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Chicago Master Gardener

A blog for Chicago Master Gardeners providing information on volunteer opportunities, training, workshops and resources.

Volunteer Opportunity-Pacific Garden Mission -Organic Greenhouse

Posted by Ron Wolford -

One of our recent Master Gardener interns (thanks Mike!) mentioned a good red-wiggler resource that exists right here in our city, and that you can pick up within a week of ordering. The Pacific Garden Mission (PGM) recently moved from a downtown location to their new facility on 1458 South Canal Street. Alongside their impressive emergency lodging and kitchen, they have also built two 2,500 square foot greenhouses.

Four adult residents from Pacific Garden Mission also work in the greenhouses with the worms. All have been recently homeless, and some have dealt with mental illness, drug addiction, and physical abuse or substance abuse problems.

Master Gardeners or Master Composters interested in being involved would need to understand the special circumstances of these residents, but know that there are numerous benefits from volunteering with such ambitious individuals interested in making huge change and strides in their lives.

Of course, consistency is important to adults in a constant state of upheaval, so volunteers working here would preferably be "regular" volunteers- once a week or month, but consistent and regular.

They work out of a 99% Organic greenhouse, and volunteers could bring their own plants to propagate, eat lunch in the cafeteria on the days they volunteer, and participate in the re-sale of the worms, worm bins and plants.

Beginning in January, the workdays will be reduced to 3 days a week; M, W, F between 8 a.m.-1 p.m. This would be a great opportunity for one or two Master Gardeners or Master Composters to volunteer, even if you could only help out 2-3 hours at a time.

Okay, so maybe you don't want to volunteer, but you want to order worms for your whole family for the holidays. Great! The greenhouse work group, lead by Nancy Klehm at PGM, offers a pound of worms to the Chicagoland community for a $20 donation.

They also sell very nice untreated-pine wooden worm bins (1,000-worm bin w/ worms for $75 and 2,500-worm bins w/worms for $175). If you needed worms, or were interested in these handmade wooden bins, please place your order with Nancy Klehm at and allow a week for your worms to be handpicked for you or two weeks for your handmade bin to be built.

This is a great Chicago resource, and it will definitely be an amazing place to volunteer. Let me know if you have any questions or if you'd like to volunteer at

Kate Weinans
Urban Gardening:Youth Programs
University of Illinois Extension

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