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Editorial: Potomac Shop Locally …

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.

— Mary Kimm, mkimm@connectionnewspapers.com

… Give Locally

Poverty and homelessness are sometimes hard to see in Northern Virginia, but there is no shortage of families in need locally, especially at the holidays. Here are some of the local organizations ready to help, and in need of your help. Financial contributions are always preferred.

Potomac: Where to Give Locally

Manna Food Center, 9311 Gaither Road, Gaithersburg, MD 20877, 301-424-1130 www.mannafood.org>

Manna Food Center, the main food bank in Montgomery County, strives to eliminate hunger through food distribution, education, and advocacy. Manna has distributed more than 43 million pounds of food to more than 2.7 million individuals. Manna provided food to 5 percent of Montgomery County residents this past year.

Mercy Health Clinic, www.mercyhealthcl...>

7 Metropolitan Court, Suite 1, Gaithersburg, MD 20878

Mercy Health Clinic is a free, community-based volunteer organization providing quality healthcare to uninsured, low-income residents of Montgomery County. The clinic, located in Gaithersburg, depends on the expertise of volunteers, healthcare professionals and support from community partners to provide quality care to those in need. The Clinic is staffed with medical professionals including family practice physicians, cardiologists, endocrinologists, nurse practitioners, nurse assistants, translators and behavioral health counselors.

Interfaith Works, www.iworksmc.org, 114 West Montgomery Ave., Rockville, MD 20850,

Interfaith Works provides shelter, food, and clothing to low-income and homeless neighbors.

Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless, www.mcch.net, 600-B East Gude Drive, Rockville, MD 20850 301-217-0314

Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless (MCCH), a community-based nonprofit organization, is a leading provider of permanent housing, intermediate housing, emergency shelter, and supportive services for people experiencing homelessness. MCCH programs serve 1,600 men, women and children each year.

Shepherd's Table, www.shepherdstabl..., 8210 Dixon Ave., Silver Spring, MD 20910, 301-585-646

Shepherd's Table is a nonprofit organization in downtown Silver Spring, supported by volunteers, religious organizations, government, businesses, foundations, and individual donors. Shepherd's Table provides help to people who are homeless or in need by providing basic services, including meals, social services, medical support, clothing, and other assistance.

Fisher House, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, www.fisherhouse.org, 111 Rockville Pike, Suite 420, Rockville, MD 20850, (888) 294-8560

The Fisher House program supports members of the military and their families when they travel great distances for specialized medical care. Fisher House Foundation donates “comfort homes,” built on the grounds of major military and Veterans medical centers, including Walter Reed in Bethesda. These homes enable family members to be close to a loved one at the most stressful times.

Friends in Action, www.iworksmc.org/..., 114 West Montgomery Ave., Rockville, MD 20850, 301-762-8682

Founded by Interfaith Works (formerly Community Ministry of Montgomery County) in 1986, Friends In Action recruits and trains a network of people from all faiths and ethnic backgrounds. Volunteer mentoring teams are linked for one year in a supportive relationship to a needy family in their community. The goal of the program is to help the family identify their strengths and develop attainable and manageable goals that guide them toward financial independence and personal well-being.