2018 Annual Benefit

Our annual fundraiser to celebrate the opening of the Oak Park Farmers’ Market was a great success. For the first time, we held the party at the Oak Park River Forest History Museum. With so much rich history to learn about, guests lingered.

Midway through the evening we unveiled our new logo designed by Cadette Girl Scout Troop 4039 in Oak Park. We were delighted by the cheerful design that depicts a rainbow of shapes and colors in the form of fruits and vegetables. It’s an accurate reflection of who we are as an organization. We feel that farmers’ markets are a celebration of food and that everyone should be invited to the party. That’s why we raise money to provide people who are food insecure with the funds to buy fresh fruit and vegetables at the Oak Park Farmers’ Market. If you believe that everyone deserves access to fresh fruits and vegetables like we do, please consider making a donation.

Check here for last year’s event highlights. Read about last year’s event here.

At the event, we also provided our supporters with an update on the work we are doing with partner organizations. We are providing social service agencies, churches, food banks, etc, with coupons to use at the Oak Park Farmers’ Market to pass along to their clients. We are seeing a tremendous return on those coupons that we anticipate will grow as the program matures. The partner organizations are proving to be instrumental ambassadors in helping the Shawnash Institute get the word out about the assistance that is available for people who are food insecure and want access to the Oak Park Farmers’ Market. The more financial support that you provide, the more coupons we can distribute. Any help you can offer whether it’s suggesting a local organization to partner with or making a donation is appreciated.

Matching Value Coupon Program

The Shawnash Institute became involved with the Matching Value Coupon Program at the Oak Park Farmers’ Market in the summer of 2014. The DVCP makes it possible for LINK card holders to afford fresh, healthy food from our Farmer’s market. We believe in making fresh produce available to everyone. Read more in the Austin Weekly News article. More info on food stamps in capitol hill.

Double Value Coupon Weekly Distributions

Every week during the market season, Shawnash posts the distributions of coupons to LINK card holders and coupon redemption by market vendors. Year to year comparisons show a steady growth in Double Value Coupon usage. View the 2015 coupon activity. 

Farmers’ Markets

Shawnash believes everyone deserves access to fresh, healthy food. Our mission is to increase LINK card holders’ participation in the Oak Park Farmers’ Market to give all community members access to healthier food.  Village of Oak Park Farmers’ Market Web Site

2017 Annual Benefit

Thanks to all those who came to support the Shawnash Institute during our third annual wine tasting and fundraiser on the eve of the Farmer’s Marketing opening in May.

This celebrates making healthy, local vegetables, fruits, meats and cheeses available to all.

See photos from the event below.


2016 Annual Benefit Highlights

Friday, May 20, 2016 was the day before the opening of the Oak Park Farmers Market. And the eve of the Farmers’ Market has become the night of the annual Shawnash open house. This annual event celebrates making healthy vegetables and fruits available to all.

A highlight of our event is the tasting of fine Oregon wines from the Willamette Valley, provided through the generosity of Lisa Taaffe, Mid-West Region Manger of the Union Wine Company.Lisa and Mark

Several churches in the area have come up with creative ways to support the program with donations. Anne White of Unity Temple told about church members holding a regular ‘farmers’ market’ to sell local produce after the Sunday service and donating  the proceeds to Shawnash to support the Double Value Coupon Program. She presented a $300 check from the first sale.

Anne is describing the DVCP fund raising efforts of Unity Temple.
Anne is describing the DVCP fund raising efforts of Unity Temple.

Notable among the new faces at our benefit was Oak Park State Senator Don Harmon. Senator Harmon noted that he seldom is able to attend a celebration of legislation he is sponsoring, but that is essentially the case for HB6027, HEALTHY LOCAL FOOD INCENTIVES Act. If passed, this legislation would enable a state agency to pool state and federal funds for the purpose of providing matching IMG_0557dollar incentives (up to a specified amount) for the dollar value of SNAP (LINK Card) benefits spent on fruits and vegetables at participating Illinois farmers markets and producer-to-consumer venues. Senator Harmon’s remarks were well received.

Below are photos from this year’s benefit. Again this year, everyone had a great time for a great cause.

Friends of ShawnashIMG_0560


IMG_0584Jim Babcock, Ceal Bacom and Eileen Lynch

Kregg Raducha and Dan Owens


























Senator Harmon and Shawnash friends


Double Value Coupon in the News

Board President Warren Bakker, Secretary Treasure John Owens and Board member Betsy Kelly met with the press on Saturday, October 10th at the Farmers’ Market. In an interview amid LINK card transactions they discussed the history and impact of the Double Value Coupon and the successful campaign of the Shawnash Institute to strengthen the program’s underlying financial base and expand outreach. Austin Weekly News editor Micheal Romain’s story appeared in the Weekly News and the Oak Park Wednesday Journal. Betsy Kelly also serves as an assistant manager of the market.

2015 Coupon Distribution and Redemption

Between Village of Oak Park grant writing and Shawnash fundraising it appears the Double Value Coupon Program will be fully funded through the last 2015 Farmer Farmers’ Market Session. Actual figures for distribution and redemption of coupons are displayed below. They summarize weekly transactions at the market.

By way of comparison the numbers and trends for 2014 are published below.

There are three components for 2015 funding for the Double Value Coupon:

  • Funds brought forward from 2015
  • Village Grants for 2015
  • Contributions for DVCP through Shawnash

This graph shows the most recently reported distribution of coupons shown above compared with available funding:

The possibility of channeling excess Shawnash funds raised for DVCP into the purchase of produce from local growers for food pantry grants appears to leave the Oak Park Farmers’ Market with a healthy margin for 2015.

Happy moments from Shawnash Fundraiser

Contributions Today

The 2020 Farmers’ Market season is happening in the midst of incredible upheaval for growers and customers. The Shawnash mission to connect those in need with healthy food has never been more urgent. Your contribution today will support local growers and low income consumers in nearby communities.

Shawnash held its first fundraiser on the eve of the first Oak Park Farmers’ Saturday of 2015. Nearly 100 friends attended and almost $3,000 was raised (maybe more when outstanding checks arrive). Our photographer captured some scenes of merriment and mirth!

Lisa@workTable_talk Cousins Engaging Couched Dan&Martha Bakkers Laughs Atchley_Roach Meredith Kregg_Lynn Fosters CharandBetty VanderPlus Ceal_John

How to Volunteer

Food Pantry Chats

There are many ways to help Shawnash spread the word about Double Value Coupons and to raise funding to help support the program.

Twice a week volunteers are needed to explain the Double Value Coupon program. The DVC program increases the buying power at the market for LINK card users. Each week, LINK users can receive up to $25 in market cash to spend at that market or throughout the season.

Saturday Sign Up: Volunteer for a 10-minute pantry chat here.

Wednesday Sign Up: Volunteer for a 10-minute pantry chat here.

Bake Sale

Each year, the Shawnash Institute holds a Bake Sale at the Oak Park Farmer’s Market.  John Owens

Shawnash Story

The Shawnash Institute became involved with the Double Value Coupon Program (DVCP) at the Oak Park Farmers’ Market in the summer of 2014. The idea of making fresh produce available to those with less access has been evolving at different places in our country for some time:
Overview from National Public Radio
Nationwide Pioneer – Wholesome Wave
Illinois Pioneer – Experimental Station

Beginning in 2011, Chicago-based Experimental Station annually provided Oak Park’s Farmers’ Market with a small grant to encourage LINK card holders to purchase fresh produce. LINK is the State of Illinois program that was once called Food Stamps; benefits are accumulated on a debit account accessed through a LINK card. At the market LINK card purchases are matched up to $20 with coupons. The program was successful – so successful that the grant was exhausted every year well before the end of the market.

That’s when Shawnash board members Warren Bakker and John Owens got busy. Warren is a long-time member of the Farmer’s Market Commission and John was Assistant Farmers’ Market Manager in 2012 and 2013. They maintained that communities with as many resources and as much generosity as Oak Park and River Forrest would enthusiastically support the DVCP if congregations, businesses and individuals only understood this wonderful program was languishing in their midst.

When they reached out the community responded. And when it was determined a 501(c)3 was needed to manage the collected funds and award them to the Farmers’ Market (a fiscal agent), the Shawnash board of directors unanimously stepped forward into this new role. Incorporated in 2009 with a broad mandate to “strengthen the balance between earth and her people,” Shawnash had worked in sustainability education and food insecurity and was eager to embrace this new mission.

Because of Shawnash and the DVCP stakeholders, 2014 was the first year the Double Value Coupons were available from the Market’s opening in mid-May until its close at the end of October. The program is entering the 2015 Farmers’ Market season with a small surplus and a lot of optimism about the future.

The graphs below show the robust growth of coupon distribution and redemption in 2014 when we kept the program funded all year compared to 2013 when funds were expended midway into the market season.



The improvements in DVCP participation was not solely the result of more funds being available. Shawnash representatives repeatedly made presentations on Saturday mornings at the Oak Park Food Pantry. In 2015 those presentations have resumed as well as new initiatives with Catholic Charities, PADS and Oak Park’s Infant Welfare Society.

Shawnash is gratified by the progress we made in 2014, but in terms of the problem of providing access to fresh produce for all, our success is meager. The best measure of participation is LINK card transactions – towards the end of the 2014 market, transactions exceeded 30. There are more than 5,000 LINK card holders living in close proximity to our market. Your generosity is key to making their lives healthier.

Our Double Value Coupon Program

In 2014 Shawnash fundraising and outreach to LINK card holders was responsible for better nutrition for economically stressed and more income for growers. The promotion of the program and the extra buying power, in many cases, has been the decisive factor in LINK cardholders becoming regular customers of farmers’ markets and, more important, giving them the benefit of regular access to healthy food.

Map of Contributing Congregations and businesses:

On March 29, 2014, representatives from six Oak Park-River Forest congregations (Ascension, St. Giles, St. Luke, St. Edmund, Euclid Avenue United Methodist and Fair Oaks Presbyterian) gathered in the Pine Room of Oak Park’s Ascension School to learn how the Illinois Double Value Coupon Program (DVCP) helps LINK cardholders gain more access to healthy produce and other foods bought at farmers’ markets throughout the area. LINK is the Illinois program that manages federal SNAP (food stamp) benefits. Corey Chatman, DVCP manager at Experimental Station, discussed the program’s goals and methods. Experimental Station, a Hyde Park nonprofit, helps manage the DVCP in Illinois.

Corey Chapman
Corey Chapman

At Farmers’ Markets that have wireless credit / debit card capabilities, like Oak Park, LINK recipients can use their state-issued debit card to buy healthy fruits and vegetables. Then, Experimental Station’s DVCP matching funds  provide LINK cardholders up to $20 more a visit to buy additional produce. The funds are issued as coupons that can only be redeemed at the Farmers’ Market.

Through cardholder feedback and surveys at Experimental Station’s 61st Street Farmers’ Market, much has been learned about the impact of the program. In addition to building buying power for LINK Card recipients and customers for the local growers at farmers’ markets, important shifts in attitude and perception flow from the program. Farmers’ markets are seen as expensive and elitist – a place where LINK cardholders feel they don’t really belong. The promotion of the program and the extra buying power, in many cases, has been the decisive factor in LINK cardholders becoming regular customers of farmers’ markets and, more important, giving them the benefit of regular access to healthy food. The Experimental Station website cites additional endorsements from market managers at: http://www.experimentalstation.org/link-up-illinois/impacts.

At the Oak Park Farmers’ Market, DVCP has been so successful during the last two years that all the grant funds have been expended before the end of August. When the funds run out, coupons are no longer issued and LINK recipients are turned away disappointed. Last year two congregations (Ascension and St. Edmund) made contributions to extend the season a little longer and they are determined that, with a little more organization, other local congregations and individuals will be able to generate sufficient donations to make sure the Double Coupon program lasts the whole season in Oak Park.

At the March 29th meeting, participants focused on a goal of raising $7,000 to support the program at the 2014 Farmers’ Market. Fr. Larry McNally of Ascension began the 2014 effort with a check for $100. A few weeks later, St. Giles contributed $770, the proceeds from one of its Lenten Soup Suppers. At St. Edmund, A Place at the Table, a documentary about hunger in America, was shown and discussed; donations for the Double Value Coupon Program totaled $150.

Leaders are currently reaching out to Oak Park congregations to collaborate on this important effort to fight hunger locally and statewide. If your congregation wishes to find out more, please contact John Owens at owens708@comcast.net or call John at 708 846-1827.

ESRI embedded map:

Community Garden Diary

Each week donations and harvest are weighed and the totals are logged in a spreadsheet that is distributed to all the gardeners and interested parishioners. Years 2012 through 2014 are recorded. In May entries for the running total for 2015 will begin to be recorded.


Susan Fleming turned our plan into a diagram that was mostly followed.

Our towering tomato cages are unique in all of agriculture.

Radishes are one of our early crops.
Radishes are one of our early crops.

Through the spring and summer many different gardeners water and harvest our garden. Parishioners contribute from their home gardens. The harvest and contributions all go to the food pantry of our sharing parish, St. Martin De Porres.


In April and May, the beds receive fresh compost and some are planted with cool weather crops of peas and turnips. Every spring the our gardeners are invited to a blessing of seeds, tools and gardeners. 2014 was our 5th spring blessing, all of them officiated by Deacon Roger Vandervest.

Gathered around the statue of St. Francis.
Gathered around the statue of St. Francis.

The second or third annual Seedling Saturday was held in Ascension School’s Pine Room. New gardeners and experienced gardeners started cultivating their gardens indoors. Many of these seedlings will be sold to parishioners later in May on Seedling Sunday, between Masses to raise money for the Community garden.




On Saturday, March 15th, the Ascension Community Garden Planning Committee decided on the following garden configuration for 2014.

The schematic of our raised beds below is numbered for clarity. Bed (and pot) assignments are as follows:

Bed Numbered
Raised Bed Schema

  • For our 4 pots, trellis teepees will be erected for cucumbers. Donations of bamboo poles for construction are welcome.
  • Bed 1 will be cherry tomatoes interspersed with leaf lettuce.
  • Bed 2 will be turnips with no other plantings.
  • Bed 3 will be Swiss chard with radishes interspersed.
  • Bed 4 will be a medium tomato selection interspersed with shelling peas.
  • Bed 5 will be green beans interspersed with shelling peas.
  • Bed 6 will be leeks with no other plantings.
  • Bed 7 will have broccoli planted on the perimeter with rows of okra growing inside.
  • Bed 8 will be a large tomato selection interspersed with leaf lettuce.
  • Bed 9 will be green beans interspersed with shelling peas.
  • Bed 10 will be collard greens.
  • Bed 11 will be sweet peppers with radishes interspersed.
  • Summer squash (zucchini) will be planted in our scrub patch. Donated plants can also be transplanted into the scrub patch as space allows.

Because of their proximity to our hose, beds 1, 2 and 3 are designated for the soaker hose installation project. Pete Sluka offered to donate a plastic industrial 50 gallon barrel for project.

Ascension Garden Planners
Ascension Garden Planners

John Owens will contact the Village to find out about the availability of compost for the beds and wood chips for the spaces between the beds. We are also collaborating with our Hatch Patch contact, parishioner Cathi Knickrehn, about possibly acquiring compost through Growing Power again this year.Frame Maintenance – Clem noted exteriors of all the beds, particularly the below ground areas need an application of linseed oil early in the season. Also bed 2 has a split post that needs repair or replacement.


The harvested garden rest under a blanket of snow in the winter of 2013 – 14.


Snow, snow . . .

and more snow!
and more snow!

Spring thaw
Spring thaw