Meet Lariena Matthews!
Lariena has been volunteering with Thrive DC for over 10 years in our dinner program. In fact, she was here before we were Thrive DC, when we were still the Dinner Program for Homeless Women! Read below to see what’s changed and what hasn’t over the last 10 years.
What is your background outside of Thrive DC?
I am Senior Manager of Executive Operations at State Voices. My organization’s primary goal is to ensure that Americans are actively engaged in the decision and policy-making processes that impact their lives, their communities, their states and their country.
Why did you start volunteering at Thrive DC?
I moved to DC from NYC over 10 years ago and wanted to find a way to not only meet new people but to connect with the community. Thrive DC was one of the very first organizations that I volunteered with in 2005 when it was still known as the Dinner Program for Homeless Women. I served as a board member but honestly it was my role as a volunteer serving people in need that solidified my commitment to Thrive DC.
What keeps you coming back to Thrive DC?
To be honest, being a volunteer at Thrive DC is fulfilling like nothing else. My spirit is filled with humility and appreciation every single time I enter the building. I am the recipient of warmth, humor and honesty which I appreciate.
What do you like best about volunteering with Thrive DC?
I love working with and getting to know the women and children benefiting from the program. I love hearing their stories, seeing their growth and their resolve.
What has been an emotional moment that stood out to you?
I was talking with one of the clients who had just taken the bus over from work. She and I conversed about the dinner menu, her preferences, the weather, just shooting the breeze. She then said, casually, “Well when I check into the shelter tonight…”
My heart dropped as it dawned on me that she didn’t have a permanent place to sleep. But her composure, her attitude, her demeanor, none of it suggested that she was homeless. Her spirit was intact, and that humbled me. I had to take a moment in appreciation of not one thing but everything.
Have you discovered anything about Thrive DC that you were surprised or impressed about?
I would say: just the overall joy and sisterhood that is exhibited by the women here. They genuinely care about one another and enjoy each other’s company, as well as the volunteers.
What service or program are you most proud of Thrive DC providing?
I don’t think that I can pinpoint one particular program but I will say that the mail program is extremely helpful. It can be easy to forget, but those without a permanent address have a hard time getting a job without an address, receiving important documents or correspondence, or even getting something simple like an ID.
Is there anything you wish the city was doing differently for the homeless now that you’ve been working with them?
I wish that there were more resources put towards mixed use permanent housing. It is not enough to provide low to no income housing, confined to one area. You need a mixture to stabilize a community.