Everyone knows that parenting can be a challenging job, but for single moms the job is all that much harder. Realizing that challenge, a group of women at have made it their ministry to serve those moms.
According to Jenni Bartling, member and co-chair of the boutique, Side by Side was created in 2009 by Andrea Zimmerman, the wife of the then assistant rector. Zimmerman felt single moms were underserved and wanted to empower them with dignity.
“It was her goal to provide them with a variety of services to help them in their lives as moms,” said Bartling.
The program consists of several facets including the Side by Side Boutique, Sidebar - once-a-month dinners and presentations, and mentors.
Bartling said mentors are trained through The Mentoring Partnership of Western Pennsylvania before they are assigned a single mom.
“The moms are assigned according to their needs and interests, the interests of the mentors and the mentors’ skills,” said Bartling. Currently, Side by Side serves about 125 women.
The boutique provides clothes and supplies for children from newborn through size 12 (children’s) to the moms, free-of-charge. Donations for new or very gently used clothes and supplies are collected by the ministry for the boutique.
The once-a-month program provides a free dinner and programming for the moms.
“We have had topics such as ‘Ask the pediatrician,’ ‘How to manage your expenses,’ ‘Cooking with your kids,’ – issues that will help the moms,” said Bartling.
The children have child care and separate programming to give the mothers the chance to relax and enjoy the programming and each other’s company.
The mentors provide on-going support for the moms and may include phoning, texting or visiting with the moms.
Currently, Side by Side is hosting a back-to-school clothing and supply drive for their “Back-to-School Boutique” that they will host at the end of August. The group is collecting new or very gently used clothing 6X through teen sizes and school supplies including lunch boxes, backpacks and other supplies. They especially want to collect long-sleeve shirts and pants for cooler weather.
Donations may be placed in the two large plastic bins in the lobby of St. Stephens Church Monday to Saturday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Please note these are only for donations for the Back-to-School Boutique.
“This is the first year that we have had the ‘Back-to-School Boutique.’ The moms are faced with getting new clothes and supplies for school on top of everything else and we want to help with that burden,” said Bartling.
The ministry is always looking for volunteers wishing to assist as mentors and the boutique and for moms who may benefit from the services. For more information visit or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Side by Side Boutique is open Mondays 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. and Fridays 9:30 to 11 a.m. The Back-To-School Boutique will be held August 27th and August 28th. Please check the church later in the month for exact times.