Robert Keeney is an indispensable member of the Whidbey Institute volunteer team, and frequently comes to the land for a day or a week at a time to build trails, remove hazard trees, clear windfall, and support our land care team with his labor, skill, and wisdom. He’s been coming to Chinook since 2010, and his volunteer hours this year alone add up to about three weeks of full-time service.
Bob helps at the Whidbey Institute with tasks ranging from plumbing to forestry, but he really shines in stewarding our 100 acres of wooded trails. “He always finds a simpler way to do something,” Land Care Coordinator Robert Mellinger said, “and he draws from decades of experience.” Recently, for instance, Bob pulled two trees off roofs using complex rigging and knots he may have learned during a stint as a tugboat deckhand.
“He pays a lot of attention to people’s experiences,” Mellinger went on. “In doing tread work and regrading trails, for instance, he’s thinking of the kinds of people who might use them. Can an elderly person use the trail? A mother with children?”
Staff members appreciate Bob Keeney’s technical skills—his lifetime of experience and his mechanical aptitude—as well as his perception, his powers of observation, and sensitivity for the health of trees and humans alike. “He’s really brilliant at making subtle changes that have a big impact,” said Thomas Anderson, Resident Caretaker. “A lot of the stuff he does is very important but almost invisible.”
Read Work Worth Doing, originally published in 2015.