The Steering Committee for Side-by-Side Ministry with the Homeless has announced "a very sad but necessary step … done with a lot of prayer and discernment." Effective March 30, Side-by-Side will cease operation after having faithfully served the homeless in Friendship Park for more than 10 years.
"As the economy continues to be tight, many non-profit organizations are struggling. Side-by-Side is not immune," reads a letter signed by the Rev. Linda Kelly-Baker on behalf of the committee. "Just at the time we were hoping to move to an independent 501(c)3 organization, we are finding it impossible to attract committed board members to make it work, and secure the funding needed to keep Side-by-Side afloat."
The letter continues, "Though many donors have been very faithful over the years, as well as significant support from Loaves & Fishes and the Board of Missions of the California-Nevada Conference of The United Methodist Church, and many local churches, we now realize we just can't make it work."
Kelly-Baker writes that there will be a special goodbye celebration for the ministry in Friendship Park on March 30. All volunteers past and present, steering committee members, and donors are invited.
Afterward, Loaves & Fishes will continue to use the Side-by-Side name, with the ministry's permission, Kelly-Baker says – but it will be a different program, under the management and control of Loaves & Fishes.
Linda Kelly-Baker was appointed to extension ministry with Side-by-Side in 1999. In July 2011, she ceased to be involved on a day-to-day basis, after being appointed to serve Hope UMC in Sacramento.
"I pray for all of you and I hope your prayers are with me," Kelly-Baker concludes. "I am sure that God will provide whatever is needed next – not only in Friendship Park, but in all our lives as well."