Op/Ed

Editorial: Shopping locally: The magic of giving gifts

ANGELO LYNN

It’s the Thursday before the week before Christmas and, if you’re like me, you may still have a few presents to find, or being honest, maybe you’re just getting started.

Either way, here are eight ways to finish off your shopping list and be absolutely certain your gift will arrive on time and be valued more than any other.

  1. It’s easy to jump on the “shop local” bandwagon, but admittedly not as easy to follow through on every purchase. Here’s the trick: Explore your community like it’s the first time you’ve been there. Walk up and down the retail district. Go into every retail store and look anew at the merchandise they offer. Go just off Main Street onto the side streets and perhaps farther afield to the outskirts of town. Don’t forget local crafts and artists, and the stores, galleries and merchants who sell their wares. Exchange Street in Middlebury is a good example of retail stores off the Main Street, as are the shops along Court Street and farther out on Route 7 north and south. And don’t forget that shopping local includes checking out the other towns throughout the area. What can’t be found in Middlebury might be found in Bristol, Brandon or Vergennes, or any of the county’s 23 communities. If you truly explore what we have, you’ll discover new opportunities that can be plumbed year-round — and you’ll be supporting those businesses that support the community in dozens of ways 365 days a year.
  2. Give the gift of recreation. The most obvious choices are buying lift tickets or season passes to the Middlebury College Snow Bowl or Rikert Nordic Center. Some ski areas sell day tickets in packages of four at a slight discount, but whatever the price, know the experience of getting outside to enjoy the winter snow (when it comes) can be transformative, good for body and soul. And if the outside temps are too intimidating, day passes or memberships (monthly to a year) can be purchased at local fitness centers in Middlebury, Bristol and Vergennes.
  3. If you really don’t know what to buy someone, give them the gift of local moneys. Middlebury Money, promoted by the Better Middlebury Partnership, can be found at the National Bank of Middlebury and other banks. Bristol Bucks, Vergennes Green and Brandon Bucks are also available. Just go to the local chamber of commerce website to find the details. It’s a dollar-for-dollar exchange and can be purchased and then used at most local businesses. This is a great way to give bonuses to employees and gifts to grandchildren (if they’re at an age when buying something on their own is more satisfying, and they’re sure to get what they want!), while also supporting local merchants.
  4. Buy a gift to protect wildlife. For years, the staff at the Addison Independent struggled to find a gift suitable for their fearless leader, until a eureka moment arrived. They bought me an Adopt a Raptor certificate saying they had contributed to an effort to support the red-tailed hawk. I’m not sure how they knew I love watching hawks and other birds of prey soar through the air, but it was a joy for me to know that that year’s gift was going to a cause I supported, but might not have thought to give to. There are endless possibilities in the realm of wildlife, but also gifts can be made to hundreds, if not thousands, of meaningful charities and causes — local, state, national and international.
  5. If you’re looking to support good causes, remember that there are local businesses that could use a dose of love as well. Area restaurants are still struggling to combat staff shortages and a reluctance for some in the community to go out for meals due to the pandemic. Buying gift certificates is ideal because it allows recipients to patronize those establishments when they feel most comfortable, while giving restaurants the money upfront. Fitness centers could use some of that same love, as could coffee shops and retail stores. Or, if you’re so inclined, give a gift subscription to the Addison Independent to family, friends or, ahem, maybe neighbors who you wish were better informed! Just kidding. Ho, ho, ho!
  6. Or support a local organization in someone’s name. The Sheldon Museum comes to mind, as does Homeward Bound: The Addison County Humane Society, Addison County Home Health and Hospice, Middlebury Area Land Trust (MALT) and many other similar groups in the county. They are all great institutions, each needs support, and it’s a great gift — and feeling of satisfaction — to have a donation made in your name.
  7. Similarly, support local arts and theater. You can do this by buying tickets to upcoming shows and events, becoming members of organizations like the Town Hall Theater in Middlebury or the Vergennes Opera House, the Opera Company of Middlebury and many others in towns throughout the county and region. There’s nothing better than giving to groups that enrich our communities in so many ways throughout the year.
  8. Give a gift to yourself by being a mentor at local schools, or school-based organizations. Just google “mentoring in Addison County” or connect to United Way of Addison County’s MENTOR Vermont, and you’ll find a whole new world waiting to be discovered.

Or if you absolutely, positively have to put it in a package, wrap it and seal it with a bow — go right ahead. Just pick up a cute card at one of Addison County’s specialty boutique stores, draft a poetic note, and stick it in the biggest box possible (stuffed with newspaper for those who are prone to shake and rattle) and watch with wonder as gifts of giving do their magic.

Angelo Lynn

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