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Volunteer Spotlight: Interview with Cassandra

Posted on October 15, 2018

We couldn’t do this critical work without your help and continued support for our clients whether that be helping Chef Terrance in the kitchen to sorting mail and everything in between, the impact is helping us better serve the community. We are sharing stories that resonate with our clients, staff, and volunteers though our Stories of Hope and our Volunteer Spotlight series.

Colleen, our Communications Intern, sat down with Cassandra to ask her a few questions about her experience with Thrive DC. Cassandra volunteers with Thrive DC on a weekly basis, and sometimes even brings her son along with her! Thank you Cassandra for all that you do to make Thrive DC a great place for our clients!

What made you interested in volunteering with Thrive?

I volunteered since I was your age in college. My college had a little literacy program for their staff, so when I was a sophomore in college I started tutoring, he was actually one of the gardeners on campus, and I just loved it. And then I have a masters in social work, and I’m not working, and I miss that connection to people and this fits everything I want. Working with people, Ward 1, DC focused. I mostly work with the women in the women’s program but I have also done the employment program, my son and I volunteered for a year in the dinner program before the hours got changed, so it’s just  … it feels right. It feels like home to me.

How long have you been with us?

I think 2.5 or 3 years

How has your experience been with Thrive?

I love it. It’s a great place to volunteer!

What has stood out to you the most when volunteering at Thrive?

The relationships between the staff and the clients, you see a lot of love there. You see a lot of teasing of each other back and forth in a loving way. You just, I think that what makes Thrive a wonderful place is that the clients are pretty consistent so because of that consistency people are able to forge relationships and it doesn’t feel transactional, it feels like part of a family and people are just trying to help each other out. It’s just...it’s great, it’s a great place to be.

What roles have you played as a volunteer?

I’ve done a lot. Well my son and I did the dinner program when he was in the third grade. That’s another thing, Thrive is one of the few places kids can volunteer starting when they’re 8 years old. So Allister volunteered for a year, every week, after school, but then the funding got cut and the hours changed so he can’t do that anymore because he’s in school from 2-4, but from 4-6 we come once a week. So he and I did the dinner program, I’ve helped out in the employment program, I’ve more frequently been getting pulled to do the front desk, which I like, it’s fast paced. And then the clothing drive, I’ve done a bunch of coat distributions, and through my son’s school, Janney and Thrive have had a 20 year relationship so on the Janney end I coordinate the gift drive for the clients for Christmas and now am the Thrive liason from Janney.

How was your experience volunteering with the clothing drive?

It was great. It was a lot of fun, it’s well organized! I was really impressed with how everything flowed, how the development team came together and they had a lot of fun with it and the clients seemed to be pretty happy. It was just a good experience.

Is there a moment with a client(s) that has stood out to you?

I don’t feel like there’s a moment, I feel like every day that I come here somebody is happy. Whether it’s the woman who’s super excited that it’s mashed potatoes for dinner and she gets a big scoop of them. Or last week, a man came in he  and he had been to four different agencies trying to get funding for a pair of glasses. I was at the front desk that day and i was able to very quickly fill out a check request and he was just so grateful that it was so painless when he got here. So every day something happens. With so much negativity in the world, and all of these things we can’t control, it’s nice that every day you come here and something, someone, you can make their life or their day just a little bit better. And what might not seem like a big deal to some of us, like new reading glasses, was huge to this guy. Another thing that stands out is just how embraced my son was when he was a volunteer here. For his ninth birthday, we volunteered here the day after, and he wanted to bring cupcakes in for all of the women in the program. They were all so sweet to him. So I don’t know, everything stands out.

What is the most rewarding moment you have had at Thrive?

Every day you leave feeling like ‘you know what, I hope I helped make someone’s life or their day a little better.’ You get to do that here.

What advice would you give to someone who is interested or just starting to volunteer with us?

You can’t be shy. This is not a place for people who need a lot of hand holding. You just have to jump in, introduce yourself to people, ask how you can be useful, and get to know people. The staff here are lovely and wonderful. See how you can be of service that day. You’re here to volunteer your time, well what can you do that day to be helpful?

Anything else you’d like to add?

I think it’s sad that a place like Thrive is needed, especially in a city as wealthy and a country as wealthy as this. I know that Thrive wishes they could do more to help people, but the need is so great the supplies are so limited. But, the fact that it is needed and in Ward 1 where so many of their services have left, Thrive just does the best they can do. People just don’t seem really stressed out, it seems like every is trying to do the best that they can.

Colleen is a junior at the George Washington University double majoring in English and journalism with a minor in creative writing. Originally from Allentown, Pennsylvania, Colleen hopes to enter the world of communications post graduation and hopefully work in the nonprofit field. Colleen is passionate about housing in D.C., and previously interned with Street Sense Media, a D.C. newspaper dedicated to reporting on issues relevant to the homeless community. On her campus, Colleen is the Political Affairs chair for Voices for Choices, GW’s reproductive justice advocacy organization, and is a member of the Feminist Student Union.

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