SPiN Volunteer Profile: Susan Ho

Susan Ho (left) shares a smile with SPiN staff member Mary Amerson.

“Four years… minus, about… a month.”

Susan Ho has been showing up every Tuesday since she met SPiN Cafe founder Vivian Rogers-Decker.

Susan, sharing a smile at left with SPiN’s Mary Amerson, says the doors had just opened four years ago when “I attended an open house at SPiN, met Vivian, and within two weeks I was volunteering.”

She’s been there every week since, unless she’s out of town. Four years is a huge commitment. But Susan’s resolve is just as strong as the day she started. In fact, she feels richer for the experience.

“I get so much more in return than I put in,” she says. “I can’t even imagine what must be happening” when people end up experiencing homelessness. “Everyone has a different story” about how they ended up with no place to stay. “There’s as many stories as there are people.” When she gets a chance to talk to people, real people, look in their eyes and hear those stories, Susan said she’s happy our community is finally stepping up and realizing homeless people are our neighbors.

Lately, Susan has been recruiting volunteers for The Haven, a new overnight shelter in Oak Harbor. She is shocked, every year, to hear the numbers climbing after the annual Point In Time count of people experiencing homelessness right here on Whidbey. Hundreds of people, without a secure place to stay, live among us, and it just makes her more determined to make a difference.

SPiN’s Mary Amerson suggested featuring Susan in this newsletter. “Susan is a wonderful volunteer at SPiN Cafe,” says Mary. “She has made a huge contribution to what we do; she is empathetic, genuine, and above all supportive to our guests. All of us at SPiN appreciate everything Susan does to make a difference in our guests’ lives.

A few weeks ago, Susan was serving dinner at SPiN, and “a young man came in, maybe twenty years old. He ate his meal but didn’t really talk to anyone. We hadn’t seen him before. After he ate, he hung around a bit until there weren’t many people left, and he asked, so politely, if any of us knew of a place he could stay that night.”

Again Susan said, “I can’t even imagine. Without a roof over his head, he must be in survival mode every day.” Susan  wonders how anyone can pull themselves back from that situation when it’s already hard to find a job if someone is clean and well dressed; how hard must it be when that young man wakes up after a long cold night and can’t even get a shower or a hot cup of coffee?

SPiN Cafe, Susan said, “gets people to a different place, a better place. And I’m glad if I can help just a little bit.”