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Stories of Hope

Every Monday, we share encouraging stories from our clients, volunteers, and staff members. Join our mailing list to receive them each week! 
Milton has been a client at Thrive DC for about 5 years. He lived in a shelter in Southeast DC and came into Thrive DC every day to eat and socialize.

With a history of drinking, he lost touch with close family members and eventually relapsed. He also wasn't able to walk and ended up in a physical recovery facility. Milton was struggling to find security and stability in his life.

We are thrilled to share that this past week, Milton secured permanent housing!

We are so excited for Milton and that he found a safe and stable living situation. We love having him as part of the Thrive DC family -- he comes in every Thursday to assist with our food pantry!

While our clients hit barriers and obstacles every day, they also achieve huge victories -- and at Thrive DC, we celebrate each and every success.

-Gabriel Fabre
When Linda and Melanie came to Thrive DC a few months ago, they weren't sure what their next steps would be. They had recently been released from incarceration and both women needed some guidance and support with their re-entry back into their communities.

At Thrive DC we understand that returning citizens require this specific attention and additional resources, which is why, in 2014, we created our Women in New Directions (WIND) program. WIND focuses on the needs of clients who are returning citizens, ensuring they receive the essential training, resources, and support they need to start a successful life post-incarceration. Our WIND clients attend a ten-week program three days a week that teaches life skills and includes workforce development workshops.

Through this program, clients are able to receive a customer service certification, which Linda and Melanie passed with flying colors. This past week both clients were thrilled to be hired for new jobs.

We are so proud of these two women who are making such large strides in their re-entry, and I am glad Thrive DC is able to help them along their path to long-term stability and fulfillment.

-Kimberly Jones
On Tuesday, April 26, Thrive DC hosted our second annual job fair! We were able to serve a total of 90 clients on their journey to self-sufficiency with the opportunity to network with employers from all around DC.

Everyone was excited to gather together for the first time since the pandemic started. The employers who came out were just as thrilled as our clients were to get back to work and a sense of normalcy.

I want to shout-out all of the staff members and volunteers who made this event possible -- it truly was a team effort! I also want to thank our clients for coming engaged, excited, and prepared. Thank you to the amazing culinary art program that provided breakfast and lunch.

And last but not least, I want to shout-out my students who graduated from the New Directions program who helped us set up the event. This was a day to remember!

-Kimberly Jones
Reed Sandridge, founder of the nonprofit Second Story Cards, first met Anthony Crawford 11 years ago. Anthony was sleeping on the streets in front of the Brooks Brother’s clothing store on Connecticut Avenue and spent his days selling newspapers. Reed started meeting Anthony for coffee every couple of weeks, and what began as an effort to help Anthony soon turned into one of Reed's most consistent and lasting friendships.

One morning, Reed asked Anthony to think about where he saw himself in a year or two, to which Anthony answered that his primary goal was to find housing. On July 15, 2013, Anthony did just that -- he secured an apartment off of Park Road in Columbia Heights, right in the neighborhood of Thrive DC.

Reed saw in Anthony what he saw in many community members who were experiencing homelessness: an entrepreneurial spirit. He embodied many attributes of an entrepreneur, such as resilience, creativity, and adaptability. Reed wanted to partner with Anthony to create something new and had the idea to make greeting cards. Thus, Second Story Cards was born -- and Anthony was their very first card-maker.

The model of Second Story Cards is that those who are experiencing homelessness will receive 15% of sales -- not profit -- for every card they create. While many community members first join the business to gain financial stability, it becomes much more than that. Making greeting cards allows the creators to express themselves, utilize their creativity, and see their creations displayed in stores.

After Anthony made his first card, he burst through the doors of the Starbucks that he'd spent much of his time in and declared himself a card-maker. As a returning citizen and a person who experienced homelessness, much of his identity had been defined by his circumstances and his past -- until now. He was able to redefine himself, to clearly see his self-worth from an entirely new angle.

Anthony created a card specifically designated to Thrive DC because he appreciated our programs designed for returning citizens. For every card that is sold, Second Story Cards donates an additional 10% to Thrive. He also participated in our Morning Program and was well-loved in our community. Anthony's passing this past summer was a loss for so many, and we will always cherish his sense of humor, positive spirit, and resilience. His legacy lives on in Second Story Cards, and we are so grateful for the incredible work they do to form connections through greeting cards.
In January we continued a program called, "The Personals Project" that we started pre-pandemic but put on hold when everything shut down. Through the program, we distribute hygiene kits filled with enough sanitary napkins, tampons, liners, and undergarments to last a month.

So many clients are moved by the kits, reminding me that something as simple as free hygiene products can mean the world to someone else. To add onto the excitement, we received a donation of purses and the women were thrilled that they got to pick out a purse as well. One client said, "I feel like it's Christmas!"

As the weather gets warmer, many of the women from our Women's Program have been coming back and it has been so nice to reconnect with clients that I haven't seen since before the pandemic. They bring me as much joy as the hygiene kits bring them.

-Former Thrive DC Staff Member
The other day one of our Real Opp trainees came up to me and asked if I wanted him to fix me something to eat. I looked at him confused and told him thank you, but I'm not hungry at the moment. He replied, beaming, "because you know, I am a certified food handler now!" while he pulled out his brand new Serve Safe Food Handlers certificate.

Three people took their Serve Safe Food Handlers Certificate Exam this week, with all three passing, scoring 85 or higher. Two of them earned perfect scores! Now they can take what they learned and apply it to a twelve week externship at a local restaurant.

These are the hope-filled moments that keep me going at Thrive DC. Watching someone accomplish something that they are so proud of and being a part of their next steps toward success brings me no greater joy.

-Alicia Horton
In December of 2021, Janice was released from incarceration for the second time. Her first experience in prison lasted over 4 years, and coming home was one of the hardest parts.

Not only was she anxious and scared for what it would be like to return to society after being gone for so long, but she was released without any resources or support.

Lacking employment and a home, Janice began hopping from house to house in search of a steady income and living situation. She struggled with re-entry programs that didn't provide enough hands-on support, getting rejected once employers processed her background check, and challenging mental health issues.

Worst of all, she faced negative perceptions and stereotypes from society because of her status as a returning citizen.

Eventually, because of a lack of support and success, she reverted back to her old ways, which led her into incarceration for another 9 months. When she was released this past December, she was determined that this time would be different.

She called Thrive DC and spoke to our Re-Entry Program Manager, Ms. Kim, who urged her to come in immediately. Janice already felt as though her problems mattered and that Ms. Kim was eager to help.

It wasn't long before Janice was a dedicated student in Ms. Kim's New Directions program. She was finally able to meet basic needs, such as hygiene, clothing, and transportation. She also learned important life skills, gained the support of her peers, and was referred to a substance abuse program and mental health agency.

Not even two weeks had passed before Janice had 2 job offers!

Janice has big dreams for her future. She plans on securing housing, saving up for a car, and furthering her education. She's so thankful for Ms.Kim's patience and her classmates' encouragement.
Everyday we have clients coming in to check their mail through our free mailbox program. During our staff meeting, our Case Manager, Tanya Thomas, shared this story about a gentleman who uses the program.

“When I initially encountered him, he was dressed really professionally. He was so well put together that I didn’t realize he was a client coming in to check his mail.”

During the pandemic, she began to notice that he wasn't coming in as often. So when he came in recently, she asked some questions to check in with him and see how he was doing. He then explained that he’s actually working in administration at Capital Area Food Bank, one of our partner organizations.

He went on to explain that he initially came into Thrive because he had been recently released from prison and needed help with a new start. Now that he was back on his feet with a new position, he wanted to personally come in to thank everyone for simply being there for him when he had no place else to go.

You can never tell what someone is experiencing with just a look. We’re so happy for our client that he’s thriving, and are proud that he trusted us as a resource when he was first released.

We proudly serve everyone, no questions asked, no matter whether someone is dressed up or dressed down. We all deserve a second chance!

-Former Thrive DC Staff Member
One of the common refrains I hear at least 20 times a day is, 'Ms. Alicia there is someone here to see you." More often than not, these aren't visitors I'm expecting, but folks who come in needing some help and remember my name from a past experience at Thrive.

Today was no exception. It was my 11th 'Ms. Alicia' of the day and when I went outside, I found a woman in a wheelchair in tears.

'What can I help you with?' I asked.

'You don't remember me do you?' she replied, and I confessed I didn't.

She shared with me that I had helped her get housing ten years ago and that she'd been through several very serious health episodes that had prevented her from getting back to Thrive to say thank you. 'But I never forgot you! I'm 70 years-old now and I've been wanting to come back all this time and thank you for your help - you are my angel. I live in a nice place now and I can see the water from my apartment!'

As tears rolled down her cheek, she took down her mask and said, 'I just needed to let you know how grateful I am for all your help.' Then we were both in tears!

We don't often get to see the long-term fruits of our labor. So it was so nice to see a client on the other side of a crisis and doing well with help from our work. The next time they call my name, I will get up with a little more pep in my step.

-Former Thrive DC Executive Director
I was handing out groceries in our weekly food pantry when I noticed one of our clients in line. When it was her turn, she reached into her pocket and pulled out a handful of Kit Kat candy bars, handing them to staff and volunteers as she walked down the line to receive her groceries.

It was a little gesture -- but extremely meaningful. When you're providing food to someone in need, you don't always expect to receive something tangible back from them. It was unexpectedly touching.

This lady was a reminder of how Thrive DC is a place where we all come together to support one another. No one has it all together -- and clients, volunteers, and staff alike all have something to give. I am grateful for this interaction and the ways I will continue to learn from my experience here at Thrive.

-Thrive DC Intern
Two clients in Thrive DC's New Directions program secured employment!

After 13 years in prison, returning citizen Paul found it difficult to find employment. It was also hard integrating back into society now that he no longer sold drugs as a source of income.

Once he became a student in our New Directions program, his life changed! With the support of other returning citizens and the ability to learn life skills, Paul obtained a job at Price Buster warehouse. He now had a new life trajectory and his desire to return to the streets has disappeared.

Spencer had also recently left prison and needed employment. At first, he was hesitant about joining New Directions, and often missed class. He lacked motivation to pursue his goals.

Eventually, Spencer decided to give our program a chance -- and was pleasantly surprised! After just two weeks, he secured a job at the same warehouse as Paul.

Students in our New Directions program have big and small successes like this every day. With the proper support, returning citizens really can have a successful transition home.

-Kimberly Jones
Last week, a 5th grade teacher from Belvedere Elementary reached out to me to share a powerful story from her classroom. After a conversation sparked by homelessness awareness month, the teacher's students were very concerned about homeless children and their access to books. So, they decided to do something to combat the problem.

Her students thought of the idea to hold a book donation drive so that homeless children are able to read and continue their education. The teacher emphasized that her class thought of this idea completely on their own! They plan to collect books for ages pre-K through 5th grade and give them to Thrive DC at the beginning of June.

Simply educating young students on the experiences that their peers without housing may have opened the door to an act of generosity and compassion. We are grateful for the power of education and always seek new ways to educate our community on the lived experiences of our most vulnerable neighbors.

-Vanessa Davis
At the beginning of March, I started working with a client who was fleeing an abusive former partner. She wanted a little more assurance that her whereabouts would be private, so I encouraged her to apply for the Address Confidentiality Program.

The ACP provides a legal substitute address for eligible DC residents to maintain the confidentiality of their actual address. Those who are accepted are able to shield their street address from public records and help protect their safety. While I urge many of my clients to apply for the ACP, they rarely follow through.

Last week, we found out that my client got accepted to the ACP and is awaiting her welcome package to come in! This is my very first client to apply and get accepted into the program.

I am so glad that she is able to find peace of mind and added security during this stressful time in her life. On top of healing from her ex-parter's abuse, she has been experiencing some chronic health concerns. I am hopeful that maintaining her privacy will be one less thing for her to worry about.

-Jessica Chavez
Meet Mr. Lopez. He has been trying to secure housing for some time now, but due to COVID-19, his housing opportunity through the Department of Human Services was delayed. The other day, he dropped by Thrive DC with his new keys to his brand new apartment!

The excitement we felt for Mr. Lopez paralleled the huge smile on his face. He left telling us that he was going to use the resources we gave him to get some furniture to make his new place feel like home.

-Former Thrive DC Staff Member
I was given the assignment to help distribute food pantry boxes to people and organizations that need them. Setting out to complete my task, I called multiple organizations and personal friends to see if they were interested in receiving our boxes. I reached out to a nonprofit called Charlie's Place at St. Margaret's Episcopal Church and spoke to the New Executive Director, Reggie Cox.

Mr. Cox has an inspiring testimony. After living on the streets for some time, he managed to escape homelessness and eventually became the director of a local nonprofit. During my call, I learned that he had been one of our clients at Thrive DC some years ago. He reminisced on the positive and meaningful encounters he had with our staff members, recalling Sean and Ms. Alicia specifically.

Now, Mr. Cox is the Executive Director at Charlie's Place and is serving the homeless population daily. He has partnered with Thrive DC to distribute pantry boxes to the homeless communities he was once a part of. It was an amazing experience to meet this brother, hear his story, and learn about strong connection he has with Thrive DC.

Charlie's Place is a non-denominational, anti-hunger, homeless ministry that serves the homeless and underprivileged populations in the neighborhoods of Dupont Circle, Adams Morgan, and Columbia Heights. We are thrilled to partner with Charlie's Place and to resume our long-standing relationship with Reggie Cox.

- Jameon Gray
When Thrive DC opened our doors in Columbia Heights, some of our first clients were a set of senior ladies that came to dinner almost every evening. We lovingly called them, "The Grandmas."

Each had a distinct personality: sassy, feisty, sweet, nurturing -- and all were sage. Over the 12 years we have been here, we've enjoyed the Grandmas and worked to help make their golden years a little more comfortable.

Over the years, we have also lost many of the Grandmas in the circle of life. Now, the last Grandma is sadly receiving palliative care. We called her last week to say hello, and she was in good spirits and well taken care of. She was happy to hear from us.

It feels like an era is ending, but also makes me realize how diversified our support is and how our work makes a difference at all stages of people's lives. While none of these ladies were our traditional kind of client in that they were housed, they were a meaningful part of our community with tangible needs for food and services.

I am so glad that we were able to help provide for them right up until their very last days. The Grandmas certainly made our days brighter, with their loving hugs, sweet dispositions, and sassiness. I hope we made their golden times a little better as well.

-Greg Rockwell
I have been recently working with a senior citizen experiencing homelessness to provide her victim services, specifically helping recover her personal documents. We assisted her with paying the fee to obtain medical records and then helped her apply for a new Social Security card and DC identification card.

When she received her SS card, she smiled from ear-to-ear and expressed her gratitude for my assistance and for Thrive DC. Even with her social security retirement payments, she is unable to afford to buy groceries -- but she can count on a secure, daily meal at Thrive DC.

I thought more about this women, about how some of us take our meals for granted while others have to commute daily to find "secure meals".

Not only were we able to obtain important personal documents for this woman, but she is welcome to join us every day for a hot, nutritious meal. I am proud that we are able to assist our clients comprehensively at Thrive DC and support them wholeheartedly on their journey to self-sufficiency.

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

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