SPiN Café fundraiser promotes supportive outreach

— Created May 18, 2022 by Melanie Hammons

By Melanie Hammons

Most visits to a café of any sort revolve around enjoying a delicious beverage, quite often in the company of friends. At Oak Harbor’s SPiN (Serving People in Need) Café, guests experience a similar type of camaraderie, and then some. For this café is a day center, a safe place where folks with no other place to go can access supportive resources geared to improve their life situations, said SPiN Director, Michele Chapman.

“Our guests are very respectful and appreciative,” Chapman said.  She described them as a community-minded group of individuals, in that they form friendships and look out for one another.

“They care for one another. And they completely blow away the narrative that said, ‘people who’ve fallen on hard times, or are experiencing homelessness, are irresponsible.’”

Chapman gave a snapshot of what SPiN’s mission encompasses. It’s a safe place, no alcohol or drugs, which allows individuals a respite from the weather during the day. Computers and WiFi connections are there. SPiN partners with organizations such as Opportunity Council, The Haven, Sea Mar clinic, Whidbey Homeless Coalition and more, to offer services. She said that quite often, folks are unaware of the help that’s already out there.

Arrangements can also be made to cover basic daily needs such as showers and doing laundry. And beyond the camaraderie and connections available, Chapman detailed some other practical ways SPiN café provides assistance.

“The sack lunch program is something we offer. But we couldn’t do it without the eight local church congregations that keep that going,” Chapman said. That program was recently expanded to cover weekends as well, at Hal Ramaley Memorial Park.

Hot meals are available on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays at SPiN. Chapman pointed out that “this program is growing. And it’s open to anyone who wants a meal. People, because of inflation and the high cost of groceries, are reaching out for this more and more. But it won’t continue after December unless we secure the replacement funds to secure it.”

And that is where SPiN’s Spring Fling fundraiser comes into play. The event will take place Saturday at Oak Harbor Elks Lodge. Doors open at 5 p.m. Tickets may be purchased at Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce.

“Grants and public support furnish the majority of our overhead expenses and budget, but not all,” Chapman said. “And the purpose of the fundraiser is to supplement that.” Although SPiN’s fundraiser may share the same basic profile as other organizations’ fundraisers, it promises some unique touches of its own. Chapman described some of the items already donated for the silent auction as “things anyone would appreciate and desire in their homes.”

 “We’re also featuring hand-blown glass bowls crafted by local dentist Dr. Gary Berner. To own one of these beautiful bowls is quite a deal!” Chapman stated. The auction block also touts items ranging from virtual golf sessions to a “dinner for four” at County Commissioner Jill Johnson’s home.

The guitar music of Jamar Jenkins, long-time music director at Coupeville High School, will accompany the silent auction, dessert auction and prime rib dinner. Jenkins is also making a donation of his own – one hour of music in the recipient’s home. Jenkins, who said he loves to make music anyway, “is glad to be a part of this and help out.”

Chapman said while the primary purpose of the fundraiser is self-explanatory, she hopes that it will also raise public awareness of the mission here. She describes the majority of their clients as “people who’ve fallen through the cracks somehow. They’ve had something happen to them in their lives, and sometimes, they’ve ended up with nothing.”

Although there are exceptions, there’s a dominant profile that Chapman has seen at SPiN.

“Families often have many other resources available to them through nutrition programs and social services, therefore we don’t see a lot of them. As for the younger singles, the 18 – 24-year-olds, we routinely refer them to Ryan’s House.

“On the other hand, at least 60 percent of our guests are seniors. And most of them are men,” she continued. “A sizable percentage, up to one half, have some sort of mental condition or illness like autism, bi-polar disorder, etc., that they are dealing with. We are trying to help them make a difference in their lives.”

Chapman came from a career in real estate; her background is in payroll and bookkeeping. In one of those adverse life situations that turn out to have a silver lining, she found herself offered the director’s position at SPiN after being laid off during the pandemic. Prior to that, she’d served on SPiN’s board of directors. She described the fulfillment she’s found in the job change.

“Every job has what I call its hidden benefit,” she said. “This one, for me, is helping these folks connect with resources. It’s been so fabulous to serve these folks.”

For more information about SPiN’s mission, call Chapman at 360-929-0281 or refer to its website at spincafeoh.org.