202-737-9311 | info@thrivedc.org

Eight months ago Antoinette moved from New York City to Washington, DC to be with her boyfriend. But life here was difficult without a job and without any prospects to get a job.

She went to Skyland Workforce Center hoping to get help, and that’s where she found Thrive DC. With encouragement from Thrive DC’s Employment Specialist, Antoinette applied for the Real Opportunity program and was accepted.

Antoinette enjoyed everything about the program, which gave her extra incentive to get up early each day so she could make the trip from Anacostia.

The Real Opportunity Training Program was a great learning experience for Antoinette, exposing her to new cooking techniques and practices she’d never considered, everything from managing a pantry and rotating stock to the different kinds of cuts for meat. But what she learned most was to have patience…with others and with herself.

Antoinette drew strength from the people around her – the Thrive DC staff, her instructors, and her fellow program participants. The spirit of cooperation and respect was something she hadn’t planned on, but was incredibly thankful for.

Once Antoinette was placed at Dos Gringos for her externship, her learning continued. From chopping ingredients to stocking shelves and washing dishes, Antoinette gained experience in all aspects of the kitchen. She impressed her manager at the restaurant so much that once her externship was over she was asked to continue – as a paid employee!

Antoinette now feels more stable and looks forward to someday becoming a chef and perhaps owning her own business. She hopes to one day help others who are in situations similar to hers because: “If you’re going to take, you’ve got to be willing to give.”

A Job Training Program That Works

Want more information on Thrive DC's Real Opportunity Training Program? Click the link to learn more about our comprehensive program supporting people out of homelessness.

More Stories of Hope

If you like this story, you might also enjoy reading about Dalton and Jeffrey.

Dalton liked to cook. That’s why he was so excited to hear about culinary training programs that could help him get back on his feet.

After leaving incarceration three years ago, Dalton struggled with homelessness and finding a job. He tried everything but kept running into a wall. What kept him going, however, was six words:

“Change I must, or die I will.”

“I just had to hold it together,” he said. “Lots of prayer.”

Dalton had heard about two programs he could try: one at Central Union Mission and the other at Thrive DC. He didn’t know which one he wanted to do, but he decided that he would choose based on how the food was at each place.

He went to Central Union Mission and thought their food was OK. But when he came to Thrive DC he thought: “Wow. They were working hard.”

Dalton was blown away by how full Thrive DC was all the time and how much people kept coming back for the food. He knew he wanted to go where people took pride in the work they were doing.

“I haven’t had people like Chef Terrence in my life. I made a good, conscious decision to pursue my career here and I’m so thankful of that.”

Thrive DC’s Real Opportunity Training Program is six months long and hard work, but Dalton was glad to be working. It helped keep him busy, helped him not to focus on his past incarceration or not having a home of his own to go back to.

“I ended up here as a result of committing to change. I really wanted to learn what these people had to offer, and I think I accomplished that.”

After six months, Dalton finally graduated. He took with him a great reference from his externship at Amsterdam Falafel, and is currently looking forward to passing his SafeServ certification and getting his Culinary Arts degree from Stratford University.

“I’m not quite finished yet. This is my new start!”

A Job Training Program That Works

Want more information on Thrive DC's Real Opportunity Training Program? Click the link to learn more about our comprehensive program supporting people out of homelessness.

More Stories of Hope

Enjoyed reading about Dalton's success? You might also like Jeffrey's and Antoinette's story.

Jeffrey was homeless and needed help when he heard about Thrive DC. He needed a place that would enhance his skill set and give him a real chance at steady employment - something that would not just to sustain him but also help him reach his ambitions to be a manager.

He needed a place that would take the time to invest in him. There were lots of programs that were 6 – 8 weeks long, but it seemed like as soon as you started you were walking out the door.

That’s when Jeffrey heard about Thrive DC.

He was at Bread for the City when they gave him a referral to our Real Opportunity Training Program. At first he was unsure; while he wanted a better training program, Thrive DC’s was six months long and much more dense and challenging.

Ultimately though, the program was everything he was looking for:

“When I first came to Thrive DC, I was uncertain because I didn’t know a lot about the program. Now, Thrive DC is a place I would recommend. All the different programs Thrive DC has to enhance lifestyles are great and the staff is really professional. This has been an intense and gratifying program.”

Jeffrey is currently finishing his externship at Open City in Woodley Park and is under consideration for employment there. But after his time in the Real Opp program, Jeffrey also has a new dream.

“I want to return the favor for what Thrive DC has done for me. I’m working on getting my business license so that I can teach others about sanitation, knife work, and all of the skills you need when working in this industry. I want to be a food service consultant and train people in the private sector.”

When asked what he had learned through the Real Opp program, Jeffrey had just one thing to say:

“I have learned that you can always get what you want through hard work. You’re going to have challenges, but you have to work through them.”

“It was worth it.”

A Job Training Program That Works

Want more information on Thrive DC's Real Opportunity Training Program? Click the link to learn more about our comprehensive program supporting people out of homelessness.

More Stories of Hope

If you like this story, you might also enjoy reading about Dalton and Antionette.

This year violent crime in DC has skyrocketed. With the increased violence comes more scrutiny at repeat offenders and those who have experienced incarceration multiple times, a group that was called out during a recently publicized email conversation between DC Police Chief Lanier and a concerned citizen.

While repeat offenders may be involved in rising violent crime in DC, it’s important to remember that this is a uniquely vulnerable population that faces many barriers to stability with little support. Two staff members from Thrive DC took the time to sit down and explain what it’s like for someone coming out of incarceration, and what Thrive DC does for people when no one else will help.

Can you introduce yourself (briefly) and what you do at Thrive DC?

Nicole: I am the Re-entry Program Manager for Thrive DC. I am responsible for coordination of services, case management, and life skills group facilitation for the women’s program for returning citizens: Women in New Directions. This program combines employment assistance, sobriety maintenance, basic needs, and supportive services offered by Thrive DC staff to assist women in their journey to stable and productive lives.

Jemahl: I am the Employment Specialist here at Thrive DC. I have over 12 years of experience in employment services teaching, training, and guiding community members toward self sufficiency. I specialize in working with individuals who are seeking to re-engage themselves back into the workforce and aide in developing habits that are relevant to the job or career of their choice.

At Thrive DC, I also manage the Real Opportunity Culinary Program, which is a 23 week extensive program designed to provide soft and hard skills training and an externship within the food service industry. For ex-offenders, restaurant kitchens and construction jobs offer the most opportunity for stable employment.

What is the biggest struggle for ex offenders coming out of incarceration?

Nicole & Client

Nicole: What isn’t one of their biggest struggles?  In most cases what we would consider immediate needs are their biggest struggles. Employment, personal documents, stable housing, food, peace of mind, and rest are just a few of the barriers that many women and men face once released from custody. Each of these contributes greatly to an individual’s ability to become and remain a productive citizen.

Jemahl: All ex offenders struggle when transitioning from incarceration to a stable environment. What makes the transition more difficult is having to do it without support and immediately being expect to provide for themselves after starting with no resources and no initial funds.

Most people aren’t aware, but most ex-offenders released from incarceration finish their sentence in a halfway house that is supposed to help them with the transition. But without any money, IDs, or transportation, it’s extremely hard to make something happen for yourself before your time in the halfway house is up and you’re out on the streets.

As a result of not having the support and resources to help with their specific barriers, ex-offenders often get upset with the process and some will fall back into behaviors that contributed to their trouble in the first place.

What opportunities do you have at Thrive for ex offenders to turn their lives around?

Nicole: Most importantly, we offer support for those who are tired. As a returning citizen there is always something new to get back on track, and the process of finding housing, employment, services, benefits, etc can be draining. We work to assist returning citizens with the much needed leg-work that helps them piece their lives back together.

Supporting these women means being available and stating the hard facts. For example, I have helped a client recover from identity theft, something that happens more frequently when moving from incarceration to transitional living. I’ve provided a listening ear when personal issues and circumstances become overwhelming, and visited a client at her treatment program just to let her know that she’s not alone. Simple things like that help my ladies keep going in the right direction.

Jemahl Nixon

Jemahl: At Thrive DC, we offer access and support from our Employment Assistance Program and the Real Opportunities Program. Both programs are aimed at assisting individuals who have high barriers to employment. One of those barriers is the simple fact of there status as a returning citizen. Here we act as a buffer for all clients to advocate on their behalf and encourage employers that the skills and abilities gained within our training program will be an asset to their business.

What makes it hard for Thrive DC to help ex offenders? 

Nicole: There is no one answer to this question; in my short time here I have seen/heard a combination of answers: that transportation is unreliable (it may take up to 3 buses to get from some areas in SE to Thrive DC), that the area around Thrive DC is too tempting for relapse (Columbia Heights being where they once participated in illegal/drug activities), and time/scheduling issues. Having the motivation to ask for assistance, and a willingness to commit to the processes is also a big struggle for clients who tried and failed before.

Another issue is that some agencies we share clients with may not always have the same zeal that I do for ensuring that their clients get all that is available to them. There have been issues in the past with agencies not willing to coordinating services, and times when it has been difficult to speak to shared clients at another agency’s location.

Ex-offenders face a lot of stigma, especially the idea that since they did the crime, they deserve all the consequences that come from that. Whatever they may be. For ex-offenders, it’s hard not to get punished over and over for the same past crimes.

Jemahl: If an ex-offender has the time, access, and opportunity he/she is welcome. But if the ex-offender has no open time, access, or opportunity to come and enjoy the benefits of our program, they will be very difficult to assist.

What can people do to support your programs?

Nicole: My ladies have a hard time committing to the program because of all the obstacles in their way. People can help them by providing us with gift cards to grocery stores, coffee shops, hair salons, and places like Target that can be incentives and rewards for clients on their path back to stability.

But the biggest thing that people can do is to keep encouraging returning citizens to persevere. Ex-offenders face a lot of uphill battles, and get frustrated with organizations they’ve had bad experiences with. Support and encouragement to keep working with organizations trying to help them make the biggest difference in our clients’ path back to success.

Jemahl: To support the employment department of Thrive DC:

Employers – Allow an opportunity for ex-offenders who have come through our employment program a chance to work with your organization.

Community Supporters – Assist our programs with your talents, gifts, and resources to help all guests of Thrive DC and specifically ex-offenders in their re-entry process.

To support either the WIND program or our Employment Services, please contact our Community Relations Coordinator Greg Rockwell at 202-503-1528 or greg@thrivedc.org.

Louise is an AVODAH Service Corps member, and has spent the last year at Thrive DC working with clients as a Case Manager and Employment Program Assistant. She has been an amazing addition to Thrive DC, and we already miss her terribly. Below are five moments, in no particular order, that stuck out for Louise during her time here.

Today I went to the National Geographic Museum with a group of clients for the second time. The clients I went with the first time are some of the people with whom I’ve connected the most this year; beyond our conversations about fish bones and dinosaurs we were able to talk just as people. It was the first time I got a chance to see who they were outside of their daily needs.

The trip today gave me a space to reflect on how my relationships and connections at Thrive DC have grown this year. Summing up my experience is an impossible task. Instead, I want to reflect on a few “snapshots.” These are the moments I hope to remember for a long time.


Moment #1

Today I sorted mail. I mean, I usually sort mail at least once a day because we get A LOT of mail. But today I really enjoyed it. Maybe it’s because I’m leaving soon or maybe I’m just feeling particularly reflective...

I like going through the names, thinking about all the people that come to Thrive DC, making a mental note that “oh ______ hasn’t been in here in a while, hope he’s okay” or getting excited about someone’s progress: “her ID finally came! I can’t wait to give it to her tomorrow.”

Sorting mail for me is a visual confirmation of how many people are part of the Thrive DC community - how many people feel comfortable, consistent and safe in this space.

Moment #2

Today I walked to work with a client. As I closed my front door, I looked up and saw him about half a block ahead of me. I caught up with him at the light, stood next to him and just smiled. He did one of those double takes and we started laughing.

We walked and talked for about 4 blocks until I checked my watch, realized that I was running 10 minutes late, gave him a quick goodbye, tripped over a branch, and listened to his laughter as I ran the last block to Thrive DC. I love living in a neighborhood with the people I serve!

Moment #3

Today we had a good vibe in music group. Some days the music just rolls and today was a smooth rollin’ day. Members of the group have really started to gel. We know and accept each others’ strengths and weaknesses.

Today I sat back and listened and watched and laughed and appreciated the moments....
like when one person starts playing a song and everyone knows it and just starts singing along;
when I see the stress and exhaustion from the day leave their faces for a moment;
when they acknowledge shared history and experiences;
when I get to learn about DC through music;
when I witness someone start to slowly heal from a traumatic life event…
when I am welcomed into this community.

I smile just thinking about members of the group sitting together and eating breakfast. These guys who didn’t know each other before now sit together almost every day because of what we're building together.

Moment #4

Today was a goofy day. At one point, I was salsa dancing with my officemate because he wanted to prove he could dance. Later, I decided to try and fit into one of the giant, human-sized boxes that we were going to use for the coat drive. I also got stuck in said box and one of the other case managers had to help me out. There were a lot of laughs today, necessary relief after a hard week.

Moment #5

Today our Real Opportunity Culinary Class graduated. Everyone has been hired on at their externship sites!

On my first day at Thrive DC, I worked with a client to fill out a job application. That was his first day at Thrive DC as well. For three weeks we spent every Tuesday and Thursday together filling out job applications without any results.

When we started recruiting people for the Real Opps program, he was the first to apply. And today I watched him graduate. He came to Thrive DC unemployed and without stable housing. He’s graduating today with both a job and a place to live. I’m speechless.

Today I give thanks to my Thrive community…

Thank you for sharing your stories.
Thank you for giving me a hard time.
Thank you for the jokes.
Thank you for teaching me about DC.
Thank you to our amazing volunteers.
Thank you to the Thrive staff.
… Thank you for welcoming me into this community.

We want to give BIG congratulations to two of our Real Opportunity Training Program (Real Opp) clients. Brian and Anthony have done an amazing job committing and succeeding in our two month course!.

Brian is now working full-time by Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe. About the Real Opp program, he says "With the right attitude you can accomplish anything you want."

At Kramerbooks, he has been a model employee always willing to help a coworker out. We're so proud of you, congratulations Brian!.

Anthony has thrived in the Real Opp program. Despite personal challenges, and a history of homelessness and incarceration, he has overcome everything to find a full-time position at The Diner in Adams Morgan.

He is hard working and dedicated, refusing to eat until after his shift is over. The first day he showed up for work, he told his manager "You're going to get exactly what you see today...on time, hard working, committed." Congratulations Anthony!

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

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