Letter: TimeBanks are a community-building network

Editor’s note: The Portager publishes letters to the editor from the community. The opinions expressed are published not because they necessarily reflect those of the publication but because we feel they contribute meaningfully to the local discourse on matters of public interest.

TimeBanks are membership organizations that support the exchange of services between its members. Each member shares their “Requests” (something they need) and “Offers” (something they can do) on the TimeBank-specific software.

One hour of service is equal in value, regardless of the service, and “earns” the provider one timecredit per hour. The person who requests the service “pays” one timecredit per hour from their TimeBank account to the person who offers to help them. The person providing the service, records, then “banks” their timecredit hours to spend later on services others provide.

Service transactions are also tracked through the use of the TimeBank’s software, which is similar to a bank account / community hub. These exchanges are reminiscent of friendly and informal neighborly favors that were commonplace years ago and they serve to strengthen the fabric of local communities.

This exchange of services uses time as the means of payment, rather than money. It is not a typical volunteer situation, nor is it bartering, according to the IRS… it is even better! With TimeBanking, people are able to contribute their skills as well as receive things they need, without using money. Sometimes referred to as the core economy, TimeBanks are used all over the world and are set up to complement and support a cash economy. This core economy is viewed as that which helps to build and maintain a safe, compatible and co-existing network for all to benefit.

The founder of modern TimeBanking, Edgar Cahn, writes:

“No society has the money to buy, at market prices, what it takes to raise children, make a neighborhood safe, care for the elderly, make democracy work or address systemic injustices… the only way the world is going to address the social problems that are dumped on it is by enlisting the very people who are now classified as ‘clients’ and ‘consumers’ and converting them into co-workers, partners and rebuilders of the core economy.” (Dec. 19, 2007)

Often set up as nonprofits, the five core values of all TimeBanks include:

  1. Asset — We are all assets and have something to share, no matter how great or small. It might be the willingness and ability to bake a cake, mow a lawn, fill a cavity, change the oil in your car, build a website, etc. The program is open to everyone: residents, business owners, government bodies, etc.
  2. Redefining work — We redefine work because some work is beyond price and all work is recorded and rewarded equally. Work is viewed as those services that build community with your neighbors, like offering to help with childcare, teaching a skill, providing transportation, anything mentioned above, etc. There are unlimited possibilities of things that people need and that people know how to do. TimeBanking provides a forum to bring those people together in such a way that both parties benefit.
  3. Reciprocity — We practice reciprocity because helping works better as a two-way street. Unlike volunteer organizations or agencies designed to help people with a particular issue, where there is no expectation that the recipient gives back to the agency (i.e. social service agencies), TimeBank members are expected to pay it forward by offering to help another person as well as sharing a need they might have. We all understand how good it feels when we can help another. By allowing others to help you, you are giving others a chance to experience that same sense of accomplishment.
  4. Social networks — Social networks mean that we need each other and we are creating a caring community. Such a community uplifts and supports all members, regardless of status or ability.
  5. Respect — Respect means that all voices are heard equally, and we are accountable to each other.

As a member of the TimeBank, we honor each others voices and respect each others time and talent.

Exchanges can be one-to-one (one member provides a ride to another member), one-to-many (an instructor offers to teach a one-hour yoga class for time credits) or many-to-one (a group of volunteers offer to do spring clean-up for a member who has requested it). TimeBanks may also be built around a common theme, such as parents of toddlers or members who work from home. The concept of TimeBanking is unlimited in its ability to build community! Regardless of whether providing or requesting a service, members are always made “richer” in terms of their hours because every exchange gives a member an opportunity to help or be helped. Once an exchange has taken place, it is recorded in the TimeBank’s online tracking system, often called “the software.”

In our area, Kent was an early adopter of TimeBanking and has maintained an active membership for over 10 years. Administrators of the program are knowledgeable and helpful and offer orientation for new members either in person at a convenient Kent location or virtually for those who do not wish to or are unable to travel. The Kent Community TimeBank currently has close to 500 members all around Northeast Ohio and has exchanged 96,643 hours of service since its inception.

An exchange of “things” can also be made for timecredits. Examples might include some old tools that you no longer need, or material left over from an upholstery or clothing project. These could be offered up for timecredits. The receiver sets the value of the offer based on how many hours they would be willing to work in the community for the item. Someone might be willing to “pay” a certain number of banked timecredits to acquire such needed items. If they don’t already have those timecredits banked, they can safely go into the negative and earn them later.

There is no charge to participate in TimeBanking. The more people involved, the richer and more diverse the services will be. This is a program to benefit everyone. If you already volunteer your time, this is a perfect segue into the world of TimeBanking, where you will not only reap the satisfaction of helping another person, business or organization, but can also benefit by receiving a needed service for yourself. If all of this seems like a foreign concept, your TimeBank leaders invite you to attend (or re-attend) an orientation meeting to learn more.

If you are interested in learning more about TimeBanking and building a community in the Crestwood area, please reach out to either Barb Stiebeling (440-382-7504) or Julie Stamm (570-295-0520) by phone or text. We would love to help build a strong local network supported by the already-established Kent Community TimeBank (KCTB). Visit the KCTB software page for additional information at: https://hourworld.org/bank/index.htm?hw=2058

Everyone is welcome to register and attend the next KCTB orientation at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 3 at the Kent Free Library, second floor Meeting Room. You can also find the annual schedule of orientations on our hourworld home page https://hourworld.org/bank/index.htm?hw=2058 or contact [email protected] to schedule an orientation for your business or organization.

— Barbara Starling, Kent

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