Letter: Open a community center that is welcoming to all

Editor,

To Mayor Bob Severns and members of the Oak Harbor City Council: This week’s freezing weather has brought a long-standing community need to greater light.

North Whidbey is home to many dozens of our neighbors who spend days and often nights unsheltered because they have no home to go to. Even greater numbers — adults, teens, entire families — struggle to pay bills at the brink of life on the street.

The Haven, our local overnight shelter, provides warmth and safety, thanks to the kindness and generosity of the Christian Reformed Church.

SPiN Cafe has been serving lunches outdoors, seven days a week, to upwards of 25 people a day. SPiN only recently moved back inside, thanks to a welcome from St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church.

A woman named Kim, grateful for a simple sleeping mat on the floor of a church, said this: “From having nothing, to having something, a warm roof over our heads is a wonderful blessing. Thank you.”

Imagine that. Can you imagine that on a winter night, or any night, a chance just to sleep indoors on the floor with a couple dozen strangers crowding around you is a blessing? A blessing? Most of us can’t imagine. Most of us couldn’t stand it for an hour, let alone weeks or months or years at a time. Yet many do, right here in the town we all love so well.

These piecemeal services — SPiN, The Haven, Garage of Blessings, Help House, dozens of devoted church congregations, and more — provide a vital ray of hope and humanity to people who would be in dire jeopardy without food, clothing, or shelter. But there are limits to the numbers they can serve.

And one question lingers. With so many individuals and groups putting so much into the effort, what will our city leaders do to support our own struggling citizens?

Our city government has yet to take a unified approach to care for the vulnerable of our community who fight just to stay alive every day.

Long ago, Oak Harbor invested in a senior center. This was a wise move, and a correct move. We owe it to our seniors to provide a place where they can socialize, have a cup of coffee and be welcomed with respect. A place where they’re treated like guests.

What we owe to our seniors, we owe to all citizens in the Oak Harbor community. A space to find security, shelter, a smile, a cup of coffee.

A place where respect is freely given, where guests are welcomed, where kindness and real hope abound.

SPiN Cafe’s mission is to Serve People in Need. We’ve done it for many years and, along with our community partners, we will continue to do so. But to take the next step we need the city’s support. More specifically, council members, we need you.

Please invest in a community center that will be open and welcoming to all.

Pastor Marc Stroud, president

Michele Chapman,

executive director

SPiN Cafe

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