Volunteer Information

Gesundheit! Institute, West Virginia

Bringing fun, friendship, and the joy of service back into healthcare.

Thank you for your interest in the Gesundheit Institute! We’d like to share with you what invigorates us and how we work together.

As a community experiment, the Gesundheit! Institute looks to create an environment of thoughtful and intimate relationships with the goal of making our personal, family and community well-being thrive. Gesundheit is an alcohol and drug-free community! Though it is our clear intention to build our envisioned hospital, we must emphasize that:

  • We have not yet begun any hospital construction. We will not see patients or offer healthcare on the land in West Virginia until we have finished Phases IV and V of our building project, which will include an outpatient clinic with a residential staff component.
  • We cannot accommodate visitors at this point.


The staff in West Virginia does community outreach (like clowning and giving classes), gardening, writing, building and ground maintenance, basic administration, and work with volunteers.

The Facilities

The Workshop is the first structure built by Gesundheit! It is a beautifully situated, multi-purpose space with plenty of room including a wood working facility, a costume closet, arts & crafts area, and a large room for workshops, play, dance parties, theater, yoga, and whatever the heart desires. The top floor also has three cubbies for private sessions or additional sleeping space and a toilet. There is a complete bathroom facility, including shower on the Workshop’s first floor. The building is situated near the lake, a short walk from the Farmhouse.

The Farmhouse is the major hub of activity, which we consider to be our group living room. It holds our pantry and root cellar, and is right next to the garden, so it’s convenient for use as our cooking and eating space. In addition, it houses our small library, which also serves as a volunteer internet access site and lounge. You’ll also find a sound system and a small TV/VCR for your use. The Farmhouse is always open. There is a full bathroom here too.

In the summertime, two Yurts and the Egal Dorm house volunteers and special program participants such as those attending the School for Designing Society. The Egal Dorm has space to sleep up to 12 people, while the larger Yurt houses up to 10 and the smaller Yurt up to 8. The land currently occupied by these structures is the future site of the Patch Adams Teaching Center.

The Dacha is an architectural delight. Designed by Dave Sellers, the Dacha houses staff, and frequently, volunteers and special program participants throughout the year. This building has 2 bathrooms and one shower. Since the Dacha is used primarily for sleeping and quiet activities, we ask that people observe the 9 pm-8 am quiet hours. The lowest level and the first floor are always open to people on the land.

Our buildings are stimulating, but the natural environment in which these buildings are cradled is even more inspiring. With more than two miles of established trails, a three-acre lake, two waterfalls, meadows and many acres of forest, your stay will be spent in close proximity with nature.

So, what does this all mean? -

We, Gesundheit! staff and volunteers, take our play as seriously as our work, which helps us keep our work as outrageous as our play. Our aim is to get a lot done while at the same time getting along. If you’re serious about volunteering, prepare yourself for an experience that respects the eclectic flow of diverse needs.

  • All volunteers are responsible for their own delight. In other words, you create your own experience here within a context where group decisions are made by consensus. Please ask questions or voice your concerns as the need pops up. Communication is the most important ingredient at Gesundheit!
  • In this environment, a lot of healing can happen. At the same time, our program and projects are not ones that offer sanctuary or retreat as a primary focus. We expect our volunteers to dive into what can be the demanding work of living in close community. We will stimulate dialogue, expose people to new ideas, listen intently to each other's dreams, drink up each task, sing and ponder, find our fun and run, be ourselves, and promote a sense of service in ourselves and others. If you are in crisis or are in need of a lot of nurturing, the volunteer program is not appropriate for you at this time.

How the Volunteer Program Works

We ask that volunteers be at least 18 years old or be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Volunteers contribute 35 hours per week of work in exchange for room and board. We host several work camps during the year. All long-term volunteer positions require an initial interview visit of 3-4 days. Occasionally, we have need of a short-term volunteer with building, carpentry, woodworking or house painting experience.

Each day at the Gesundheit! Institute in West Virginia is as unique as each person here. With that in mind, it’s difficult to define the typical G!I day. In general, we work with the land and actively contribute to our local community. Expect the lines between work and play to blur and disappear during your stay here, so prepare to check your normal routine at the door. You probably will be involved in work on a variety of projects.

Here are some descriptions of work projects that individual volunteers and groups have done in the past. Your experience may include some of these elements, or may be completely different. In addition to projects like those listed below, everyone will participate in cooking and cleaning, answering the phone, household cleaning, laundry, chopping wood and carrying water.

  • Organic Garden Work

    Volunteers have been a big help in building garden fencing, bringing in new beds and fixing existing raised beds the last three years. They have also planted seeds, transplanted starts, and nurtured perennial and annual food crops by watering, weeding, harvesting and foraging. You’ll help fill our bellies (and those of future volunteers) while you learn more about organic gardening. Long-term volunteers may be asked to help guide activities with short-term volunteers. This work also offers experience in permaculture, biodynamics, and bioregionalism. Gardening experience is helpful, but a passion for learning about growing food is more important. We are always looking for helpers in the garden.

  • Grounds Maintenance

    We need your muscles to help us maintain our forests, meadows, trails, water springs and lawns. Help with invasive species removal, making hay, brush hogging, weed whacking, springhouse maintenance, and mowing. Long-term volunteers may be asked to help guide activities with short-term volunteers.

  • Kitchen Coordinator

    Coordinate the kitchen, pantry, and food preservation efforts. This vital position organizes meal sign-ups, coaches meal prep for those that need coaching, orders from our food co-op, local baker and grocer, supervises cleanups, interfaces with the garden and the cooks, and provides direction in our kitchen and Farmhouse.

  • Cooking Staff

    During the School for Designing Society session in July, we need a dedicated cooking team of volunteers to prepare vegetarian meals for approximately 40 people. If you like to cook and can commit to being here from the last week in June through late July, this might be a good volunteer position for you.

Rainbow on the land

Please let us know if you have any skills you would like to share with us in the following areas:

  • Maintenance
  • Building/Carpentry
  • Wood-Working
  • Sustainable Forestry
  • Computers/Tech
  • Grant Writing
  • Alternative Energy
  • Biodiesel Fuel
  • Micro-Hydro Power

Does this sound like the place for you? Please print and fill out (in it’s entirety) the first part of the “How can I help?” form, and spend some time responding to the questions in the second part. You can download this form from the bottom of the page.

The more complete your answers the better, so that we can envision how you may fit as a volunteer.

Once we’ve received your response, we’ll follow up with you as soon as we can. Please send the completed application to:

I Wanna Volunteer! Applicant
Gesundheit! Institute
HC 64 Box 167
Hillsboro, WV 24946 USA

Typically, all of our volunteer places are filled by early July.
*If you wish to apply as a volunteer with someone else, please send in the applications together.

Downloadable Forms

Gesundheit Volunteer Application - How Can I Help?592.47 KB