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Shriners to sell onions locally this weekend

MORRIS – John “Jay Jay” Joseph will take a Vidalia onion, lop off the top, stuff a pat of butter inside, score and replace the top, and then grill it.

“That’s the best-eatin’ onion there is,” said Joseph, onion chairman for the Medinah Shrine Club’s annual Vidalia onion fundraiser and member of the club’s clown unit.

On May 17 and 18, members from 36 Chicago-area organizations – including shrine clubs and associated marching units – will sell 8,500 10-pound bags of onions as far north as the Wisconsin border and all the way down to Kankakee, Joseph said. This includes an estimated 800 bags of onions in Morris.

Onions will cost $11 for a 10-pound bag or $20 for two 10-pound bags, Joseph said, He recently saw a 4-pound bag of Vidalia onions retail for $4.83 in a local grocery store, so the Shriners are offering a “fair deal.” The Shriners expect to make $20,000 in profit, he added, from this longstanding fundraiser.

“I don’t know when they started doing this,” Joseph said, “But I’ve been a member for 40 years, and they’ve been doing it at least that long.”

Normally, the Shriners sell close to 12,000 bags of onions, Joseph said, but he cited the economy and an aging club population for the drop.

“It’s an effort to get all these onions to all the locations,” Joseph said. “They go straight from the Georgia grower to us.”

It’s a doubly sweet effort. Vidalia onions have a high sugar content, Joseph said, but, even sweeter, proceeds support Shriners outreach activities. A club news release said that nationally, the Shriners support “a network of 22 nonprofit children’s hospitals around the country.” These hospitals provide services to children with “orthopedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries and cleft lip and palate.”

Locally, proceeds from the onion sales will benefit Shriners Hospitals for Children on Oak Park Avenue in Chicago, Club Chairman Fred Martin said.

“The [onion sale] money goes into a general fund,” Joseph said, “And they direct the funds as needed.”

According to, Vidalia onion will be available on Saturday and Sunday at the following locations:
• Minooka Ace Hardware, 855 S. Ridge Road, Minooka
• BP Amoco Morris, 3485 N. Route 47, Morris
• BP of Morris, 1516 N. Division St., Morris
• BP Amoco Morris,1400 Park Blvd., Morris

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