Have you ever considered an afternoon cup of tea as caring? Terry Gifford does. She is the owner and proprietor of Willowbrook Manor and Tea House in Skagit County. “There is something about tea that feels like you are giving care, a gentle care,” she shares.
At this English Country Manor, located nine miles east of Sedro-Woolley, Gifford not only extends her care to every guest who comes to tea – she hosts several tea events throughout the year including a Mother’s Day Tea and her Tea and Tours – but also into the community. She uses Willowbrook Manor to foster care for those in need throughout Skagit County.
The giving arm of Willowbrook is called the SWAN Foundation (Serving Women Across Nations). Its primary focus is on empowering women while helping find solutions to homelessness.
Originally Gifford set up SWAN to benefit women in poorer nations such as Bolivia. In the early days of SWAN, Gifford baked bread to sell at local farmer’s markets using money from these sales to set up the nonprofit, which provided business training for the women along with micro-loans.
“This is a very gratifying part of the farm,” she says. “We are able to give a voice to the needs right here in our community. The need is here. You do not have to run to Bolivia to find it.”
Gifford began Willowbrook Manor as a way to support herself after her divorce and keep her farm. Initially, she mothballed SWAN in order to focus on her new business. However, it did not take long for Gifford to see a need right here in this community. A need for someone to care.
She made the decision to take the foundation out of mothballs and link it to the farm, she says.
SWAN in Action
Gifford uses her small chamomile farm to raise money benefiting several local charities. “The very nature of chamomile is calm and caring,” she says. It’s the perfect salve for what ails you and if Gifford gets her wish, SWAN will aid those in need beginning simply with tea. Gifford believes that, “working together, even in a field of chamomile, we can make a difference in the world.”
The foundation raises money several times a year beginning in March by hosting a “Seeding and Tea,” an afternoon spent enjoying tea and scones with a chamomile seeding and tree propagation. This event benefits The Friendship House in Mount Vernon.
June is time for “Planting and Tea” supporting Family Promise and in July it is time for “Harvest and Tea” with funds raised for Lydia’sPlace in Bellingham. In the fall, a Gingerbread tea is held supporting Lighthouse Mission and near the holidays it is teacup sales that generate funding for Skagit Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.
Sedro-Woolley Bike Rides for Charity
Gifford’s heart is big and so are her dreams. She wants Sedro-Woolley to become a destination with Willowbrook Manor’s Tea and Tours as one of its best kept secrets. During Sedro-Woolley’s Blast From the Past event held in June, Gifford holds a bike ride event that turns a ride (or walk) into a history lesson for Sedro-Woolley. Bring your own bike, donate $25 as an admission fee, learn cool and interesting facts about the city and support Helping Hands Food Bank while you ride.
Biking through Sedro-Woolley you might notice the yellow signposts in town. These indicate a stop along the Tea and Tours trail, a history filled bike ride beginning at Willowbrook Manor and brainchild of Gifford. The tours follow along the Cascade Trail. “It’s quite the unique experience with bikes, tea, scones, scenery, and area history,” Gifford shares. Take off on an e-bike and traverse the surrounding area all the way into the little town of Lyman or venture onto the old Northern State Hospital grounds now turned park and owned by the Port of Skagit. Perfect for history buffs, aficionados for architecture, and lovers of the outdoors!
Loving Her Work
Gifford loves every aspect of her work. As a Jane of all trades she bakes, runs a tea house and a bed and breakfast, offers bike tours of the area, and is on the board for several local organizations including the Tulip Festival. The most impressive act she does is the act of giving.
Experience the gentle care of tea at Willowbrook Manor where the kettle is always on. For more information, visit the Willowbrook Manor and Tea House website.