When Allison Tongate was asked to describe her role as Operations Manager at the Whidbey Institute, she responded quickly. “It’s team coordination,” she said. “Like being a weaver. I take the vibrant colors of all my coworkers and help move them together to form a beautiful tapestry.”
From our perspective, as her coworkers, we see Allison gracefully keeping ten balls in the air while simultaneously working alongside our Executive Director in the development arena. “I have a great working relationship with Jerry,” she said, adding that they’re building a strong development team which includes board and community members.
Allison joined the Institute in May 2012 with a background in small business and startup consulting and project management. That high-leverage, results-oriented practice informs her work on an organizational level, while her B.S. degree in Health Psychology and Spirituality from Bastyr University and practices in somatic therapies, yoga, and spiritual integration aid her in supporting and coordinating the human players in our Institute offices. “Learning how and why people do what they do has informed my career,” she said.
Allison is healed and inspired by the natural world, and spends much of her free time drawing or hiking around the Cascadia region. She points to the land as a vital part of what engages her at the Institute. When she first came to Chinook, she found an opportunity to peruse old photo albums. She said she was intrigued by pictures of happy people building things together on the land. “I’d like to create that opportunity for myself here,” she said, “while benefitting the community at large.” Allison also loves horses, and is looking forward to getting more time in the saddle now that she’s living on Whidbey.
Allison moved from her childhood home outside Washington, D.C., at age ten to New Mexico, which she still describes as her home—the place where her heart and her spirit are grounded. “I miss the big vistas and sunsets,” she said. The Northwest, on the other hand, inspires her with its widely progressive culture. “Many people [in the Northwest] are actively pursuing what they believe to be true and right,” she said, “and the verdant nature here is like a well-spring of life.”
While Allison says she is nurtured by what she calls the “playspace” of our land and offices, we as a team are nurtured by her attention to people, details, and the living entity that is the Institute. With her ability to simultaneously perceive immediate needs, challenges, and priorities AND hold our shared vision of where we’re headed as an organization, Allison serves simultaneously as our feet-on-the-ground and our fellow dreamer. In the tapestry that is the Whidbey Institute, our weaver is also one of our strongest threads.