At SPIN Café, we recognize everyone has needs. For some it’s a warm meal, a place to rest out of the weather or get information about resources. For others, it’s a place to connect if you are lonely, new in town, or just passing through. Spin Café also recognizes those who have a different need, a need to volunteer, to give, to serve and to know they are contributing to the well-being of others. SPIN Café is a place for everyone to give and receive.
SPIN's founder, and acting executive director, Vivian Rogers-Decker, is the Student Support Specialist and Homeless Liaison for the Oak Harbor School District. Throughout her tenure, Ms. Rogers-Decker has encountered students and their families facing every degree of homelessness, from sleeping on friend’s couches to living in campers, cars, tents, in the woods and on the beach. All-too-often, these families did not have access to basic amenities such as meals, showers, hygiene products, laundry services, or a safe place to ride out a rainy day. SPIN Café was born of the idea that providing for these needs, in a welcoming and respectful environment, could improve a student’s overall health and welfare, leading to increased attendance, a more positive outlook, and, ultimately, academic success. Since opening our doors in 2012, SPIN Café has morphed into a multi-purpose agency, not only serving local students and their families, but also the Whidbey Island community as a whole.
In previous years, more than 144 individual volunteers, working in conjunction with churches or other community-minded organizations logged over 11,000 hours. The vast majority of these hours are spent on SPIN’s restaurant style meal services and vocational training. Three evenings each week, a guest can come to SPIN Café, be seated, have their drink order and entrée’ preference taken, and be served a hot, prepared meal at their table. These full-service meals have continued unabated for over five years thanks to the efforts of a committed and caring volunteers and staff.
SPIN’s guests include persons of all ages, races, ethnicities and genders. Many are transient, homeless, and without transportation or a source of income. SPIN Cafe estimates that we serve between 15-20 of Whidbey Island’s chronically homeless population on a daily basis. We also serve others who might have a place to stay, temporarily, but nowhere to call home, and still, others are housed and working, yet, unable to meet their own nutritional needs, or, sadly, the nutritional needs of their families. We are encountering more and more of the latter, especially at month’s end.
Taking our guests’ transportation needs and financial hardship into consideration, SPIN Café is deliberately located adjacent to the Oak Harbor Transfer Station for Island Transit. This is the main hub for almost all of the Island Transit routes traveling on and off of Whidbey Island. Because of our location, we are ideally situated to provide services to both long time community members and to those new to Whidbey Island. All this is done at a site that is centrally located and accessible to other service providers both on island and in the Puget Sound area.
Spin serves an average of 60 – 80 guests at each meal service depending on where we are in the month; and on the weekends we see approximately 20-40 persons daily at our drop in program, depending on the day. There is no qualifier for receiving SPIN services. Our doors are open to all regardless of income, race, gender, faith, creed, sexual identity, or orientation.
In addition to our meal services and vocational training, SPIN's drop-in center provides guests with beverages and snacks in an inviting environment, while they accessed variety of resources including: personal hygiene products free-of-charge, wireless and internet services, shower passes, laundry services, housing referrals, information on local services and shelter, and staff consultation.
SPIN Café strives to operate as independently as possible, depending primarily on the talents and gifts of our guests, volunteers, and local community organizations to drive our program services and development. We firmly believe in the importance of collaborating with our fellow human service agencies and faith organizations to meet the diverse needs of our community while reducing the duplication of efforts. We plan our meal times when other meal services are not available locally; we situate ourselves convenient to free public transportation; our drop in center is strategically open on Fridays and over the weekend when other service organizations are not operating. Many of the services we provide at SPIN are not offered elsewhere on the North end of the Island, particularly the drop in center, shower passes, and free laundry services. We collaborate with The Haven, Opportunity Council, CADA, the House of Hope, the Whidbey Homeless Coalition, Ryan's House for Youth, and Island County Human Services to provide coordinated entry to available local shelter programs ,and we advocate for more affordable and emergency housing with our city council and county government. Our organization also serves as the North Whidbey hub for the Annual Homeless Point In Time Count held in January of each year.
Robin Hubert Lamont