The dateline above indicates that December is, quite literally, right around the corner and I must admit I find that a little hard to believe. How did 11 months of 2016 disappear so quickly?

 There’s no denying it, the Christmas season is in full swing. It seemed to start even earlier than ever with stores decking the aisles as early as the Halloween merchandise could be moved to the clearance racks and some radio stations didn’t even wait until after Thanksgiving before playing our favorite carols. Big bargain sales that were once reserved for the day-after Thanksgiving now start as early as Thanksgiving day with new twists and turns. The big day will be here in a blink of an eye and that brings me to my annual holiday plea....drum roll, please. Citizens of the Cleveland area: please give our local merchants — what’s left of them – an opportunity to serve you.

 It’s such a simple request, I’ve never understood why it irritates some people the way it does. I have preached shopping at home for so long, I often find myself a little uneasy when I end up in the Tulsa malls or discount stores, always looking over my shoulder in anticipation of running into a hometown resident who will not be so bashful about suggesting I practice what  I preach (it has happened more than once!).

 So, let me defend myself. I am not, nor have I ever suggested we should not shop in Tulsa, other communities or even online; my constant plea has been to shop at home first.

 If a hometown business has what you need at a comparable price, why go elsewhere? The money spent with a local merchant is not just helping that retailer stay in business and offer a payroll to members of the community, but the tax dollars left at each local register quickly add up to provide funds for various departments in the city and county governments as well as thousands of dollars each month that benefit our local hospital.

 Let’s face it — people like to get up and go. It’s only natural for a family to enjoy getting away from their hectic day-to-day pace and enjoy an entertaining evening out-of-town. Although, I can remember those days when taking four children to a crowded shopping center proved to be anything but entertaining!

 It is those children, however, who serve as another reminder as to why we should shop at home.

 Children in our local and surrounding schools, their clubs, ball teams and organizations, count on local merchants and other businesses year-round to support their endeavors through a variety of fundraisers, sponsorships and advertisements.

 People need to become aware and stop the habit of walking into the front doors of local businesses only when a handout is needed. Business men and women are more likely to buy an ad in a sports booster program or yearbook, sponsor a contest, purchase a trophy, buy a slab of ribs, put their name on a T-shirt, etc. if those people asking for the support are loyal customers or at least are faces they’ve seen in their place of business before arriving with their hands out.

 So, with list in hand, check-off what you can from our local businesses. Then, complete your list elsewhere.

 And, should we run into each other while shopping at the mall, let’s trust that what the other has in those shopping bags are items we couldn’t find at home.

 This Christmas, give a gift to your hometown — shop here first.

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