St. Stephen's Side by Side ministry to offer mentor-training class

| Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

Side by Side is making it even easier to help.

For those who would like to mentor a single parent who is raising children alone, a training class is available from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at St. Stephen's Church, 405 Frederick Ave., Sewickley.

Side by Side, a St. Stephen's ministry, has provided mentoring and other resources to single parents in the Sewickley and Beaver Valley areas since 2009.

There now are eight pairs of mentors and mothers, team member Jenni Bartling said. Although the mission is to “provide real help to single mothers with children of all ages,” a single father would not be left to fend for himself. Single dads would first be referred to the St. Stephen's People Helpers ministry to help him.

In the past, training was done off site, but Side by Side now has partnered with Adoption Connection, PA, of Beaver to provide the training at the church.

The training is open to interested adults and will cover topics such as communication styles, active listening, cultural diversity and connecting with community resources. There is no cost for the class. Adoption Connection, PA, is a local, nonprofit, Christian adoption agency that is launching a program, Birth Mother's Friends.

The primary goal is to “reach the lost and save the vulnerable,” Bartling said.

“It just seemed that Adoption Connection and Side by Side have complementary goals. If participants want to work with Side by Side, this is the first step in the process. If they want to work alongside a mother who plans to provide adoptive parents for her baby, they can work with Adoption Connection,” she said.

“We refer to our mentors as ‘sidekicks,' and we do so because we consider the moms we serve to be ‘super heroes.'

“Many single mothers come from difficult circumstances. We think it is an extraordinary thing to choose to give a child up for adoption or raise them on her own.”

Linda Foltz, a single mother since 2010 from Coraopolis, said she has had a Side by Side mentor for three years, and the program has helped her make new friends and realize there are other parents who are going though the same thing.

She said she has a close relationship with her mentor, Darleen Skapick of Ambridge.

“She is like a mom to me. She is always there for me. I also grew to know her husband, Noel, and I like to think of him like a dad, because he is also there if we need anything,” Foltz said,

She has two children, Samantha, 7, and Kayla, 23 months, and a stepdaughter, Jordan, 15.

A friend told Foltz about Side by Side and took her to a meeting. At the meeting, the women stood up and told their stories about being single mothers.

“There was one lady who stood out of them all, Darleen. When she started to tell her story, I started to cry because her story was so much like mine. I told my friend that I wanted to meet her,” Foltz said.

Foltz said she now has a great man in her life, and she is so happy she has Side by Side.

At times, she will take Samantha with her to the Side by Side meetings every third Thursday, which she calls “mommy day.”

Bartling said she loves the relationship she has developed with “her” single mom.

“I feel like we have grown beyond the ‘mentor-mentee,' and have really become friends. I am so inspired by her ability to handle the demands of parenting seven children — five of them under her roof. I am not sure who gets more out the time we spend together, her or me.”

She said the circumstances of the mothers involved with Side by Side are so varied.

“I have really had my eyes opened, and my ego humbled. But I love these ladies. Everyone one of them is doing their best.”

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or

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