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Sunday, April 8, 2018

3 Easy Ways To Support Your Community - Financially

I've lived a few different places in my life, and each place that I've lived, I've made an effort to pour back into my local community.  I try to do this on many levels - of course spiritually, by working at/volunteering at my local church; socially - again, by volunteering, trying to notice the needs of those around me; and financially.  This is the part I'd like to talk about a bit.

The old adage "put your money where your mouth is" fits aptly.  We spend money on things that we find important.  So, let's talk about where we spend our money.  None of these points are going to be earth-shattering, but I will be giving you some practical ways of actually doing them, and examples of what we've done.

1. Support local businesses

Most of us in the States are familiar with "Small Business Saturday", the day after Black Friday.  It's a day when people are encouraged to shop at their locally owned stores.  This is a great idea, but I think it needs to go beyond one day of the year.  Here are some of the practical things we've done.  

 In Jacksonville, when I became a stay-at-home-mommy, I was desperate for a place to let Aidan play, and meet other moms.  Some people suggested My Gym, or Gymboree, but we decided to become members at Bay & Bee.  This place was not only amazing (it fed the wanna-be-crunchy-mom inside me, with cork flooring, cleaning with essential oils, etc.), but it's a business started by two local moms, and I made some lasting friendships!

Because of how much we loved this place, we also ended up having two of Aidan's birthdays here.  Do you see that beautiful cake?  That was from a local bakery, too, Sweets By Holly - instead of say, Costco or Walmart.

Here in Ljubljana, for example, we've found an adorable hole-in-the-wall (although not unknown) coffee shop, Črno Zrno.  The owner/operator's name is Alexander, he's Colombian, and his wife is Slovenian.  He knows our names, coffee preferences, and asks us the types of questions an acquaintance would.  I never had that kind of a relationship with my barista(s) at Starbucks.  We love going here!

2. Support local artists

One of the times we were at Bay & Bee, they had this wonderful music time, and the singer was a local artist, named Mere Woodard.  Again, I especially loved that she was a mom, going out and doing what she loved, but beyond that, she had a great bluesy/folksy voice that spoke to me - and Aidan couldn't stop dancing!  So, after we went home, I went on iTunes, and bought her album.  There.  It can be that easy!  Now you're a patron of the arts, lol!  Jacksonville has a really fun event annually, called One Spark, where they feature local artist, people with great ideas, and of course good food.  Events such as these are great ways to find out who is out there beautifying your city, and find ways to support them!

Now, I realize that we travel much more than the average family, but I've made it a point, that whenever we go somewhere, instead of buying a souvenir, I buy Aidan a book either by a local author/illustrator, or about something significant in that area.  One of the examples is this book about Congo Square in New Orleans.  We also have a book by an author in Key West, the Poet Laureate of Springfield Missouri, and one about a dolphin found in Galveston.  I also glue a picture in the front of the book about our time in that place.  It has become a really nice keepsake!

When we moved to Slovenia, I knew that I wanted to buy dishes from a Slovenian potter.  It was just something I'd decided ahead of time.  I can't explain how much I love these dishes!  They're made by an artist, named Jasmina Verbič.  I love that each piece is unique, that it's hand-crafted, and I love the relationship we've built with her, and her son who runs the shop that sells her pieces.  Again, I would have bought dishes anyway, this was not an unplanned purchase - but instead of giving even more of my money to IKEA, I was able to put money back into my community.

These tea towels are also by a local artist, whose creations I keep coming across in different places, and love each one.  Her page is Kukamkuro, and you can find her on Etsy, too.  Again, she is a mom, who is finding a way to making a living out of her passion - which I 100% support!  Slovenia is making a big effort to support their local artists, so many/most of the shops downtown carry exclusively Slovene products, which is exciting!

This one isn't local to me, it's local to my parents, but it still fits into the small business category.  When we were buying furniture for our apartment, we bought this table and two benches, all made out of repurposed wood from a giant cask, by a Hungarian father and son carpenter team.  Now, I know what you're thinking, but it actually cost less than the sets we were looking at in IKEA.

3. Eat/buy local produce

Now, I am not saying you can't shop at regular grocery stores, of course you can, I know how busy life gets.  BUT Local Fare Jax couldn't be easier, or more friendly to busy families!  It's like a subscription, you set it up for weekly, bi-weekly or monthly delivery, they bring it to your door, and it's all locally grown, usually organic produce, and a loaf of bread.  You can even add local meats.  WHAT?!?  We loved this service so much, and if you live in the States, chances are there is something similar to this in your area too.  

We are very lucky, because here in Slovenia shopping at the local market is normal, it's not really an "event" like in the States.  It's comparable, if not cheaper than at the grocery stores, we're getting to know the grocers, eating local and in-season produce, and even getting some fresh air while we're at it.  Aidan loves to go, because all the grocers like to give him snacks (this country adores kids), so it's even fun for him!

There's the outdoor, produce and floral section, and then an indoor section with dried fruits, nuts, honey, breads, dairy products, butcher shops, and an amazing cookie stand.  Something good to remember about local honey - honey can be great for allergies, but it has to be local honey, because the local bees use the pollen from local plants/flowers, ergo the anti-allergen properties!

So... why shop locally?  There are many reasons, one of them being, that local business owners put their money back into the community as well - they use local suppliers, local companies for advertising, etc.  It boosts the economy in your area.  Regarding artists, it might be a personal thing for me, but I love when people pursue their passions, and I want to be a part of it.  Also, it's often artists who make festivals and streets such pleasurable places to be - and they should be appreciated for those efforts.  As for produce, when you buy locally, you're getting produce at the best possible time - they weren't pick too early, only to ripen on a boat.  Also, you are supporting local farmers, which as the granddaughter of a farmer means a lot to me.

And there you have it!  Some practical suggestions on how to support your community - financially! 

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