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Spend your money here.

The holiday season – Thanksgiving to New Year’s – invites spending money: buying presents, sending cards, meeting friends for dinner or drinks, attending a holiday performance, making a family dinner, and creating gifts or decorations at home.

There are lists to make and items to check off, gifts to wrap and deliver. It is a time to appreciate friends and family and to reconnect with those we may have neglected or taken for granted over the year.

Again this year, we urge everyone to do their holiday shopping and entertaining in Evanston. From Howard to Isabella, Sheridan to McCormick, Evanston has places that will entrance shoppers of any age; delight the eye and ear with dance, drama and music; and please even the most finicky palate.

Evanston shopkeepers, artists, chefs, and waitstaff provide these services yearlong, and now may be the time to try something new: discover a new shop or even shopping district, attend a different performance, or dine in a new venue.

Here in Evanston.

This is a season when most of us feel we are in control: We cook the meals, invite the guests, address the cards, set the dates, purchase the tickets, and buy the presents.  

We can also be the ones to remember those who make our lives easier: the shopkeeper who stays open a little later, displays local art or invites students to perform for customers’ entertainment; the waiter who cheerfully pours that third or fourth cup of coffee; the barista who hands you a cup of tea with a smile; the florist who arranges a bouquet or centerpiece just so; the bakers and chefs whose creations are joyfully consumed; the person who shampoos or cuts your hair or does your nails; those who mow lawns, weed gardens, clear the snow, or clean our offices and homes.

And there are the people to whom we entrust our children, our parents, our lives, and our property: teachers, childcare workers, workers with the elderly; and of course the police officers and firefights we take for granted until we need their help – now.

And there are the almost-invisible people who pick up and haul our trash and recycling, sweep our streets, keep our parks tidy, deliver our mail, tend our school buildings and churches and their grounds, and who see our children safely across the streets on their way to school.

Acknowledging their work with a “Thank you” or more could brighten their holidays.

This list is surely incomplete, but readers will get the idea.

Organizations dedicated to improving the lives of others restore our community. Helping an addict recover, providing shelter to those who are homeless or fleeing from abuse, helping kids prepare for college or career, teaching job skills and helping people get a job, offering a safe, quiet place to learn, helping people turn their lives around, enriching us with the arts – all of these help transform lives and elevate our community. Many of these organizations may be struggling because of prolonged delays in reimbursements from the State; they could use a little holiday cash.

And even those organizations that may be doing fine will be able to find a use for donations.

There are many ways to include others in our holiday activities. Spending your money here can involve – and improve – the whole community.