Time Banks save cash, build communities
Posted October 20, 2010
Upcoming events detail how to get started
HAZEL PARK — It feels good to help people. And in a down economy, help is a hot commodity.
Hence the growing interest in Time Banks, a concept in which a dozen or more community members network to lend each other their time, talent and resources, earning “time dollars” that can be spent requesting the services of others.
“The general concept is that it’s a skill exchange between a group of people,” explained Kim Hodge, executive director of the Michigan Alliance of TimeBanks and co-coordinator of the Lathrup Village TimeBank.
“It’s not a direct barter between two people,” she said. “It’s a pay-it-forward system where you did something for someone, so I’ll do something for you, and someone else will do something for me. Everyone’s time is the same, whether you’re a doctor or a child — an hour’s an hour.”
And anyone can contribute, said Michelle Foster, director of the Ferndale TimeBank.
“My elderly retired neighbor may not seem to have much to contribute to the community, but he drives a truck, which I could use to move a dresser,” she said. “He banks time spent helping me with transportation. Perhaps in return, he needs someone to clean out his gutters because he can’t get up on the ladder anymore, so another neighbor helps him out.”
And that neighbor in turn earns time dollars. And so it grows.
But how does such a group get started? And how do they stay organized?
At the Oak Street Home and Neighborhood Fair at Hazel Park Junior High May 8, Hodge and Foster presented a workshop addressing these issues.
First, a group of 10 to 15 people is needed. Organizations such as churches and businesses can be a good starting point, since there exists some familiarity and trust.
Next, the group pays a membership fee to TimeBanks USA, based in Washington, D.C., to access an online database similar to Facebook, where members provide profiles detailing what skills and resources they offer, and what errands they want done. Need a ride? Punch in “transportation” and see who’s offering a lift. The database also facilitates exchanges and tracks time earned.
There is a $35 introductory kit that provides guidelines for establishing and running a Time Bank, and Hodge said there have been incentives to try before you buy, like six months of free access. Membership fees can be $100 per group for a group not exceeding 50, or around $175 per group for a group not exceeding 150, though the fees change, Hodge said.
“I’ve had a lot of hang-ups on our $30 membership fee,” Foster said of her Ferndale group’s individual dues. “However, when members are signed up, they automatically get three bonus hours and an hour for attending an orientation meeting. Additionally, members can receive five bonus hours just for posting three offers and three requests. So right from the start, you can have nine hours in your bank.
“If you are using that time for someone to mow your lawn, watch your kids, fix an electrical outlet, your $30 is more than paid for,” she said.
It takes about six months to get a Time Bank up and running. Spreading the word, mobilizing members and organizing by committee all takes time. And dedicated staffers, in positions such as “matchmaker,” become important as the group grows.
In Michigan, the longest running Time Bank is Lathrup Village’s, at nearly two and a half years and roughly 115 people. Ferndale’s has 15 active members and is in its first six months. Time Banks in Southwest Detroit and Southfield are also in their infancy.
Time Banks can be found across the country and around the world. In the U.K., there is a Time Bank that operates out of a doctor’s office. It started when a doctor realized many of his patients were, in fact, just lonely, and so community service was a more effective prescription than medication.
“They weren’t coming back to the doctor’s office because they were feeling valuable and meaningful,” Hodge said.
In other places, Time Banks have been found to help resolve racial strife and other social problems, all by fostering a sense of community, bringing neighbors together to help one another. And at a time when many lack work and need money, the exchange of services can ease the burden on one’s wallet while keeping the head and heart employed.
“We’re changing the paradigm here,” Hodge said. “We’re saying we need each other. We want to rebuild the community.”
Even businesses can opt in at their local Time Bank. Darlene Berger, owner/operator of Community Health Acupuncture Center in Ferndale, is a member of the Ferndale TimeBank and said she would like her business to be involved.
“One thing I’d like to do is offer acupuncture for people in the community, and allow people to pay for it with Time Bank hours,” she said. “In exchange, maybe I’d use some of the hours I get from giving acupuncture to get services from the community,” working around the office and such.
For those interested in starting a Time Bank in their own neighborhood, Community Health Acupuncture Center, located at 801 Livernois in Ferndale, will host a meeting at 6:30 p.m. May 20. Another meeting will be held at Southfield Peace Lutheran Church, 17029 13 Mile, at 6:30 p.m. May 26. Additional training will be available at the same church June 26-27.
For more information on Time Banks, visit the official TimeBanks website at http://www.timebanks.org; the Michigan Alliance of TimeBanks USA website at http://www.mitimebanks.org; or the Lathrup Village TimeBank at http://www.lathrupvillagetimebank.org.
About the author
Staff Writer Andy Kozlowski covers Madison Heights, Hazel Park, Madison District Public Schools, Lamphere Public Schools and Hazel Park Public Schools for the Madison-Park News.
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