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Little gifts, lots of cheer

Upstate New York is full of creative entrepreneurs. From well established businesses to side-hustle hobbyists, our region is bursting with gifted artists big and small. While it may seem convenient to run to a big-box store or order online for the holidays, there are many benefits to buying local such as keeping money in our community and creating more opportunities for our region. It not only enriches our city, but also simultaneously lays the foundation and demand for more.

Want to shop local this holiday season but don’t know where to start? We tapped into the expertise of creative, handmade gift specialist Grace Bellanca to share her gift ideas from local creators to jumpstart your holiday shopping spree.

Small business owner and mental health advocate, Grace Bellanca is on a mission to bring joy to others through local, handmade gifts. As the founder of Roc Made Goods, a seasonal artisan market and Ash + Willow Co., a handmade craft business focused on recovery gifts, Grace is just getting started bringing hope and cheer to the community.

As a Rochester native, she has been immersed in the local handmade goods scene for almost a decade, but her experience goes far beyond that. Growing up in a creative home, Grace always loved making things, a talent she attributes to her parents who were creative individuals as well. Their dedication and passion for their respective crafts – her father a talented tattoo artist and mother a maker of all kinds – has always inspired her to create things of her own that have purpose and meaning.

In 2016 she launched Roc Made Goods with a group of friends that wanted to showcase their handmade goods to the community. What began as “Sip & Shop” events for regular customers to support their cause grew into a platform where buyers can discover and shop handmade items from more than 35 local vendors.

In 2019 she launched her next venture, Ash + Willow Co. as a creative outlet after leaving a rehab facility for alcoholism. She began creating recovery cards and learned to cross-stitch to keep herself busy during the pandemic. She now offers a variety of cards, prints, hoops, stickers, keychains and more – all of which celebrate recovery and provide solidarity, comfort and encouragement to those overcoming their own struggles.

Ash + Willow Co. was born from my personal experience with addiction recovery. I needed to stay busy while in early recovery and wanted to create something that could help me celebrate my milestones.

visit holiday pop-up markets!

THEMATA Holiday Markets

November 24th & 25th // 10am–4pm // The Armory

Roc Only Events Holiday Market

November 26th // 12-4pm // Artisan Works

Little Button Craft Handmade Holiday

December 2nd // 11am-4pm // The German House

Harvest Home Holiday Market

December 2nd & 3rd // 11am-4pm // Pomona at Blue Barn

Roc Made Holiday

Featuring some of the most talented creatives Rochester has to offer!

December 3rd // 11am-4pm // Arbor at the Port

Viciously Crafty Holiday Makers Market

December 9th // 10am-3pm // NOTA (Neighborhood of the Arts)

Keeping Clarity this Season & Taking Control of Your Mental Health

While there is so much joy that surrounds the holiday season, it can also be a difficult time for many. Whether grieving the loss of a loved one, feeling alone, or struggling to make ends meet, holiday stress and depression can quickly set in, especially for those who have had a tough year or are facing mental health struggles. The most important thing we can do is look out for ourselves and others … in small and big ways.

Local resident and mental health advocate, Grace Bellanca offers tips to maintain clarity and take control of your mental health this holiday season.

I live for fall and winter. As someone who lives an incredibly busy life, the world just seems to slow down in these seasons. People seem kinder, more understanding, more patient. I feel like I can pause and take a deep breath and assess where I’m at and where I want to be. And then the new year hits and I get to turn my intention into action. I love a fresh start.

Look Out For One Another: Be considerate, mindful, and kind. All these things can go a really long way, especially during the holidays. Make sure to look out for yourself as well. It’s a busy season but you need to prioritize your well-being and make sure your needs are being met. Hydrate, communicate and don’t isolate.

Create More Conversations: Sharing resources and including topics focused on mental health and addiction recovery at mainstream events and in the media will help us continue to fight the battle for mental health as well as against substance abuse.

Hold On To Gratitude: Now more than ever it is important to be grateful. Inflation is hurting everyone, and many people feel the stress when it comes to gift buying and giving – but that’s not what the season is about. Instead, focus more on spending time with loved ones, being present and being more mindful of the meaning behind gifts. Practicing gratitude will open your mind to the gifts that life is already giving you.

For those who are struggling, there is solidarity and strength to be found within so many of the great, trusting resources in our area such as NAMI and the Mental Health Association of Rochester.

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