(Karen sorting through mail, which is a task she does most weeks at Thrive DC)

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.”