SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — For those working to cross off items on holiday shopping lists, many Bay Area stores are participating in Small Business Saturday to encourage consumers to support local businesses.

Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown was scheduled to kick off the local business event by shopping at Book Passage at the Ferry Building around 10 a.m.

In the city’s Noe Valley neighborhood, many 24th Street businesses are hosting a toy drive and Santa letter-writing event while residents shop at businesses in the area.

In San Jose, the city’s Office of Economic Development is urging residents to shop and eat locally as part of a city initiative to bolster small business growth.

The Pleasanton Downtown Association is asking locals to find retailers in the region, many of which are offering discounts during the shopping event.

The benefits of shopping local have been touted as creating jobs, boosting the local economy and creating a sense of community, according to the Pleasanton business association.

To promote downtown businesses in Morgan Hill, the community is also participating in Small Business Saturday.

Starting at 9 a.m. a downtown shopping event on Monterey Road between Second and Thirds streets was scheduled, with parking spaces converted into street art.

Small Business Saturday is a four-year tradition founded by American Express to create more demand for small businesses products and services.

In 2012, an estimated $5.5 billion was spent locally during Small Business Saturday at stores throughout the country, according to American Express.

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