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Viewpoint: Local businesses help others; let's support them

As we approach another Thanksgiving, I have been reflecting upon all of the wonderful things my family and I enjoy about living here in Cottage Grove. Many things come to mind: our shared sense of community spirit; our terrific public school system along with the outstanding teachers and staff of District 833; the numerous volunteers who work so hard on behalf of our children and our local nonprofits; and the pride our city staff takes in delivering high quality services to our taxpayers every single day. The truth is, I could fill this space with a long list of things for which to be thankful. Yet, among those I value most about our community is the generosity of our residents and our area’s local business community.

We are extremely lucky in the Cottage Grove area to have so many local businesses who give back to this community and our residents in multiple ways, all year ‘round. From my own personal experience as a volunteer with one of our local Lions Clubs, I am well aware of how often those business owners are solicited to assist with various events and benefits via donations of their time, space, products, and hard-earned dollars. It’s astounding to look back at how much need there is, and yet our local businesses seem to come through time and time again.

Recently I was able to attend a fundraiser at Hope Glen Farm for the Friends in Need Food Shelf. While there I saw a virtual army of volunteers working hard to provide a memorable experience for the guests in attendance while simultaneously raising money to support a very worthy cause. Included in that group were community members representing more than 25 local businesses and nonprofit organizations. And of course, the Bushillas, who own the farm, donated the facility for the entire day. It was truly inspiring. I fully expect we will see the same level of commitment and more at this year’s Holiday Train event on Dec. 14 as well. But, that support comes at a cost, and it is only possible if we as consumers give our support to the businesses and nonprofits who continually give back to us and our neighbors year after year.

Please think very hard about where you choose to spend your money this holiday season and beyond. It’s more important than you may even realize. No matter the fundraiser or charitable event I attend, I always see food, drinks, gifts and auction items donated by Yo-Joe’s, Dennis Brothers, Carbone’s, Bonngard’s, Spartan Promotions, Real Fit, Annie Elmer personal trainer, the Otts, The Healing Place, and many more of our very generous local merchants.  Most of these businesses are locally owned and constantly give back to the residents of this community out of a sense of loyalty and an abundance of civic pride. That is such a tremendous gift.

In closing, as I look closely at the blessings in my life, I would be remiss if I did not mention how much it means to my family and me to live in a place such as this where people care about each other and dedicate themselves to supporting those who may be at a difficult place in their lives. It’s important work. But we all must also dedicate ourselves to supporting those who make that gift happen, no matter the season. Please, whenever you can, make the choice to shop locally and support the business owners in the Cottage Grove area. It really does matter.

From my family to yours, we wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving.

Justin Olsen

Olsen is a Cottage Grove City Council member