Rooftop Friends provides caregivers the freedom to sit alone with a cup of coffee, while at the same time, offer joy, laughter, and new “buddies” for children and young adults with disabilities.
The ministry of Young Meadows Presbyterian Church in Montgomery serves families by providing respite times for caregivers in conjunction with activities and events for their children with disabilities – as well as their siblings.
It is through this effort, said Hope Cassidy, who serves as the spokesperson for Rooftop Friends, that caregivers are offered a chance to breathe. To feel refreshed – to do something solo. It is a needed break for them to recharge. For the children, it is a time for fellowship, to spend time with “buddies,” to high-five new friends.
Rooftop Friends provides this care throughout the year through several events, including a water event in May that includes a waterslide, activities, and a lunch at Young Meadows. They also gather with Miracle League and Dream Court. As parents register their children for these organizational sport teams, the children are paired with “buddies” and run around baseball bases or tennis courts.
“It’s a chance to be friended, to have some normalcy in a very abnormal world,” Cassidy said of pairing up with “buddies” at respite events.
The largest event through Rooftop Friends is “Joy of Giving,” which allows children with disabilities and their siblings to “shop” for their family. At this year’s December 2 respite event from 9 a.m. until noon at Young Meadows, parents drop off their children for a morning of shopping, arts and crafts, Christmas carols and to hear the story of Jesus.
“It’s a respite event, and it is so that caregivers get a morning break,” Cassidy said. “It gives them the chance to have some downtime, some free time to get to do something for themselves. To shop for Christmas, eat a meal out with a friend.
“Some moms will go to a coffee shop and sit by themselves simply because they have the freedom to do that.”
For their children who attend “Joy of Giving,” Rooftop Friends sets up Santa’s workshop. All year long, the non-profit receives donations of gifts for people of all ages.
“We do require pre-registration, so we know who children are shopping for,” Cassidy said of those who attend the event.
What Rooftop Friends needs this year are “buddies,” as one buddy is partnered with each child and another with siblings. Those age 15 and older can work with children with disabilities, and age 10 and older can “buddy” with the siblings.
“We need buddies for gift-wrapping tables, shoppers, helping at snack tables, craft buddies, volunteers to sign people in in the morning,” Cassidy said. “Usually, we have upward of 50 to 60 volunteers. We have members of our church who volunteer, and also community members. This is one Saturday out of the year that they can come and be blessed.
“They have a blast,” Cassidy said of the children. “They love being able to pick out presents – and it’s a party. Some children have sensory issues, and they sometimes keep their headphones on. We do have a sensory room – a quiet area – for them.”
Rooftop Friends events are open to families in the greater River Region area. The ability to minister to families is because of generous support received from the Young Meadows church family and partner churches including Christchurch and Trinity Presbyterian Church.
“As we grow and reach out, adding additional partner churches, we envision the scope of our ministry to grow in the River Region,” Cassidy said.
Special needs ministries are relational, by nature, for all people, according to a “Why we do the things we do” statement on the Young Meadows website. People with disabilities are the glorious image-bearers of God, just like the rest of us. Ministry to, and alongside people with disabilities, matters to us because it matters to Jesus. Jesus very intentionally engaged people touched by disability with the good news of the coming of His Kingdom.
Hundreds have been served through Rooftop. Its primary plan almost 15 years ago was outreach to the community and respite events. Now, they keep their focus strictly on the respite opportunities they can provide – and training “buddies” to work alongside the children.
“If anyone is uncomfortable being a buddy, they can be trained prior to,” Cassidy said. “We want to answer any questions, any concerns. For our buddies, we ask for an army of loving volunteers. People with disabilities want to be as normal as anyone else. Just have a loving heart. Be an encourager. It’s a pretty happy time, because people are able to do a lot of what they love, including a shopping trip.
The respite events throughout the year help children, Cassidy said, as “they are the center of someone’s world. And it is a chance to form a friendship. For the ‘Joy of Giving,’ it’s a chance for the children to give back to their families with the shopping and gifts, and to feel good to give back after all that is done for them.”
Volunteering with Rooftop, Cassidy said, is an opportunity to give “to the least of these. We are based on the story of Mark, where the friends lower a person with a disability to see Jesus in the rooftop – we want people to get involved because of that experience” in the Bible.
How to give:
Visit online at www.youngmeadows.org and click on “Give”
How to volunteer:
To volunteer for “Joy of Giving,” call
Young Meadows Church at 334-244-1385.
For more information:
Message: Rooftop Friends on Facebook