South Whidbey Commons Programs
Coffee, books, and conversation
The flagship program of the Commons is the Coffeehouse Bookstore, where you can meet friends in its cozy home-like environment and enjoy delicious meals and fresh baked goods, as well as organic tea and locally roasted coffee.
The Coffeehouse Bookstore provides a place where people of all ages can connect with each other and is home to more than 100 free events each year, including programs such as Friday Night Live, Find-a-Job Club, Women’s Craft Night, Neuropalooza, and more.
The bookstore features more than 1,000 quality used books, as well as new books by more than 40 Whidbey authors. All the used books that are for sale have been donated in support of the Commons, and 35 percent or more of the price of new books supports Commons programs.
The Coffeehouse Bookstore is run largely by volunteers, who gain customer service skills, receive barista training, acquire retail skills, learn proper food handling procedures, and gain soft skills that improve their interactions, job performance, and career prospects.
These volunteer-trainees build meaningful relationships and gain real-world job experience that makes them better candidates for further education and employment. Some choose to receive school credit for their participation. They benefit from the training and job experience they receive and learn the value of community service through their work for our nonprofit organization. (For more information about the workplace training program, see below.)
Playscape is a birth-to-kindergarten program based on the highly successful “play and learn” model. At Playscape, children and their caregivers play alongside each other and engage in educational activities that stimulate healthy development and create opportunities for growth and discovery.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
The Coffeehouse Bookstore is powered by 65 volunteer-trainees who put in 250 hours per week. Two-thirds of them are aged 12-19 (older volunteers serve as their mentors). These middle and high school students often get restless on the island and engage in activities that are not in their or our community’s best interest. They’re stuck in the Catch-22 of not being able to get a job without experience and not being able to get experience without a job. By participating in the workplace training program at the Commons, they gain real-world experience that makes them better candidates for further education and employment. Some choose to receive school credit for their participation.
The program empowers participants by teaching customer service in a retail business, providing barista training, and imparting proper food handling skills—all of which improves participants’ self-esteem, employability, and career prospects. Participants learn by serving others and gain experience that makes them better candidates for further education and employment.
The workplace training program is based on National Workforce Skill Standards established by the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Education. These fundamental criteria represent the skills, attributes, and characteristics that employers look for when hiring and promoting workers.
It costs $600 to train each of the participants in our program, and the Commons relies on donations and grants, as well as beverage, food, and book sales for support.