Nurturing the land and building community one project at a time!


Westgarden Work Parties, Thursdays Throughout the Summer

9:30 AM TO 12:30 PM

The Westgarden at the Whidbey Institute is a beloved community medicinal herb and food garden.

Morning work sessions in the Westgarden are followed by a simple shared lunch and an educational herb talk with Westgarden Steward Jules LeDrew!


Trail Days, First Saturday of Each Month


August 4, September 1, October 6.

Our goals are to tend this beautiful forest as a community, to give our attention to its life and development, to learn together, to keep these public trails safe and accessible, and to enjoy ourselves.

Trail work days will generally be the same time every first Saturday of the month. Work parties will be followed by a simple, shared lunch. Please bring your friends and family!

Volunteer Opportunities

January 31, 2018

Event shuttle and parking help


Shuttle driving and parking assistance

We are building a cohort of volunteers who enjoy greeting people and showing them where to park and also driving our van to shuttle groups of people from our outer parking lot to Thomas Berry Hall for large events. This is occasional work, and you can opt in or out according to availability for any given event.

Apply Now →

December 11, 2017


Marta Mulholland

Build a covered kiosk

Bring your construction skills and head up our kiosk building project. This will be a simple covered kiosk, similar to the one shown, where we’ll be able to post a map of our trails and current Institute information.

Apply Now →

December 5, 2017


Marta Mulholland

Adopt a garden bed

Choose a special spot in our landscaped areas and care for it with love! Depending on the size and location of the area you choose, this could be a seasonal or year-round responsibility, involving just a few hours a month or more time if you choose.

Apply Now →

Meet Some Superstar Volunteers

A Cohort In Carhartts: Meet volunteer Joel Shrut

“There’s a sense of ownership when you’re sanding a board, or building something. To work on the WI2020 expansion project directly creates a legacy—we’re putting our human energy into the future of this wonderful organization. I didn’t hesitate when I was asked to be a volunteer leader for this work—I have the skillset, and I know who to tap on the shoulder when I don’t.”

Joel said the work thus far has been an easy, low-stress, and highly productive experience. He and a team of skilled volunteers have built 19 beds and rolling dressers to go under them, and have cut, shaped, and sanded live-edge desks made from site-harvested timber.

“Energy is building for a grand completion of this part of the project,” Joel said. “We’ll be welcoming as many volunteers as we can get for finishing the furniture in Thomas Berry Hall in February.”

Reflecting on his long history with the Whidbey Institute and his inspiration to be involved in this way now, Joel compared the organization to a living organism, its health ebbing and flowing in response to challenges and change during its 45 year history. “It seems now that the Whidbey Institute is moving toward real sustainability—a lovely word that often gets used but which can be really challenging to achieve. I’m really impressed with Kate Snider, Heather Johnson, and others on the current team who love the spirit of the place but who also take a practical approach to its future. That’s the exciting part of this whole process: to help the Whidbey Institute move from being an organization with a great dependence on charitable giving to being a self-sustaining organization, with charity as the whipped cream on top.”

Article continues. Read A Cohort in Carhartts here.

Work Worth Doing: Meet Bob Keeney

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.

Partner Spotlight: Meet Mara Grey

Mara Grey—botanist, Celtic harpist, storyteller, master gardener, and author of The Lazy Gardener and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Flower Gardening—volunteers as caretaker for the Appletree Garden.

When I spoke with Mara in the shade of the old apple tree, our conversation ranged from organizational history and garden stewardship to ancient languages and the power of story. We spoke of the early garden stewards, like Marybeth Crandall and Wilma O’Nan, and the underlying geometry of the garden paths—three interlocking circles, in the tradition of a knot garden.

“In this garden,” Mara said, “I feel a sense of interconnectedness with the rest of the land. Gardens are like microcosms of dealing with nature.” Discussing what makes gardening “work” or “play,” Mara said she feels the work she does here contributes to the whole organization. “I have a feeling that by bringing the plants here, I’m feeding people. In that way, I do feel a sense of contributing to the work of the Institute. Being here is never work—it’s just plain fun.”

Read Mara’s Partner Spotlight article, originally published in 2015.