What does it take to move 11,500 plants? Then organize them into 629 orders for 500 people? A lot of dedicated volunteers in a well-organized system! (Other fun facts: 580 milkweed plants of different species; 100 asters and 250 goldenrods-yay! Good news for pollinators in the fall.)
There would be no West Cook Wild Ones without our volunteers & certainly no plant sale. We wanted to take a moment to highlight the substantial contributions volunteers make in the months before the plant sale and then the days of the plant sale. It is quite a project for a small non-profit!
We have SUCH a wonderful community of volunteers. Every volunteer was in good spirits, excited about the mission and willing to pitch in wherever necessary! Our amazing 78 volunteers donated a total of 359 hours of service toward the plant sale. This included making phone calls, watering the plants, assembling the orders, checking for quality, welcoming customers, answering customer questions, providing curb-side delivery, and all those one-off jobs we needed at the moment. The work they did made the sale a success. Many volunteers stayed late on Tuesday afternoon to greet and unload the delivery truck that was several hours late. Our Wild Ones national board member Jim Poznak swept a few floors for us! People called and e-mailed to check in after their shifts to see if we needed them to come back. We can be thankful for such a dedicated group of native plant loving individuals.
The plant sale begins with the Plant Sale Committee, comprised of four board members who focus on the plant sale, starting in the summer of 2020. Sharon Storbeck, Carolyn Cullen, Laura Hartwell-Berlin, and Cynthia Colvin begin communicating with vendors and presenting available species to the regular board, who gives some input on what to offer. They also planned the kits. Then, once plants have been decided, they begin the process of contacting vendors. Any new plants need descriptions and photos added to the Shopify website. Write-ups for the new plants were provided by Cynthia Colvin and board member Byron Lanning. In March, the site launched with Carolyn attentively watching the numbers and ordering more plants as needed.
In January 2021, the plant sale committee begins monthly (and sometimes twice monthly) planning meetings with our partners Nina Baki of the Forest Preserves of Cook County and Valerie Kehoe of the University of Illinois Extension service. In these meetings, we worked out the details of using the Forest Preserve facility and collaborated on the final details ofthe order assembly process. Sharon planned the system for assembling the kits, customer orders and layout of the orders on the floor so that volunteers can quickly find the plants when the customer arrives. Laura helped with constructing the Sign Up Genius for people to pick up their plants and monitored the list. She also communicated with customers who have not selected or need to change their times or schedule an alternate pick up time.
On the days of the plant sale, Sharon, Carolyn, Nina, and Laura all decide the organization of the space and the plants. It begins with unloading the truck with the help of all the volunteers and placing the plants into alphabetical order by scientific name. Then, orders get pulled and placed in a system that Sharon devised. Starting on Thursday and running through Saturday, volunteers put together any remaining orders or delivered the plants to the customers’ cars. Even after the sale, there is still volunteer effort in contacting customers about orders and then maintaining and selling left over plants. Overall, the sale was a stream-lined process with lots of smiling people connecting over the potential of all these plants.
We want to make a special shout out to the following folks: