As Thanksgiving moves into the Christmas season, we have an opportunity to really help our community.

We all know the hardships of the many months of COVID-19. But we can minimize those hardships by helping the local economy spring back.

The first step in that effort is Christmas shopping at local stores. The impact of those purchases will reverberate through the community.

A healthy retail economy provides a boost for us overall. Retailers collect sales taxes, which provide for all sorts of local services, from street projects to local police protection. The paychecks earned by people at retail stores are used to pay rent and mortgages, and purchase a whole range of other products and services locally.

In South Dakota, 99 percent of businesses are considered small businesses, and employ about 60 percent of the state's workforce.

Other local institutions benefit from a strong retail economy, including schools, churches and charitable organizations. Madison's businesses are by far the biggest donors to the United Way and other charities.

Amazon and Walmart will do just fine this holiday season without our help. Combined, those two companies will show a profit of about $140 billion this year. We're not aware of one penny of that profit coming back to Madison or Lake County to support local people and organizations.

Even if you're choosing to avoid stores for shopping this year, it's still easy to shop in Madison. In almost all cases, we can call a local store and they will bring our order out to our car. In some cases, local stores will even wrap and deliver purchases. Gift cards are available at most stores, too.

Let's take advantage of this great opportunity to help our neighbors in Madison and Lake County.

-- Jon M. Hunter