Loving on our volunteers!

| Community, Sales, Volunteer
Kat at the Welcome Table

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.

Sharon and Carolyn

We want to make a special shout out to the following folks: 

Kerrie Gonzalez who took our volunteer program to a 100X higher level of professionalism, developed a training presentation along with Quick Reference guides for several volunteer roles, taking about 15 hours (!). She integrated seamlessly into the plant sale committee and was onsite everyday of plant sorting and pick-up and recruited her sister to help as well.  In addition to being talented, Kerrie is fun!
Pam Todd, our past-president, who drove in from MI to help, brought along Donn, her husband, and Jessica, her daughter.  Pam always brings infectious good cheer, deep plant knowledge, and willingness to change roles midstream.
Melanie Dawe worked full days on Tuesday and Wednesday and assumed oversight of kit assembly organizing the teams working on each of the four kits.  Melanie returned late afternoon on Thursday unscheduled to provide a little extra help!
Katharine Katinas personed the welcome tent during the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday afternoon pick-ups. She helped Laura to improve the process, tracked people who came, made lists of customers who signed up but did not come to pick-up and then made phone calls and sent emails to those people.  She did it quickly and effectively, usually having it all done by the time Laura got home.
Our valued partner, Val Kehoe of University of Illinois Extension Service and Conservation @ Home provided numerous hours of planning, myriad supporting documents for customer education, multiple volunteer shifts during sale pick-up, her calm, steady presence and treats!
Heather Zomchek, Jim Poznak, Mary Peranteau, Con Buckley, Micki Leventhal, Stephanie Kenny, Nancy Degnan and Jean Dubach all worked multiple shifts.
Our fabulous partner, the Forest Preserve District of Cook County provided countless hours from Nina Baki in planning and organizing the sale.  Nina worked as hard and contributed as much (or more) as any of the Wild Ones group and was integral to our success. Lorrie Ward helped with planning and managed the pick-up at Sagawau. Along with providing the facility, the Forest Preserve also permitted other employees to volunteer time during their work days:  Kevin Kuhn, Eileen Figel (Deputy General Superintendent of FPCC), Maria Vujic, Stephan DeFalco, Janice Culver-Weiler, Mauvita Rash, Denise Vaca and Kathy Wurster. 
Written by Laura Hartwell-Berlin, Kerrie Gonzalez, and Stephanie Walquist
Volunteers moved the flats & placed in alphabetical order.
Just delivered!
Volunteers pulled plants, assembled orders, and placed them in numerical order. Then begins the pick up process so that plants go to their new homes to do their good work!