Side by Side Respite Ministry creates joy for those with Dementia

Dementia is an illness that affects many Americans, especially senior citizens.
Published: Jul. 26, 2023 at 10:24 PM CDT
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LONG BEACH, Miss. (WLOX) - Dementia is an illness that affects many Americans, especially senior citizens.

The First United Methodist Church in Long Beach is creating a safe and fun space for those suffering in our community.

In 2019, a group of church members proposed to bring Side by Side Ministry to their church. Their pastor responded positively, and a group set off to Montgomery, Alabama, to learn more about the illness and how to care for those struggling.

After the pandemic set the implementation back, First United Methodist was finally able to begin the ministry in October 2022, and it has only grown ever since. “We started with three,” said Peggy Powell, coordinator of Side by Side, and we’re up to about 14.”

That’s people with dementia who each and every week get to connect, play games, laugh, sing, and even dance.

“We started doing exercise, and our participants are all seated, you know, in chairs, and it’s what everybody can do,” said Cathy Broadway, another coordinator of Side by Side. “Well, exercise all of a sudden turned into a dance party.”

Infectious smiles and laughter fill the room every Wednesday that the ministry gathers.

“One of our people said, when she came, ‘All of my people are here!’,” said Powell. “So, she feels at home here. And they love each other. Which is another thing that really has been a wonderful experience.”

Side by Side meets every Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at First United Methodist Church in Long Beach.

To learn more about the program, visit

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