Providing Comfort in Many Ways
At Side by Side, we support youth from many walks of life who have experienced trauma, distress, and worry in many forms. Thanks to partnerships with caring volunteers, we’re able to provide comfort and model self-care to these young clients in cozy, delicious, and heartfelt ways.

Project Linus has been providing lovingly handmade blankets to youth in need since 1995. Since its inception in 2003, the NoBay/Sonoma County chapter has created and donated an incredible 20,105 blankets to young people in need of a big, cozy hug. “It warms my heart,” says chapter president Jenny Giacomini. “It checks all those boxes – it feels so good to bring comfort and love into a child’s life.” Transitional age youth (TAY) who are 19 or 20 and are struggling with housing are often in need of blankets for warmth. “We often get donations more suitable for little kids, but these beautiful blankets are all individual and have beautiful designs,” says TAY Space Program Director Laura Taylor. “Our older youth truly love them and feel the specialness of having an item made just for them. Every single youth in our TAY Space program has received a Project Linus blanket.”
Many other Side by Side clients and Irene M. Hunt School students also received blankets as a comfort item. Denisse Mendoza, Community Services Program Director for Sonoma/Napa/Marin, recently helped a client obtain a weighted blanket to help with anxiety. “But she said her new blanket made her feel like Winnie the Pooh's Eeyore because it was boring and plain. So, I contacted Project Linus who donated a beautiful homemade blanket. She sewed it to her weighted blanket, and now it brings her joy!”
Cake 4 Kids donates custom birthday cakes created by volunteer bakers to our Real Alternatives and TAY Space youth. “We always try our best to celebrate our youth, but there is something uniquely special about a homemade birthday cake that provides a sense of comfort beyond our capabilities,” says Ahnjolique Haskins, Director of Transitional Housing for Real Alternatives. “A lot of our youth have never had a birthday cake. They are always so thrilled to find out that someone took the time to make a special cake just for them to acknowledge their birthday. Sometimes they even cry in gratitude!”
Youth get to choose the theme, the color, and the flavor, and vegans are always amazed that even vegan cakes are available. Cake4Kids Executive Director and volunteer baker Alison Bakewell explains why the bakers go to such lengths. “There are youth out there who thought their birthday was just another day, or worse, there are negative associations with their birthday. We can turn that around for them. That matters so much to us.” According to TAY Space Program Director Laura Taylor, “The cakes are magnificent! The minute you open the box, you can see the love pouring out.”
Since 1966, the Glenwood Guild has supported Side by Side’s programs and services with annual fundraising events, but in order to impact Side by Side’s youth more directly, they also provide monthly treats for holiday-based theme events at the Hunt School, such as Halloween, Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day.
“Part of the work we do is building a sense of community,” says Hunt School Director Jolene Yee. “The sparkle provided by the Glenwood Guild helps to build that sense of community. Guild volunteers care so much and really think about providing something that is exciting not only for the younger kids but also for our teenagers. My hope is that when students move on, these celebrations become part of what they remember when they look back on the time they spent with us at The Hunt School.”
“Everyone in the Guild is a mother AND grandmother -- we care about give and love giving our time and efforts,” says Guild president Gill Keirl, who (along with many others in the Glenwood Guild) has volunteered for over 40 years. “We may not see the faces of the youth we are serving, but these treats are a gift from the heart.” “We want to properly say thank you to the Guild,” says Yee. "The generosity of spirit is enormous.”