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Frequently Asked Questions about Packing Facility Work Parties

Learn how to get a certification to help WTA at our packing facility. It's a good way to get a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into making our backcountry trips tick, and a fun way to support WTA's trail maintenance program.

There is a lot that goes on behind-the-scenes to manage WTA’s Volunteer Vacations program. The hundreds of meals and thousands of pounds of gear that power these week-long crews appear courtesy of WTA logistics staff and volunteers working at the North Bend Packing facility. Volunteers who work at the packing facility play an essential role in the success of this program.

packing facility volunteer photo by anna roth
Friendly faces are a common sight on all WTA work parties. Photo by Anna Roth. 

What happens at a Packing Facility Work Party?

Typical activities include packing food and gear for outgoing crews, cleaning gear from incoming crews, taking inventory, restocking shelves, repairing broken gear, loading/unloading trucks, and gear transport.

Every day brings something a little bit different, like packing bear-proof containers that will be carried by mules into the backcountry, putting new handles on dirt buckets, restocking first aid kits, or lettering hard hats. Packing facility volunteers sometimes drive gear to trailheads in a WTA truck.

What is the Packing Facility?

The Packing Facility is a garage in North Bend that WTA uses to store gear and prepare food and gear for the Adult and Youth Volunteer Vacations. 

What kind of work is done at the Packing Facility?

Typical activities include repackaging food, loading food into panniers and coolers, restocking shelves, cleaning gear, repairing gear, packaging awards, and cleaning the facility. Every work party is a little different depending on what the Logistics Coordinator needs assistance with. A volunteer with a Packing Facility certification will also be present to help run the work party.

What is a Packing Facility Certification? 

A Packing Facility Certification requires attending a training at the beginning of the season about packing workflow and food safety. Certified volunteers will help facilitate packing. We require at least 1 volunteer at each work party to have this certification so they can help lead and train other volunteers. 

Do I need to be certified to work at the Packing Facility? 

No! Most Packing Facility work parties are capped at 4 volunteers; spots are reserved for 1 certified volunteer and 3 uncertified volunteers. You don’t need any Packing Facility or trail work experience to join as an uncertified volunteer. 

Why are Packing Facility work parties capped at 4 volunteers? 

The Packing Facility is a small space with limited work stations. Because of the nature of the work and the space, we have found volunteer experience is best when there are less than 5 people working in the space. We are requiring all volunteers to apply so we can ensure everyone gets an opportunity to volunteer at the Packing Facility, even though there are fewer volunteer spots. 

How can I get a Packing Facility certification? 

You must work at the Packing Facility at least 2 times in a summer to be eligible for certification in the following year. We also strongly encourage you to go on a Volunteer Vacation before becoming certified, but it is not required. The next certification will happen in April 2023. Look out for sign ups in February or March 2023. 

This year is a pilot program of this style of Packing Facility certifications as we transition from pandemic programming. As part of the pilot, we certified a small number of volunteers who have extensive experience at the Packing Facility. As our programming shifts in the coming years, we hope to expand our certification process to welcome a larger group of certified volunteers. So, if you are interested in working at the Packing Facility and becoming certified next year, please join us this season! 

When are the Packing Facility work parties? 

In 2022, most Packing Facility work parties will be on Wednesdays and Thursdays, May through October. Packing Facility work parties on weeks when the Logistics Coordinator is prepping for more than one Volunteer Vacation. Packing Facility work parties typically run 8:30am - 2:00pm. 

How do I sign up for the Packing Facility work parties?

Packing Facility work parties will go live in early May. All Packing Facility work parties will be “limited” meaning you need to apply. The Logistics Coordinator will select and notify volunteers 3 weeks prior to the work party. This system is designed to make sure everyone interested gets a chance to volunteer at the Packing Facility. 

How strenuous are Packing Facility work parties?

Packing Facility work parties are typically less physically demanding than trail work parties. Some tasks may require carrying things up and down stairs, carrying up to 30 pounds, and standing on your feet for a few hours. There are other low-impact tasks too! Just like any WTA work party, Packing Facility work parties follow the motto, “Safety, Fun, Work!” If you have questions about accessibility at Packing Facility work parties, please contact emcmillin@wta.org

Do Packing Facility work parties count towards my next award? 

Yes, each packing facility work day you attend is equivalent to a day work party. 

Are youth allowed to volunteer at the Packing Facility? 

No. All Packing Facility volunteers must be 18 or older. 

What should I bring to a Packing Facility Work Party? 

  • Close-toed shoes 
  • Warm clothing in the colder months
  • A hat, hair tie, or other method for restraining hair during food prep 
  • Lunch and water
  • Rain jacket
  • Face mask that covers your nose and mouth (no bandanas or buffs)
  • A sense of fun and adventure for learning new skills and meeting great people!

Packing Facility Work Parties under COVID-19 Protocols

Like all WTA work parties, you must submit your COVID vaccination card on wta.org to volunteer at the Packing Facility. Current WTA protocols require masks in all indoor settings. The Packing Facility is a well-ventilated garage space so there are many instances when you can work without a mask. However masks are required when repackaging food or when working upstairs, so please bring a well-fitting mask to all Packing Facility work parties. 

Does WTA encourage or try to arrange carpooling?

Yes! We have an automated online carpool system. When you join a work party you will be encouraged to carpool. Simply choose one of these options: Willing to drive; Needs a ride; Willing to drive or ride. Then give a brief description of your ideal meeting point in the space provided (not in the comments section).

This information will be sent to all people who sign up for your trip, along with your email address (we do not send out your phone number — so please provide a valid email). You will then be able to contact or be contacted by others interested in carpooling.

Remember, if you are a rider, please be courteous and offer to chip in on the cost of gas!