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Council Corner: It's the time of year to support your local businesses

As a parent, I am always amazed how baseball season can turn to the holiday season so quickly. Time just seems to speed up faster and faster until it is time to sit down for Thanksgiving, which over the years has become my favorite holiday.

For me, Thanksgiving presses the pause button on life for at least one day and allows me to reflect back on the year and remind me of how thankful I am to have the family, friends and blessings that I do. It also inspires me to continue to help and support others in their lives. The saying that “no man is an island” resonates with me. Even though many of us would like to think we are independent and completely self-sufficient, the reality is that we really do need the support of others in many different ways.

Supporting others can take many forms. Donating to the Ashland Emergency Food Bank, working at one of the overnight shelters, volunteering time at various philanthropic organizations and giving money to causes you believe in are actions that we commonly associate with supporting others and I hope increases this holiday season, since the numbers of those in need seems to be only increasing.

There is an additional way we can support our fellow community members that has a very large ripple effect, especially this holiday season, and that is to shop locally.

Yes, there are those who denounce the over-commercialization of the holiday season and for good reason, but the reality is that for many Ashland stores, restaurants and other businesses, the holiday shopping season is vital not only to their success as an enterprise, but crucial to their survival economically. It is naive to think that we will not spend money over the next three months in simple protest of this overt commercialization. The routine purchases and dining out that are associated with day-to-day life will continue even if we do not purchase gifts for others.

Simply re-doubling your efforts to keep those purchases local will have an enormous impact for your fellow Ashlanders. I believe that making a determined effort to not shop locally is not only mean-spirited, it misses the broader and more important point entirely.

A successful and healthy local business means not only that those entrepreneurs can continue on with their dream and support their own family, but it also means that their employees can support theirs as well. As the business grows, so does the need for more employees and the natural demand for a higher wage, which means more employment opportunities for our community and more people and families being supported due to a successful local business.

Ashland is famous for our willingness to take a stand for things we believe in and mobilize to affect change. I believe we should do that to support our local businesses, not just during the holiday season, but year round. Let's make Ashland known as a community in which we support each other in many ways, including those who decide to chase the entrepreneurial dream of the small business owner. Let them know that if they dare to dream, their fellow Ashlanders will support them.

As such, I challenge my fellow Ashlanders to mobilize this Friday. Converge on our local businesses with love and support as they enter their busiest and most crucial time of the year. Let’s eat and shop and offer kind words thanking those working so hard and encouraging them as they do so, not only to make our days bright, but to support their families as well.

Then, Friday evening let's see how packed we can make downtown with cheer, love, support and kindness as we watch the lights come on and the children greet the arrival of Santa Claus (heck, an Ashland-style re-creation of the climactic scene from "The Grinch That Stole Christmas" would be pretty great, wouldn’t it?).

I believe this should be the time of year that we appreciate and care for one another and stand together, and I think thousands of fellow Ashlanders agree with me. Have a happy Thanksgiving and I will see you all Friday!

Greg Lemhouse is a member of the Ashland City Council.