Holiday shopping officially kicked off over the weekend with many downtown businesses hosting open houses, including Hepz Apparel at 918 S. Main in Stillwater.

Hepz is a local boutique that partners with women across the globe who are at-risk for being trafficked by employing them and paying them a fair living wage. This gives the women dignified employment, enabling them to meet their basic human needs, which reduces the risk of trafficking for them and even their children. Everything at Hepz Apparel is handmade by the women with fabrics that you won’t find at any local fabric store. They also make accessories, travel bags and tablescapes.

Owner Krista Thomason travels to Cambodia twice a year to visit the women, shop for fabrics, and join in the sewing.

Saturday, Nov. 26, marks the 12th annual Small Business Saturday in Stillwater. American Express founded Small Business Saturday back in 2010 because they recognized the importance of small businesses to communities. This day celebrates local entrepreneurs and encourages shoppers to buy from small businesses in their area.

Many local business owners could tell you how the past two years have negatively impacted their business, especially as economic concerns have grown. People bombarded with Black Friday and Cyber Monday ads would do well to remember the local small businesses that invest in their towns, community sports and school fundraisers.

Another cool shopping experience is 405 Mercantile. Most days customers are greeted by a personal shopper named Winston – Winston the Goldendoodle. He’s not great at carrying shopping bags, but he’s always in the mood for snuggling customers. 405 carries a variety of clothing, jewelry, Myra bags and hand-poured candles. They also carry home decor items and a large selection of comical socks.

Since 2016 owner Lora Frazier has grown the Mercantile from refurbished furniture and consignment into two store fronts of new and original merchandise. In 2018 Lora and her daughter Lauren opened a second store called Lulu & Los in Edmond.

Fall is also the season of gratitude and giving.

Tuesday is one of the largest donation days of the year. Giving Tuesday is a global movement created in 2012 as a day that encourages people to “do good.” Whether it’s helping a neighbor or donating to a nonprofit, the movement is a way to give back and contribute to the local community and local organizations.

One such beneficiary is a local animal shelter fully funded by donations. Stillwater Animal Welfare is supported by the City of Stillwater since they fall under the Stillwater Police Department. The Humane Society of Stillwater relies solely on donations from the community.

From food and treats, beds and blankets, to animal crates and cleaning supplies, the shelter is always in need of donations.

Not knowing what the upcoming winter may hold, blankets and monetary donations towards heating bills are always greatly appreciated as well.

Stillwater Humane Society Director Jackie Ross-Guerrero spends a lot of time advocating for the shelter and its furry residents, making sure the animals in her care are healthy and happy.

Stillwater has many great organizations that can always benefit from a financial gift, including The Saville Center for Child Advocacy, Lions Meadows of Hope foster care and adoption center, and Our Daily Bread Resource center to name a few. Gather the family this holiday week and research some local or national organizations that you could donate to by visiting givingtuesday.org. Note many companies will match donations on Giving Tuesday, including Facebook.

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