I Volunteer To Get My Daughters Out Of Their Bubble

Why do you volunteer?

We sat down with Denise Woods, one of our long-time volunteers, to see what got her involved with our homeless clients, what has been a powerful moment for her, and what she is most proud of. Read on to see her answers!

Denise and Kids

What is your background outside of Thrive DC?

I am an activist, advocate, consultant, mother, baker, interior designer and more. Did you notice yet that I hate boxes?

What got you interested in volunteering?

A neighbor told me about Thrive DC. For a long time I had wanted to volunteer with an organization that supports people in homelessness; when I found out I could bring my kids here I thought “Bingo!”

I wanted to make sure my that daughters experienced life outside our bubble and learned empathy for the people who don’t share our economic circumstances. Ever since I noticed that their first reaction to seeing homeless people on the street was fear, it’s been my goal to humanize our neighbors living on the edge.

I felt that Thrive DC could be transformative if my girls learned their stories and understood that people are so much more than their circumstances.

How has your experience been?

Terrible. Just kidding! I have volunteered with similar organizations and couldn’t leave quickly enough. At Thrive I feel like I leave better than when I enter.

I might come to Thrive in a bad mood, worried about the world’s problems or frustrated with my family, but I leave encouraged and emboldened by the hugs I receive and the conversations I have.

The people here show me the strength of the human spirit and I know my frustrations are tiny by comparison.

A powerful moment I’ve had here was when a client told me she spends three hours a day on the bus to eat at Thrive DC. She said this is the only place she knows where she will be seen and treated as a whole human being.

What do you like best about volunteering with Thrive DC?

Toss up between staff and clients! The clients have often given me great advice about how to handle a family situation they themselves have faced, and the staff could not make this a more welcoming place to volunteer. Seriously!

From Alicia, who is as real as an Executive Director comes, to all the staff who treat their clients like they truly matter – not only do they make what could be an embarrassing and humiliating experience for the clients enjoyable and affirming, they also make sure to know all the clients names and mine.

Staff greeting clients as they walk in

Staff greeting clients as they walk in

What has been a funny moment that stood out to you?

I walked up to Thrive recently and one of the clients who I know and admire was outside.

As I walked up he began to sing about letting go of stress and finding the blessings in life while playing air guitar, and I couldn’t help but laugh and join in!

I wanted to make sure my that daughters experienced life outside our bubble and learned empathy for the people who don’t share our economic circumstances. Ever since I noticed that their first reaction to seeing homeless people on the street was fear, it’s been my goal to humanize our neighbors living on the edge.

I felt that Thrive DC could be transformative if my girls learned their stories and understood that people are so much more than their circumstances.

What has been an emotional moment that stood out to you?

We had a fire drill one cold day and we all ran outside without our coats – except for those who hadn’t taken them off yet – and I started talking to one of the clients and complaining about the temperatures. To my surprise she immediately opened her coat and let me get inside!

I felt like she was a mother duck sheltering her duckling, even though I was 20 years older than her. And even though she is black and I am white there was no hesitancy at all in her generosity.

Another powerful moment was when a client told me that she spends three hours a day on the bus to eat at Thrive DC every day. She told me this is the only place she knows where she will be seen and treated as a whole human being.

I was floored, and it made me realize just how significant Thrive is for her and many others.

What service or program are you most proud of Thrive DC providing?

I am so proud of all of the above and Thrive DC’s capacity to connect clients with housing resources. When someone has a home it means their life can be moved from the edges to a stable foundation.

 Is there anything you wish the city was doing differently for the homeless now that you’ve been working with them?

Funding for families. Funding for crisis services. Funding for affordable housing. Need I say more?

Volunteer With Your Family

Would you also like your family to volunteer with the homeless?

Thrive DC accepts youth as young as 15 to serve in our Morning Program, and as young as 10 to serve in our Dinner Program.

To get started, sign up for a Volunteer Orientation using the button below; you can also contact our Volunteer Coordinator directly at [email protected] or 202-503-1533.

Sign Up To Volunteer!
By | 2018-01-04T13:23:39+00:00 January 4th, 2018|Blog, Homelessness, Volunteer|0 Comments