202-737-9311 | info@thrivedc.org

We are so grateful for the support and help we continue to receive from all of you even during the harder times of a public health crisis, and we want to share stories that resonate with our clients, staff, and volunteers through weekly Stories of Hope emails and through Volunteer Spotlights.

On Thursday, amid Thrive DC's bustling Grocery Distribution, I talked to Cora about her time at Thrive DC. She had a lot to say about her time here and we're happy to have her as a part of the Thrive DC family!

Tell me about yourself

I'm a second year student at American University, studying Economics with a minor in Spanish. I'm originally from Arkansas, and have loved my time living in DC.

How did you hear about Thrive DC? How long have you been volunteering here?

I heard about Thrive through my participation in the Community Based Research Scholars Program at American University. The program allows us the opportunity to volunteer at various nonprofit organizations around the DC area, and I've been volunteering here since last fall.

What made you interested in volunteering with us?

I've always had an interest in service and volunteering, but usually focused around children and education, so I wanted to expand my experience within different focuses. I think that addressing homelessness and poverty should be considered a priority within humanitarian pursuits, government policy, and public health. Given all of that, as an individual I think it's your responsibility to evaluate your strengths and resources and give where able whether it's your time, intellect, or another contribution.

What have been some highlights or a moment that has stood out to you?

When I first started at Thrive DC, I had only a little experience with Spanish and recognized some shortcomings through language barriers when communicating with clients. Over the summer, when my plans had changed I had some extra time, so I started taking elementary Spanish at a local community college back at home. Now this fall after I've returned to Thrive, I'm improving my Spanish skills and better at helping clients in their native language. They're always grateful when other people can speak Spanish and it's nice to be able to talk to them without a language barrier. Now I'm getting to know a lot of the clients better.

What does a typical volunteer shift look like for you?

Recently I've been helping with Thursday grocery distribution. I'll come in the morning and distribute bags to clients and move boxes.

What advice would you give to someone just starting to volunteer at Thrive DC?

I would say just be flexible! Thrive is a great place with so many welcoming and kind people- go with the flow and be willing to help wherever you're needed. It helps you recognize how your strengths can best serve clients and the other volunteers as well as staff.

At Thrive DC we offer internship opportunities that vary from social service focused to development focused. Meet Zach, our intern who does both! He's been with us since September, and has a lot to share about his time at Thrive DC

Tell me a little about yourself

I am a Senior at St. Xavier University in Chicago, Illinois, where I study Criminal Justice. I had two credits left to complete my undergraduate degree, so I decided to fill the credits through an internship program. I found a program called the Washington Internship Institute (WII), which helps you find internships in DC. The internship is paired with two classes and also helps you find housing in DC, so it's a really great program.

How did you find Thrive DC?

Thrive DC was one of three internships that accepted me through WII, and after some thought, I chose Thrive DC. I knew that I have the ability to make an impact at a place like Thrive DC, even if it's just a small impact. I had a professor in college who had written an ordinance for something she wanted change in her local community. It was such a small thing, but it mattered to her, had a positive impact on the community, and brought about change; that's what I want to do and that's why I chose Thrive DC. Even if I'm just sorting through mail, I'm bringing a small, impactful change to the clients at Thrive DC who need that mail. I'm very comfortable with my decision and glad I chose Thrive DC.

How has your experience at Thrive DC been?

I felt very welcomed here from the start. The staff were so warm and immediately brought me in and made me feel like a part of the team. I have a few different roles here, but I have mostly been sorting through the mail. At the moment, there are around 1,200 people who send their mail to Thrive DC, and with the pandemic, we had a large back stock of unsorted mail. For the first few weeks at Thrive DC, I spent the majority of my time going through the mail, but I also helped out wherever I was needed. Whatever I end up doing that day, I always enjoy. There has never been a time at Thrive DC that I have walked out at the end of the day and felt like I wasn't happy with how the day went. I always leave smiling and happy, knowing I made a difference.

What have been some of your favorite moments at Thrive DC?

I really enjoy talking to Thrive DC clients who are part of the Real Opps job training program. They all have very interesting stories to tell and are always looking to share their stories with others, so it's fun to talk to them. Really any interaction with people has been great. I enjoy talking to staff as well and volunteers and clients outside of Real Opps. Everyone is so friendly and you feel safe and supported here.

What advice would you give someone just starting out at Thrive DC?

I would say take your time; there's no rush. When sorting through mail, mistakes can matter a lot more than you would think, so it's important that you don't rush through any of the tasks you're given. I would also say try to make it interesting and fun. I've never been bored sorting through mail because I've found ways to make it more entertaining. There's never a dull day at Thrive DC, so enjoy it and make the most of it.

Yesterday, I sat down with one of our most consistent volunteers, Karen, to talk about her time at Thrive DC. Karen, who is originally from Alabama, moved to DC about three years ago and almost immediately started volunteering at Thrive DC. Her husband, who had moved to DC soon before her, looked up places to volunteer in the DC area and found Thrive DC. Soon after, Karen was joining him, volunteering weekly at Thrive DC.

What drew her in was hearing about the welcoming staff and the variety of different services offered to clients, and what kept her here was volunteering for the first time at our morning program. Having the opportunity to serve clients morning breakfast and chat with them brightened her day, and she knew that she wanted to keep coming back.

Karen mentioned many different highlights from her time volunteering but there was one instance in particular that jumped out at her: "I was volunteering at the coat drive last winter and there was a grandmother and granddaughter. After a bit of searching through piles, they found a coat that was perfect for her. The grandmother was so happy to have found her granddaughter the right coat that she began to cry and in turn, the little girl began to cry as well. Their tears of happiness made me realize that we have the ability to create a lasting impact on clients and it made me so happy to see how appreciate they were."

Karen also talked about the day-to-day wins at Thrive DC. She often overhears clients announcing new jobs, or a potential new housing situation, or steps forward in Thrive DC's training programs; the positive changes she overhears in the hallways make Thrive DC that much more special to her. More recently, Karen says that Thrive DC's ability to pivot and supply food to so many during the pandemic has been yet another highlight for her. With the rise in unemployment, more people are in need of food, and Thrive DC has increased their efforts to provide readily available food to the community.

Usually you can find Karen in the mailroom at Thrive DC, but her job stretches far beyond that one room: "I help out in the mailroom, I helped with grocery bag distribution last week, and I help with filling grocery bags a lot as well. I am happy to do anything that the staff needs me to do and I am always ready to help where they need me." Outside of volunteering at Thrive DC, Karen also volunteers at an outreach program with her church. Every Sunday, they help people experiencing homelessness by giving out bags to those living around Union Station.

When asked what advice she would give to someone who is interested in volunteering with us, she replied, "just come with an open mind." She continued, saying, "There are a lot of great staff, a lot of great volunteers, and a lot of great clients. It's such a great community to be a part of, so it is definitely worth joining if you're looking to join a supportive community of people."

Please join Thrive DC in celebrating the launch of our new Gold Standard Business Network (GSBN). We created GSBN to offer to our clients who are returning citizens. This program creates a network of businesses in the DC area committed to helping these returning citizens rejoin the workforce after a period of incarceration. These opportunities will allow them to successfully reintegrate into their respective communities. Through employment, GSBN will do the following: reduce recidivism rates, decrease neighborhood crime, and promote economic stability.

As our Executive Director Alicia Horton stated, “Tapping into a pool of dedicated, eager, and ambitious applicants can only help businesses thrive.”  Kimberly Gray, Thrive DC’s Re-entry Program Manager, spearheaded the program by reaching out to local companies and launching the initiative in September. Through this program, Kim hopes to break cycles of recidivism and rebuild lives.

Thrive DC looks forward to working with this group of companies to help give our reentry clients access to employment opportunities that will help to change their lives. Additionally, f your company would like to join the GSBN, click here to apply.

Our Morning Program is aimed at providing our clients with fresh food, emergency groceries, personal care items, showers, laundry and mail.

Recently, American University students conducted an assessment on our male clients to get a better grasp of their needs and backgrounds. Not only has this report helped our team to further understand our clients but it has created a better awareness of DC homelessness for everyone.

To help you get a sense of who we work with, here are 5 things you should know about our clients.

1. About 1/3 of Our Homeless Speak Spanish

We are located in Columbia Heights, a region with a large Spanish population often overlooked when it comes to Spanish programs.

Wanting to address this growing issue, our bilingual Job Developer David Vicenty has implemented a Spanish Employment Workshops to help our Hispanic clients.

Twice a week, we provide two hours of working one-on-one with them to improve resumes, look for jobs online, and assist with completing job applications.

2. Almost Half Have Lived 5+ Years in DC

Despite DC being internationally recognized as a city with opportunities, DC’s homeless are growing and many are staying homeless.

Though we do provide a variety of programs to all of our clients, our mission is to prevent and end homelessness. That being said, this study is proving just how important it is to continue addressing an often neglected population.

3. Not All of Our Clients are Homeless

Actually, more than 30% are low-income individuals who are struggling to keep afloat. This can be especially difficult when buying groceries since healthy alternatives are often expensive.

Luckily, our Fresh Food Fridays provide a free farmer’s market for all of our clients. Therefore our place becomes a haven for many wanting vegetables, fruits, pasta and much more!

4. Our Clients KNOW They Have the Skills for a Job

In fact, 80% of our clients believe they have what it takes to land a job. However, many of them are currently not working yet and are looking for jobs.

We understand just how essential jobs are and help through our Employment Support and Real Opportunity Training Program. It’s through these programs that our clients are able to make a real change in their lives.

If you're interested in helping people find jobs, contact the Employment Specialist Jemahl Nixon at (202) 503-1521 or jemahl@thrivedc.org.

5. 60% of Our Clients Cannot Afford Public Transportation

Not being able to pay for transportation can be very hard to our clients since this often means they miss major appointments like going to the doctor or job interviews.

However, over one-third of our clients use tokens which allow for a free pass to board the Metro or Metrobus. Yet this continues to be an important issue. In order to help prevent homelessness, we have to provide those who cannot afford to use the Metro or bus the opportunities to get to job interviews.

How You Can Make a Difference

If you enjoyed getting an insightful look into who we serve and how we help, join the Thrive DC team either through volunteering or donating. To get started, contact our Community Relations Manager Greg Rockwell at 202-503-1528 or greg@thrivedc.org.

Click here to read more about the assessment.

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
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