really gotten to know clients.

We do a mini sangha, a community of people who meditate together and share. We start with a sitting meditation, sometimes we’ll do a walking meditation and I’ll guide us through it. We follow that with a welcome, we go around the circle and welcome one another. Then we do a little movement. I’m afraid to call it yoga in case it may turn some people away. When I first get to Thrive on Wednesday I’ll usually walk around the dining room area and talk to people, encourage them to join us.

We mostly do movement that you can do in a chair but sometimes we’ll do movements that you’d see in a typical yoga class but it’s not challenging and I always offer modifications. After the movement, we usually do readings and I’ll bring in a book. I’ll bring in books that are inspirational and non-religious. Teachings of loving kindness and freeing yourself fro pain and suffering. Right now, we’re reading pieces of every step and it’s just a book about mindfulness and how to be present in the here and now. We read a little section the other day on how to be with what you are in that moment. There’s also a section on sitting meditations and eating meditations, letting your body enjoy it and slowing down.

Sometimes I bring in cards. I found these cards that are called, ‘who have you come here to be’. They’re really cool. Everyone picks one and there’s always a special word and picture on the card.  For example, it might say: ‘I have come here to be patient or I have come here to be energetic.’ We share each person’s card and they may not feel whatever that card says that day or they may want to feel that way.

I always give time to share whatever is on your mind and it’s a judgement free zone. I want it to feel like a safe place. There was something that a client shared and I asked if I could share. They said yes to bring awareness to it. A client had gone into Starbucks and was arrested because they were resting there, they weren’t feeling well and didn’t buy a cup of coffee. The client came in to our meeting that day really shaken, especially because they had been in the hospital earlier that week and their blood pressure was high from that encounter. Sometimes people will share that it feels really good to be here today so we always have time for that. We have a bell and then do a hugging meditation.

It’s great that people can share those things with you, have that time to unwind and not think about the outside world.

Yes! One day, a gentleman in the dining room told me, “Ya know, these guys don’t know what that group is. You should have a video or something to explain what the group does and more people would be going.” I’d love to share a video clip or something on what it’s like to practice mindfulness and being present.That way, the yoga portion is not as intimidating.

What has stood out to you the most throughout the years as you’ve volunteered with us?

Most recently, there’s a woman who comes to the group and she said that coming on Wednesday morning really makes her day. She told me that she looks forward to coming and sharing time with us. She’s had a brain injury but she’s really smart and happy to be there. I shared that it’s just as meaningful to me as it is to her. It’s important for clients to know that too. We’re in this little community together! That felt really good. When I’ve served in the dining room, I love when people are smiling and enjoying Chef Terrance’s food. How it brings joy and community. It’s fun to see people chatting it up and meeting with friends at their tables. Sometimes someone will stop me and thank me for being there.

What advice would you give someone who’s interested in volunteering with us or just maybe getting started?

I would just say, come and volunteer! Come in and see what it’s like. I think the website is a great place to go and read about what other volunteers are doing. Come with a friend or even bring a couple of people!

1525 Newton St NW
Washington, DC 20010
(202) 737-9311

Client Hours:
Tuesday - Friday
10:00 AM - 12:00 PM | 1:00 PM - 3:00 PM

Staff Hours: 
Monday – Friday
8:30 AM – 5:00 PM
Join Our Mailing List
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram