2022 got off to a frigid start in Oak Harbor, but SPiN was able to step up and offer round-the-clock shelter for two weeks courtesy of our hosts at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. For more on that story, take a look here:
In the first four months of 2022, SPiN provided 2,442 lunches – at St. Stephen’s during the week and at Hal Ramaley Park on weekends – and served on all 120 days in those months, for an average a little over 20 meals a day.
SPiN Café was pretty quiet on a recent Wednesday afternoon. You know how you’re sitting at dinner and it’s loud and chatty and then the food comes and everyone shuts up and eats, because it just tastes and feels so good after a long day?
It was that kind of quiet. A quiet of relief, gratitude, and hope as SPiN’s dinner program spins back to full speed.
Executive Director Michele Chapman smiled with that same relief and gratitude as she chatted about the meals, open to all who are hungry. SPiN has struggled to feed guests since late 2019 through COVID, funding challenges, and a change of location.
“We worked extra hard for two years,” Michele says, “just to make sack lunches for our guests. Now it’s wonderful, and our guests are so grateful, that once again we can provide…” she pauses, “…a real meal.”
SPiN is now providing those dinners to 25-30 people on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings.
Real meals were on tables around the room as guests thanked Tangiler, Shirley, Kaya, and Amira for bringing plates piled high with casserole, bread, and vegetables.
With funding from an Island County grant, SPiN restarted dinner service in March, stepping back into a tradition that began when SPiN was founded and paused abruptly two years ago with COVID.
St.Stephen’s Episcopal Church has been a constant through that tough time, welcoming SPiN guests while masking and distancing were required. Michele is grateful for the support, and she laughs that the easing of virus restrictions has brought about more contact with church members. “We have to remind ourselves, we aren’t the only ones here anymore!”
Asked if anything would make the dinner service better, Michele is quick to answer, “more volunteers!” Chef Tangiler cooks the meals at the Presbyterian church and transports the huge trays a few blocks over to St Stephen’s, where volunteers serve to the guests. “We could use a few more people each night to help out.”
On the horizon, the one-time county grant runs out at the end of this year. Michele and the SPiN board have a fundraising task ahead of them, to ensure the future of the program.
For now, though, real meals are a real deal.
SPiN Café’s Day Center is open Monday through Friday, 6:30AM – 5:30PM
Dinners are served Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, 4:15PM – 5:30PM
At St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, 555 SE Regatta Drive, Oak Harbor
A year ago, SPiN Cafe lost its lease and sought simple warmth, out of the weather, for our vulnerable and struggling citizens to have a meal. Two congregations stepped up. Church on the Rock and St. Stephen’s Episcopal, neighbors on Regatta Avenue, provided the welcoming shelter we needed. That is, until COVID-19 put us back on the street in March.
But a year can make a big difference when dedicated people decide to solve a problem.
Michele Chapman has deep roots on Whidbey Island. She comes from two generations of Navy service at NAS Whidbey: her grandfather was stationed and retired in Oak Harbor, and her father, uncle and aunt all graduated from Oak Harbor High School. With her father in the Navy as well, the family traveled the world but returned to Oak Harbor in the late 1970s. Michele graduated from OHHS and has lived most of her adult life right here on Whidbey Island.