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It's time for Christmas shopping and holiday bustle, and one of the best things that area residents can do as a gift to themselves and their neighbors alike this season is to shop local.

Local businesses invest in our community, and they're passionate about our community. They care and make our community a better place to live, shop and play. So, before deciding to purchase online or drive to Effingham, Champaign or Decatur for a shopping trip, give these businesses an opportunity to serve your needs. You won’t be disappointed!

Why is shopping local so important? Simple: It keeps money in our community, it employs our friends, neighbors, sons and daughters. Plus, it makes our community a more fun and interesting place to live. An economic study shows that Coles County consumers spend $945 million annually on consumer goods and services. Of that amount, $221 million leave this county to be spent elsewhere. That’s 23 percent or almost 1 in every 4 dollars!

When we choose to spend outside of our community, it results in less local sales tax to support our schools, streets and infrastructure, police and fire protection. As the convenience of internet shopping entices us to spend elsewhere, local businesses need to cut back, perhaps lay off an employee or two, reduce their support for a local ball team or youth program. How much does Amazon.com give back to our community? How many of our friends and neighbors do they employ locally? Absolutely zero.

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By shopping local, we can build a vibrant and prospering community. If each adult in Coles County committed to spending as little as $75 locally on Christmas shopping, that would be over $3.2 million dollars staying here and benefiting our community. Perhaps our local businesses would hire another one of our friends and neighbors, donate more to local charities, and expand their business into bigger storefronts on our main streets. That would be a better community for all of us.

While you keep shopping local in mind, don't forget that your charitable donations also are best spent near home. Numerous organizations such as food pantries, the Mattoon Area PADS homeless shelter, the local Salvation Army and Catholic Charities, and many more groups need your donations particularly at this time of year.

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They're helping your friends and neighbors who are down on their luck. The ripple effects of your local donating can extend farther than you may realize. One person who is retrained for a new job, helped out of homelessness, assisted in putting food on the table or otherwise given a hand up this Christmas season is better able to, themselves, contribute to keeping our local area a great place to live.

Shop local at the holiday season and year-round, and donate local, too. Our community's well-being is worth it.

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