Lexington shops join in the spirit of giving to support charities

By Faith Isbell and Emily Kochard

U.S. consumers are expected to spend billions stuffing stockings, but they haven’t overlooked donations to charities this holiday season.

More than 70 percent of consumers plan on engaging in a charitable activity this holiday season, according to a recent report by the National Retail Federation. Two in 10 consumers plan to do so by purchasing from retailers that support a cause.

In downtown Lexington, a number of businesses are supporting local causes and non-profit organizations during the holiday season.

Tina Miller is a board member of Main Street Lexington, a volunteer-based organization that works to promote downtown Lexington, and the owner of outdoor apparel retailer Walkabout Outfitter. Miller said that in general, the money spent at local retailers, such as those in downtown Lexington, “naturally goes back into the community.”

“What better time of the year to join in the spirit of togetherness? Our business owners are our neighbors. Our neighbors are our customers.” -Jamie Goodin, Main Street Lexington President

Miller also said most Lexington retailers give “thousands of dollars” in donations and sponsorships throughout the year to a number of local organizations, such as the Rockbridge Area Hospice, the SPCA and Project Horizon.

“A lot of businesses take pride in the fact that they don’t just give one day a year, but throughout the entire year to so many wonderful causes,” Miller said.

The gift shop Virginia Born and Bred on Washington St. encourages customers to “shop local” in downtown Lexington. (Photo by Nuoya Zhou)

The local outpost for Devils Backbone Brewery has hosted several special events including a raffle and a holiday food drive to support the Rockbridge Area Relief Association (RARA). The brewery also released a special beer in early November, whose proceeds were donated to RARA, the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank and the Nelson Co. Food Pantry.

Another local retailer in the spirit of giving back rather than offering promotions this holiday season is the family-owned boutique Baby’s First Gifts.

“So far, we’ve given a $180 diaper bag to the Project Horizon gala and several other charities that are smaller,” owner Ginny Parker said.

Baby’s First Gifts was not the only business to donate to the local non-profit Project Horizon, which hosted its sixth annual “Deck the Halls” holiday gala on November 18th.

Baby’s First Gifts was one of more than 50 stores to donate auction items to Project Horizon’s “Deck the Halls” gala. Project Horizon raised $50,000 from the auction during its third annual “Deck the Halls” gala. (Photo courtesy of Project Horizon)

More than 50 businesses donated a number of products and services to the gala’s auction, from a private dinner at Southern Inn to a $1,550 diamond necklace from Hess & Co. Jewelers.

This year, Project Horizon raised nearly $50,000 from the gala, largely from the auction. The funds raised will be used locally to provide services for victims of domestic and sexual violence.

“We are very, very fortunate that local businesses, whether large or small, go out of their way to support us,” said Judy Casteele, the executive director of Project Horizon. “We couldn’t do the work we do without their support.”

But consumers in Lexington don’t just have to “shop local” to support organizations around the area.

On Cyber Monday, the Rockbridge Area Health Center (RAHC) encouraged consumers to donate to their non-profit organization via Amazon.com. The online retailer’s new initiative, AmazonSmile, allows consumers to choose a particular charity when shopping on Cyber Monday. Amazon, in turn, donates a portion of sales to the consumer’s selected charity.

The president of Main Street Lexington, Jamie Goodin, described the Lexington community as “a living being, replete with fluid nature based on giving and receiving,” especially during the holidays.

“We are a small community, and we are all neighbors,” Goodin said. “What better time of the year to join in the spirit of togetherness? Our business owners are our neighbors. Our neighbors are our customers.”

This article also includes reporting by Mimi MacCowatt.