Giving Back to our Community through Service II

Since 2021, the Institute has provided paid service days to our staff. We encouraged everyone to use those hours to volunteer with a local nonprofit organization or government agency of their choice each year. Here are some of the creative ways that this benefit contributed to our local community, from working with animal shelters and 4H to teaching meditation classes to assisting our friends at North Cascades National Park with wildlife surveys and plant restoration. Read on to learn more about our staff’s contributions over the past year as well as about some of the amazing nonprofit groups working to make our community stronger.

Jodi volunteered with North Cascades National Park biologist Roger Christophersen for a national Bald Eagle count along the Skagit River. They surveyed by foot and by car, on both sides of Hwy 20 between Howard Miller Park in Rockport and Marblemount. Jodi served as the data recorder, noting whether the eagles were flying or perched, adult or subadult, and which river mile they were located. In 2023, they counted 42 in this section and in 2024 it was 56 (108 total for all 3 sections surveyed). Survey data from 1991-92 recorded that eagle numbers were up to 500 in a day 1991-92 for just the two upper sections, so there has been a significant decline over the years. 

Jodi also helped Christophersen install a remote wildlife camera to monitor beaver activity near where Colonial Creek empties into Diablo Lake. Beavers are important engineers for the ecosystem and had not previously been documented on Diablo, so it’s important to collect information to know how many there are and how they are using this area.

Victoria also had the opportunity to volunteer with Roger Christophersen last summer. They went to Ross Lake to retrieve camera traps set on the trails, conducted loon, osprey and Peregrine falcon nesting surveys and documented wildlife signs they encountered – including black bear and cougar scat and gray wolf tracks! They also helped water some young plants that are being restored in impacted areas of Ross Lake. 


Hannah and Kate served as chaperones for the “Fall Survival” trip with Post 84. Post 84 trips are organized and run by student staff with fellow high school students enrolling as participants.  As chaperones, they served as a resource for educational content and risk management support as WFR-trained individuals. On the trip, they encountered incredible mushrooms, witnessed joyful peer-to-peer instruction on topics like wet fires, survival shelters, tool use, tarp shelters, the 10 essentials, and more, and engaged in rich conversations about risk management and student agency with the Post 84 professional staff. 

Hannah also participated in an EMT refresher hosted by North Cascades National Park in her capacity as volunteer EMT for the park. The training involved skill review sessions hosted by internal trainers at NOCA as well as by the Medical Director for the park, a local Paramedic, and an ER doctor from UW. Hannah reports having “learned loads, made new connections with Park Service staff, and feeling better equipped to use my training in an emergency.”

Althea volunteered at the annual fundraising event for Bellingham’s SPARK Museum of Electrical Invention. The SPARK is a nonprofit science and history museum focusing on the “wonder and mystery of electricity.” Like the Institute, the SPARK offers educational experiences for participants of all ages and frequently works with school groups. The Ignite the Night Gala raised general support for the SPARK and launched a capital campaign for an exciting new interactive STEM education area, tentatively called the WonderLab. Althea assisted with event set-up, recording bids, encouraging tables to participate in the Dessert Dash, and donning a lab coat and selling raffle tickets.

Jason taught 14 students in the meditative art of Lojong, or “mind training.” These teachings have been studied by Mahayana practitioners as a method to practice the foundational principles of Bodhicitta. Bodhicitta is “the awakened mind that puts the benefit of others above all else.” Having tamed our mind with the practice of Shamatha (mindfulness), pithy slogans are a method for transforming our mind by turning away from self-centeredness and cultivating the mental habits that generate this enlightened attitude.

“Being able to offer this course makes me happy knowing that these teachings and practices help people feel their tender heart, connect with others, and provide clarity in the midst of uncertain times,” he reflects.

Jason also used a service day to volunteer for the Bellingham Circus Guild, contributing his skills in photography and photo-editing.

Luke volunteered with the Washington Trails Association for a group trail-building and maintenance project in August, helping improve the conditions of popular hiking trails on Anderson and Watson Lakes.

Eva spent a morning doing restoration work in Bellingham with WWU’s LEAD (Learning, Environment, Action, Discovery) students. The group has been working to remove invasive species from campus sites and had an Earth Day event to replant an area next to the Wade King Recreation Center with native plants for the community to enjoy. “I used to intern with LEAD and got to reconnect with participants and the new interns,” she shared. “I also got to tell them about what I am doing post-graduation, including with the Institute’s Youth Leadership Adventures program!”

Theo worked on a project determining the ecological benefit of trees on the University of Washington campus in terms of the amount of Carbon they sequester. He also performed an analysis of trees removed for a construction project on the UW campus to determine whether the trees planted in place of those removed go far enough in sequestering similar amounts of Carbon. The project was conducted with the University of Washington Grounds shop and UW Arborist Sara Shores. Highlights from his research included learning that the 6,978 trees included in the report sequester 87.85 tons of carbon annually and store 2.98 thousand tons of carbon!

Aiyana had the opportunity to volunteer with an Earth Day work party at Indralaya on Orcas Island. Indralaya is a 78-acre sanctuary of natural beauty founded in 1972 by members of the Theosophical Society that welcomes people of all backgrounds to engage in cooperative harmony with nature and each other. Over the years, volunteers have built many of Indralaya’s buildings, infrastructure and facilities, including sleeping cabins, dining hall, communal bath houses, and a library. Aiyana helped with weeding, making beds for new plants and transplanting older plants and seedlings to the new beds, as well as deep-cleaning the cabins and chores in the kitchen.

“The work was fulfilling and rewarding,” she reflects, “and I left feeling a sense of connection to the land and community at Indralaya.”


Chris volunteered at Because We Care Rescue, a nonprofit finding forever-homes for dogs shipped from kill shelters in Texas, Arizona and California – they rescue 200-500 dogs a year! Chris pitched in by mucking out the kennels and playing with the dogs as they await their new families to adopt them.



Britt served on The Mountaineers’ Carbon Footprint Reduction Committee over the winter, working with committee members to create graphs, illustrating reductions in electricity & natural gas usage from energy-efficient upgrades at the Seattle and Tacoma Program Centers. These graphs will help members and the public appreciate the positive impacts of carbon-saving measures, and track emissions reductions over time. Britt enjoys using her knack for statistics and mathematics to support nonprofit organizations like The Mountaineers, and illustrate the positive effects carbon-reduction initiatives can have on our community and local environment.

Jodi donated service hours through her work on the board of 100+ Women of Whatcom. This group invites women who want to make a difference in the community to gather twice a year and give $100 to a nonprofit organization chosen by event participants. Each meeting, three groups are chosen to speak for three minutes each about their mission, then members vote to choose a winner. Last Fall, the winner was Blue Skies for Children, and they received more than $10,000!

“As a fundraiser myself,” Jodi reflected, “I understand the value of magnifying impact like this.”

And finally, Darcie shares this inspiring story of her service:

“August is usually the month that wraps up summer but for a Skagit County 4-H leader and Skagit County Cat Barn Superintendent, this is our time to shine! Every second week in August for the last six years I have been involved with the Skagit County Fair as a 4-H leader, the past two years as the Cat Barn Superintendent. This role has been challenging and rewarding from hard work and dedication, to seeing the program grow and young kids flourish. The number of cats at the fair almost doubled this year, from 6 last year to 11 this year.

Preparation begins with our barn set up, finalizing details and making sure we have adequate conditions for the safety of the animals and youth. The barn is cleaned top to bottom, cages set up and fans put in place to help keep cats cool on the hot summer days.

The 4-H kids are showcasing their talents and knowledge as the animal expert, while myself and other leaders are behind the scenes guiding to create a seamless experience for the youth. Cages are put in place, the show barn is set up for the big day, the notebook is prepared for the judge, ribbons are arranged and then the youth get to shine. Showing is the main part of the fair, but the kids also get a chance to test their knowledge by taking part in Cat Bowl. This gives them a chance to showcase their knowledge in a casual setting.

The Fair only lasts four days – four busy days that youth prepare all year for. They are the experts and in charge of their project. I am behind the scenes helping to facilitate and love that my preparations make the process easier for their success.”

Pictures are Cat Bowl with a group of youth ages kindergarten to junior high school. Lane showing his cat on the big day.”

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