CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Last year, a friend forwarded to me an email about giving Christmas gifts that kept U.S. dollars at home.Like the local-foods trend, the email suggested spending our Christmas money on gifts locally made or grown or sold in small hometown stores."Every dollar we spend at a small local store is turned over three more times before it leaves. Every dollar spent at a large chain store or online is gone from here forever," the email points out.I doubt that the email's call for a new tradition will keep Chinese-made flat-screen televisions or iPads off most Christmas lists.Still, the email had a lot of good suggestions for practical, worthwhile gifts that will keep dollars in the community. They included:
Gym membership. Gift certificates to a day spa, beauty salon or barbershop for hairstyling/haircuts, manicures and other services. Gift certificates for car washes or detailing. Paying to have a driveway sealed or plowed all winter or lawn mowed all summer. Gift certificates to owner-run restaurants. Giving Mom the services of a cleaning lady or company. Oil changes at a locally owned garage. Paying a teenager in your neighborhood for his computer skills. Giving handmade items or foods purchased at local arts and crafts fairs. Tickets to a local theater production, ballet performance or concert. Greens fees to a public golf course.Inspired by this list, we have added some other ideas: A subscription to your hometown newspaper (duh). A subscription to Wonderful West Virginia magazine, published by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. A couple of lift tickets to one of West Virginia's ski resorts. Cooking lessons from Charleston chefs. A weekend getaway at a West Virginia state park; there are some good deals, especially during a midweek in winter. A state hunting or fishing license. A stack of West Virginia lottery tickets. Give a tree and pay for its planting from a locally owned nursery. Membership for a year to the Clay Center. A cord of wood for the winter fireplace. Teeth-whitening treatment at a dental office. Create a certificate to baby-sit kids or dogs for a weekend. Piano or guitar lessons from local teachers. Season passes or a pair of tickets to sporting events like the West Virginia Power, WVU or Marshall games. Check out the Charleston galleries for artwork by West Virginia artists. Buy an adventure, such as whitewater rafting or zip lining or riding the Hatfield-McCoy ATV trail. A puppy or kitten from the Kanawha-Charleston Humane Society or a local breeder -- but only if the new owner wants a pet; no surprises. Give gift certificates for yoga or Pilates classes at area studios. Movie passes. The headquarters of Marquee Cinemas and Park Place are in West Virginia."You see," the email said, "Christmas is no longer about draining American pockets so that China can build another glittering city. Christmas is now about caring about us, encouraging American small businesses to keep plugging away to follow their dreams."And when we care about other Americans, we care about our communities, and the benefits come back to us in ways we couldn't imagine."Reach Rosalie Earle at email@example.com or 304-348-5115.