Vacationing volunteers look back on summers of fun

Haley and Hanna Herrin put the finishing touches on a specialty coffee while their mom Julie watches at the South Whidbey Commons.  - Petra Martin photo
Haley and Hanna Herrin put the finishing touches on a specialty coffee while their mom Julie watches at the South Whidbey Commons.
— image credit: Petra Martin photo

The call of college will soon be breaking up the family at the South Whidbey Commons Coffeehouse Bookstore.

Not for long, though.

The Herrin twins — Haley and Hanna — are enjoying the final weeks of summer on Whidbey Island, and the pair said a big part of the community feeling they’ve enjoyed has come through working as baristas at the Langley nonprofit with their mother, Julie.

The twins, easily familiar to anybody who has been to the coffee shop — or visited Langley during Mystery Weekend, where the teens have portrayed characters in the annual whodunnit for years — live in Seattle but take time out during their vacations on the island to volunteer.

“You need community, even when you’re on vacation,” Haley said.

Volunteering at the South Whidbey Commons has helped Haley and Hanna get to know people they wouldn’t otherwise have met and has also given them skills they’ll soon apply when they go to college.

“I got a job at the University of Portland that I’m going to start soon,” Hanna said. “I feel more prepared for it because I’ve had this experience — even though the new job doesn’t deal with food. The organizing and communication skills I gained will be helpful anywhere.”

Haley and Hanna feel nostalgic that their carefree summers on Whidbey Island are coming to an end. They recall the years during which their parents fixed up a summer home in the Maxwelton area — a time when they discovered that even the beach can get monotonous after a while.

So, when Julie saw an ad for volunteer baristas in the South Whidbey Record, they investigated, and the girls soon began volunteering.

“You volunteer for a limited amount of time.” Julie said. “It’s like a vacation from your vacation.”

Although she wanted to volunteer herself from the beginning, she allowed her daughters to have the experience to themselves until last year, when she also began volunteering.

“Haley and I played an integral part in training our mom,” Hanna said.

“We were constantly quizzing her on things like the order of drink preparation,” Haley added.

“The experience of dealing with the public has really brought the girls out of their shells,” says Julie, who discovered that she liked working with high-school-aged volunteers, and enjoyed building their confidence.

Though the commons is well-known for its coffeehouse and bookstore — which serves as a popular venue for arts and cultural events — the Second Street enterprise is also a workplace training program, hosts a play-and-learn program for preschool children, and more.

“Volunteering at the commons is a lot of responsibility,” Hanna said. “But it’s fun.”

The Herrins have had so much fun, in fact, that they’re not yet willing to give it up completely. “We’re going to volunteer during Christmas break,” Haley said.

The South Whidbey Commons is located at 124 Second St. in Langley. For more information, visit


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