Mom, daughter set SPiN mood

Fe Mischo has orbited in the SPiN Café universe since the beginning.

When SPiN started out on Bayshore Drive, Fe already knew and respected SPiN founder Vivian Rogers Decker. Fe worked at ECEAP preschool (Early Childhood Education Assistance Program), where she sought out and advocated for families facing financial struggles and homelessness. She dropped off resource materials for families at SPiN, and got a firsthand look at the good things SPiN was doing for Oak Harbor.

“I was homeless myself at one point in my life,” Fe says. “I was 20 years old, with no place to live. All I had was my Nissan, so that’s where I slept. I had too much pride to ask my family for help. So many of us don’t want to acknowledge that we’re just one financial blow away from the streets. For me, it helps that I can relate, personally.”

From those early days of SPiN, Fe saw the way every guest was treated with respect and dignity. She knew this was an organization she could support.

Two years ago, as COVID sent workers and students into isolation, Fe left her job at the preschool to be home with her kids. Like a lot of women – and she’s quick to note accurately that women in the workforce took the blow in disproportionate numbers – Fe refocused her attention on her family while she rode out the lockdowns and closures of the pandemic.

A recent part-time spot serving lunches to SPiN guests drew her back to the workforce. As a longtime friend and supporter of SPiN’s mission, Fe knew exactly what she was getting into, and she’s glad she did. And in an odd happy twist, for this person whose job is to serve, Fe feels the joy and gratitude coming back at her.

Fe Mischo gets as much from SPiN as she gives.

“Every day when I come to work, I feel welcomed by SPiN’s guests. They smile, they know me, they thank me for being there. We share our kindness, our humanity. And I love the people I work with. Everyone on the staff values that connection with our guests.”

One of those who connects so well is Fe’s daughter, Kaya Solace. Kaya is a high school senior who works part time at the SPiN Café day shelter alongside her mom.

“I fell in love with the organization,” she says. “It feels good to care for and help people on an equal level and hear their stories.”

Kaya says it brings her joy to see all the resources SPiN provides for the guests, and to work with a staff that makes all the guests feel important every day. “I’ve never loved a job more. It’s not even work at this point; it’s a place to come and be at peace.” 

Chapman: “Kaya is amazing.”

SPiN’s Executive Director Michele Chapman recently introduced Kaya to a few dozen friends of SPiN with words of admiration for how well Kaya bonds with SPiN guests. Kaya’s modest about the praise but affirms “I sit down with them eye to eye and make them feel like people. A lot of people in society today dehumanize them. They all have stories, they have feelings, and a lot of them didn’t choose to be in this position. I check on their mental state, draw or play cards with them, anything to cheer them up.”

Like her mom, whose empathy stems from personal experience with homelessness, Kaya has faced struggles of her own.  She was once “in a really bad position as a teenager. I’m 2 years sober now and have a great relationship with my family. I’m proud of what I’ve worked for and accomplished, and coming to SPiN reminds me that without that hard work and all the people who supported me, I could have been in this position. I have nothing but empathy and care for our guests at SPiN Café.”

Kaya won’t be working at SPiN much longer. Her plans include Bellingham Technical School for welding and metal fabrication. But before she leaves, “I hope I can make an impression on the people here, and help as much as I can.”