Congressman highlights Whidbey projects

U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen encouraged Whidbey volunteers to collaborate with existing organizations.

U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen encouraged Whidbey volunteers to collaborate with existing organizations when he met Wednesday with two groups seeking to care for some of the island’s most vulnerable current and future residents.

The Congressman visited St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, which hosts SPiN Cafe on weekdays, where representatives from SPiN Cafe and Whidbey CARE updated him on the groups’ recent projects.

SPiN Cafe, which stands for “Serving People in Need,” recently received more than $600,000 in grant funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to move into its own space. The organization currently provides a day shelter to people experiencing homelessness and helps connect them to various services and resources.

Executive Director Michele Hines told Larsen that SPiN renting its own space will allow the organization to provide more consistent care and expand its services to include amenities like life skills classes.

“With a new building, we can have consistency seven days a week,” she said.

She told Larsen that SPiN is looking to rent its new location, though most of the large facilities in the area are only available for purchase.

Larsen said he was supportive of SPiN’s efforts to support the homeless in the North Whidbey area and would help the organization navigate the forthcoming paperwork necessary to access its grant money. He said state and federal efforts to mitigate homelessness rely heavily upon nonprofits working at municipal levels.

Bob and Carol Wall, founders of Whidbey Island CARE, also updated Larsen on their initiative to bring a family of Ukrainian refugees to Whidbey Island. CARE, which stands for Community Advocates for Refugee Efforts, organized last fall and is working with Sponsor Circles to connect with a refugee family in need.

Bob Wall said the organization has already raised $9,000 of the estimated $10,000 cost to bring a family of four to Whidbey Island and is seeking 501c(3) status so that community members can make further tax deductible donations. Carol Wall said CARE has completed its initial round of paperwork and is working on completing its application for a family.

Larsen expressed his support for CARE’s efforts and encouraged CARE members to seek partnerships with and counsel from existing refugee support organizations, such as Snohomish County-based ​​Refugee and Immigrant Services Northwest.

“You only have to reinvent the parts of the wheel for Oak Harbor that you need to reinvent,” he advised.