Justin Santos and Kyla Rose, interns with Living Word, hand out a sack meal while volunteering with SPIN Cafe.

Justin Santos and Kyla Rose, interns with Living Word, hand out a sack meal while volunteering with SPIN Cafe.

SPIN Cafe teaming up with churches to serve sack meals

Two homeless men on bicycles made their way down to Bayshore Drive in Oak Harbor Monday afternoon to pick up free lunches.

SPIN Cafe no longer has a facility, but the nonprofit organization is continuing to serve hungry citizens with the help of a growing number of volunteers.

In fact, the program has expanded from three days a week with three churches helping out to six days a week with seven churches participating.

On Monday, interns from Living Word church handed out from the trunk of a car about 20 brown paper bags containing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a meat sandwich, a piece of fruit, chips, cookies and a drink. Everyone followed social distancing rules.

“It definitely helps,” one of the bicycling men, who identified himself as Tim, said.

The pandemic has presented unique challenges to people in the community who don’t have homes, as well as those who can’t afford meals.

Tim said one of his biggest concerns is finding a place to go to the bathroom when most businesses are shut down. Also, it’s hard to find a place to shower or get free or inexpensive clothes.

“Everything is a little harder right now,” he said, adding that he has been able to find some work.

Laurel Fagan, who supervises the meal service for Living Word, said a range of people stop by for a sack lunch. One family, for example, has kids who get free sack lunches from the school district and then the family stops by the SPIN Cafe car to get meals for the parents.

She said the volunteers try to help people with other needs too. She gathers a list of clothing and hygiene items that people need and works with the Garage of Blessings to get the items and deliver them the next week. Garage of Blessings has been closed during the pandemic.

“I have two coats in my car,” she said, “and a backpack and two pairs of sweatpants.”

She has information about stimulus funds and other funds available from the state.

“We also just kind of check in on people,” she said.

Fagan said she also drives to places she knows where certain people might be and drops off sack meals. An Oak Harbor police officer also took some meals to hand out.

SPIN Cafe has had to change the way it serves the community during the pandemic. The organizers stopped holding three dinners a week and instead started distributing the sack meals outdoors.

Participating churches, providing meals and volunteer support, are Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Church on the Rock, Christian Reformed Church, Living Word Church, Whidbey Presbyterian Church, Oak Harbor Lutheran Church and Oak Harbor United Methodist Church.

“I would like to thank everyone for their tremendous support and the effort to provide this essential need to members of our local community who are less fortunate,” Acting Executive Director Tom Saunders said.

“We are all thanked daily by each of them for the food provided,” he said.

The sack meals are served at 12:15 p.m. to around 3 p.m., Monday through Saturday in front of Flintstone Park at the corner of Bayshore Drive and Dock Street. SPIN volunteers wear personal protective equipment and use safe distancing practices. Handmade, donated masks are distributed when available to guests, who are encouraged to practice distancing as well.

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