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Editorial: Shop Locally, Give Locally

Small business Saturday isn't enough; don't wait until then, and don't stop after that.

An effort to support locally owned businesses has resulted in the recognition of Small Business Saturday, the Saturday after Thanksgiving. This year that is Nov. 24. Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is a day of national zeal for shopping. Presumably the next day shoppers can focus on local shopping.

It sounds like an obligation, and it is. But there is a joy to shopping in local stores at the holidays, to walking along a sidewalk with the streets decked out for the holidays, to being greeting by someone likely to be the owner of the store, to finding gifts that are not mass-produced.

We all benefit when local stores thrive, when local business districts beckon.

Locally owned retail shops, services, restaurants depend on vibrant local communities to thrive. Most small, locally owned businesses invest in community, helping to transform our towns and communities with a sense of place.

Supporting small businesses, locally owned businesses, has to be more than a one-day affair.

The economy continues to improve slowly without inspiring. But still, local families will shop and exchange gifts during the next month, spending tens of millions of dollars in a variety of places.

One way to be sure holiday shopping comes with some holiday spirit is to do a portion of your shopping in some of the area's locally owned stores. There is special holiday ambiance available by shopping in the heart of a town that is decked out for the season. Small retail shops are part of defining any community. Their livelihood depends on the livability and quality of the neighborhoods around them. A small business owner pays attention to every detail in his or her business in a way that no chain can.

Frequently, it is the small retail person who is active in fundraising for local charities, for fire and rescue service, for local schools and in organizing holiday events.

Local retail stores, mom-and-pop stores, face tough challenges right now. Competition from big box stores and online sellers makes the holiday shopping season all the more important to locally-owned retailers.

Everyone will do some of their shopping at the mall. Everyone will do some shopping online. But local shoppers should be sure to save some shopping time and dollars for local stores. Spend some time shopping in your own community, and also plan an excursion to a nearby town to check out the local businesses and holiday spirit there.

Alexandria: Where to Give Locally

  • ACT for Alexandria, 703-739-7778, www.actforalexandria.org, Nonprofit and Donor Services.

  • Alexandria Community Services Board, www.alexandriava.gov/mhmrsa, Crisis Intervention Services, Elderly Needs, Mental Health, Substance Abuse, Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.

  • Arlington-Alexandria Coalition for the Homeless, 703-525-7177, www.aachhomeless.org.

  • Carpenter's Shelter, 703 548-7500, www.carpentersshelter.org, Homeless Services and Programs including Education and Case Management.

  • The Campagna Center, 703-549-0111, www.campagnacenter.org.

  • Center for Alexandria's Children, 703-838-4381, www.centerforalexandriaschildren.org, Child Abuse & Neglect and Parent Support.

  • Child and Family Network Centers, 703-836-0214, www.cfnc-online.org.

  • Community Lodgings, Inc., 703-549-4407, Transitional and Affordable Housing, Youth Education, Adult Education and Bilingual Staff Assistance.

  • Computer C.O.R.E., 703-931-7346, www.computercore.org, Adult Education, Computer Training and Career Development.

  • Hopkins House, 703-549-8072, www.hopkinshouse.org, Preschool academy, family budgeting and literacy, family education and youth summer enrichment camp, Early Childhood Learning Institute.

  • Northern Virginia Family Services, 703-385-3267, www.nvfs.org, Employment and Job Training, Healthcare, Housing, Mental Health, Foster Care and Healthy Families (home visitations to new parents).

  • Volunteer Alexandria, 703-836-2176, http://volunteeralexandria.org, Volunteer Recruitment and Placement, Court-Referred Community Service Placement, Community Awareness Events and Volunteer Management Training. For more, see http://www.achsova.org.

In Arlington, Where to Give Locally

In no particular order:

  • Arlingtonians Meeting Emergency Needs (AMEN) provides one-time, same-day emergency financial assistance to Arlington residents facing a financial crisis, and also has programs to help prevent homelessness, 703-558-0035, www.emergencyneeds.org.

  • Doorways for Women and Families provides services to help women out of domestic violence and homelessness toward safe and stable lives, 703-504-9400, www.doorwaysva.org.

  • The Arlington Food Assistance Center provides supplemental food assistance to Arlington County residents, on average serving 3,500 adults and 1,500 children a week. The center is at 2708 South Nelson Street, Arlington, VA 22206, 703-845-8486, http://www.afac.org/.

  • Habitat for Humanity of Northern Virginia, Arlington, 703-521-9890.

  • Arlington Free Clinic provides medical care for low-income, uninsured adults in Arlington, 703-979-1425, 2921 11th St. South Arlington, VA 22204, www.arlingtonfreeclinic.org.

  • Arlington-Alexandria Coalition for the Homeless, 703-525-7177, www.aachhomeless.org.

  • A-SPAN provides services for Arlington's street homeless. Their mission is to secure permanent housing for one of Arlington's most vulnerable populations. Reach them at 703-820-4357, P.O. Box 100731 Arlington, VA 22210, or http://www.a-span.org/.

In Fairfax County, Where to Give Locally

In no particular order:

  • Our Daily Bread -- has been serving needy families in Fairfax County for 25 years. The Holiday Program helps those in need with food for the holidays and gifts for their children, making last year's holiday season brighter for approximately 3,000 families. For more information on their holiday programs, including how to sponsor a family, go to www.odbfairfax.com/holiday.

  • Food for Others distributed more than 2.4 million pounds of free food to families in need in Northern Virginia in the year ending June 30, 2012, The non-profit provides a safety net for people who suddenly face unforeseen emergencies such as a family illness or the loss of a job or a spouse. Located at 2938 Prosperity Ave., Fairfax, VA 22031, 703-207-9173. www.foodforothers.com.

  • Ecumenical Community Helping Others (ECHO), 703-569-9160. Open to receive donations at 7205 Old Keene Mill Road, Springfield. Provides food and financial assistance to those in short-term emergencies, and provides clothing and household goods to low income families, helping more than 5,000 people last year www.echo-inc.org.

  • Lorton Community Action Center operates the Act ll Thrift Shop at 9506 Richmond Highway, Lorton. Sales from the shop generate funds for LCAC and clients also shop there. Now collecting gift cards and food baskets for Thanksgiving, gifts and food baskets for Christmas, and warm coats. 703-339-8611 www.lortonaction.org.

  • Comfort for America's Uniformed Services (CAUSE) -- ensures that recuperating service members have opportunities for recreation and social interaction and receive concrete signs of appreciation for all that they have done. 4114 Legato Road Suite B, Fairfax, VA 22033, 703-591-4968, cause-usa.org.

  • National Capital Food Bank, 6833 Hill Park Drive, Lorton, serving all of Northern Virginia, 703-541-3063 www.capitalareafoodbank.org.

  • Western Fairfax Christian Ministries -- food pantry at 13981 Metrotech Drive in Chantilly (near Backyard Grill and Bar). For more information or to sponsor a family, call 703-988-9656, ext. 105. To mail gift cards or send donations by check, add a note saying "food basket program" and send them to: WFCM, P.O. Box 220802, Chantilly, VA 20153. 703-988-9656.

  • The Jeanie Schmidt Free Clinic, 13525 Dulles Technology Drive, Herndon, VA 20171, 571-235-3577. Last year, 139 community volunteers -- nurses, nurse practitioners, and physicians -- gave more than 1,300 hours of their time to see patients jsfreeclinic.org.

  • Alternative House -- Abused and Homeless Children's Refuge, 2100 Gallows Road, Vienna, VA 22182, 703-506-9191 www.thealternativehouse.org.

  • Reston Interfaith, 11150 Sunset Hills Road, Suite 210, Reston, serving Reston and Herndon. 571-323-9555, www.restoninterfaith.org. Programs and services include the Embry Rucker Community Shelter, Emergency Food Pantry, Hypothermia Prevention Program and the Thanksgiving Food Drive.

  • SHARE of McLean seeks donations of grocery gift cards and more. Checks and gift cards can be sent to: Holiday Celebration, Share, Inc. PO Box 210, McLean, VA 22101. 703-284-2179. www.SHAREofMcLean.org.

  • LINK, serving Herndon, Chantilly, Loudoun and more, needs contributions of food, coats and holiday toys for children, plus volunteers. More than 4,000 adults and children have signed up for help with Thanksgiving and Christmas meals. 703-437-1776 www.linkagainsthunger.org.

  • FACETS helps parents, their children and individuals who suffer the effects of poverty in the Fairfax area. FACETS is always in need of volunteers, and offers a variety of one-time and ongoing opportunities. 703-865-4251 or volunteer@facetscares.org. FACETS offers a monthly Youth Volunteer Night, with the next one scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 20, 5:30-6:30pm. Information about supply donations and FACETS holiday gifts drive is available on the website at www.facetscares.org. 10640 Page Avenue, Suite 300, Fairfax VA 22030.

  • Committee for Helping Others (CHO), Vienna, organized in 1969 by a group of concerned churches and individuals in the Dunn Loring, Merrifield, Oakton, Vienna community to provide simple, loving charity to those in need. The 14th Annual Thanksgiving Interfaith Service is Tuesday, Nov. 20, 7:30 p.m. at Emmanuel Lutheran Church, 2589 Chain Bridge Road. Vienna 703-281-7614 http://www.cho-va.com.

  • Fairfax City Area FISH (For Immediate Sympathetic Help), working with the Office of Coordinated Services Planning, Fairfax County Department of Human Services, FISH helps local citizens who are in temporary need of life's basic necessities such as food, clothing, and financial assistance for rent, mortgage payments, utilities, and medical treatments. FISH also provides limited transportation for doctor appointments and food delivery. 703-222-0880 http://fairfaxfish.org/.

  • Herndon-Reston FISH (For Immediate Sympathetic Help), 336 Victory Drive, Herndon, 703-391-0105 http://herndonrestonfish.org.

  • Lamb Center, www.thelambcenter.org, Day center for homeless, Fairfax 703-691-3178

  • Northern Virginia Family Service, 10455 White Granite Drive Suite 100, Oakton, VA 22124 703-385-3267 http://www.nvfs.org/.

  • United Community Ministries, Mount Vernon, 703-768-7106, 7511 Fordson Road, Alexandria, 22306 http://www.ucmagency.org/.