SPiN Board spokesman Tom Saunders gives his perspective on what’s new at SPiN and where we’re headed.
How has SPiN changed, from your perspective, since the coffee shop reopened last month?
TS: The mission of SPiN Café has not changed but we have changed its structure. Clarification of written policies has provided the staff and the Board of Directors better definition of how we conduct business. We have honed our focus on our core competencies with clear boundaries. We want to be the best at providing food to those in need and a safe place for our guests to get out of the weather in a cost effective manner.
What has the reaction been from SPiN’s supporters and neighbors?
TS: I have heard from both volunteers in our community and supporters about their gratitude for changes that have been made to improve the success of SPiN. Donations of time, talent and financial support are on the rise and greatly appreciated. In speaking with our faith community, support has been rejuvenated with numerous alternatives being discussed on how they can participate in serving those in need.
Within days of the public learning of the loss of the County grant, concerned members of our community reached out to ask what they could do to help our guests. Their main focus was to keep our doors open so guests had a place to get out of the weather with winter fast approaching. Thanks to their generosity, SPiN Café is currently open from 9:00AM to 6:00PM Monday thru Friday. In addition, we have been able to continue to help guests with the cost of doing their laundry.
You met recently with Chief Dresker of Oak Harbor PD. What takeaways did you bring back from that meeting?
TS: SPiN Café management must enhance our community outreach and relationships whereby open dialogue is appreciated and ownership of our actions becomes a norm. The OHPD is a partner to our success and we need to utilize their knowledge to build a solid foundation for SPiN going forward. I learned that OHPD is willing to partner with SPiN Café in addressing concerns raised by neighbors and observations made during their patrols. Topics we discussed included; relationships with our neighbors, loitering, ID’ing our guests, exterior lighting and coordination of our daily operating hours with guests coming from The Haven in the monrings. I was encouraged by Chief Dresker’s receptiveness in having one of his Captains take part in an Advisory Board, an idea currently under consideration.
What other community leaders have given you input on SPiN’s future, and what was their message?
TS: I met with Jackie Henderson at Island County Human Services in October, and walked away with encouragement that the changes we’ve implemented are in alignment with industry standards. I feel strongly that SPiN will be reconsidered for a grant given the progress we have made. I also met with Jean Wieman at the Help House to learn about their operations and determine what procedures they utilize that may provide improvements to SPiN. We met with St Stephen’s church’s outreach committee to answer questions and discuss ways in which they may better serve our immediate and future needs.
What do you think the future holds for a location after the lease runs out on Dec. 31?
TS: The building owner has refused to extend our lease due to who we serve, according to my conversation with her. We are urgently searching for a new location with around 1,600 sq.ft. and we’re finding a very low inventory of commercial properties to be a challenge. In the event we are unsuccessful, we are making arrangements with local churches to continue the weekly meal service. We do fear our ability to keep the Café open during the day is in jeopardy without a new location. It is important to bear in mind that during the Fall and Winter months our guests’ needs are even greater.
What’s your message to the Whidbey community about the future of SPiN Café?
TS: We are so grateful to be living in a community which donates its time, talents and support to SPiN Café. We are committed to continue operating as long as the demand for our services remains. Our Island community immediately rose to financially assist us in October which emphasized their deep concern for the well-being of our guests. We have addressed those areas that needed improvement in our operations, and we are better prepared today to continue our services well into the future.
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