Thank You Side by Side!
Side by Side is a amazing partner to us at the House. Run out of University Presbyterian Church, the organization provides meals every Monday. Although the group has only three staff members, they manage an army of volunteers who have an enormous impact here at the House. Their Communications Coordinator, Maren Finzer, sat down with us for a quick chat amidst a busy kitchen full of Side-by-Side members making dinner. “I think volunteering is kind of addictive,” says Maren. “It’s a privilege to be able to come in and serve your families dinner. In the context of the families and what they’re facing, those meals mean so much more: encouragement, hope, and showing them we’re with them. “
Side-by-Side focuses their dinners on providing as much homemade food as possible. They make sure that what they serve are things not featured at the hospital, to provide variety for families. But most importantly, they cook with great love and spirit. “I think one of the greatest things about volunteering here is the fact that you start with nothing but a group of people and in just two hours, you’ve not only made a great meal but created connections with your team and with the families here.” Side by Side tries to match an individual’s personality with tasks they will enjoy and do well at in the kitchen. “I think it’s really rewarding to see people find their place in a group and have fun cooking together. It just adds a little sunshine to someone’s day if you give them ownership of a certain task that fits their personality. You just see people bloom when they are empowered, even if it’s a little job, like chopping fruit.” Maren’s advice for new meal groups is to keep recipes simple. “Get the basics down first, and go from there,” she adds. “Sometimes the simple things in life are the best! A meal doesn’t need to be extravagant to make a big difference.”
In addition to providing a weekly meal, the group also provides other services at the House. They carefully screen and select volunteers to be part of their Family Support program, which provides care and companionship for kids who are far away from their relatives. This might mean that volunteers play Uno with a child or take them for a trip to the Space Needle. The program provides many families at the House with breaks for 2 to 5 hours, so caregivers can have a much needed break. “It’s just as important to take care of the caregivers,” Maren notes. “For kids it’s an afternoon of delight and distraction, and for caregivers it is a chance to rest and recuperate.”