Local time bank aims to bring community together

By: Robert Guttersohn | Royal Oak Review | Published April 15, 2013

 Members of the Royal Oak-Huntington Woods Time Bank construct the concrete-block borders of their community garden April 6. Members will be able to cash in time spent working on the garden when the various vegetables and fruits are harvested.

Members of the Royal Oak-Huntington Woods Time Bank construct the concrete-block borders of their community garden April 6. Members will be able to cash in time spent working on the garden when the various vegetables and fruits are harvested.

Photo by Patricia O'Blenes


ROYAL OAK — Nancy Chinn, a Royal Oak resident, was preparing for her daughter’s wedding last year.

Her daughter had expressed interest in keeping the event small, just for the family. That plan was on track until word leaked and friends found out that she was getting married. Suddenly, the invite list grew from a handful to more than 100.

To add to the stress, her daughter was to be married Dec. 22, the day after the world was supposed to end. Because of that, the hall she had rented out for the reception was filled until midnight with an end-of-the-world party.

This gave Chinn only a small window of time to prepare the hall for the reception.

“I was having nervous breakdowns,” Chinn said recently.

For help, Chinn turned to her colleagues in the Royal Oak-Huntington Woods Time Bank.

“I put out the word and asked people to meet me there at midnight,” she said.

The members responded, arriving at midnight to begin the task of converting the hall into a place appropriate for a wedding reception. One member with her child took over the kitchen and cooked throughout the early morning into the day.

“They had an assembly line,” she said.

Peggy Magary, a time bank member, turned bed sheets from IKEA into tablecloths.

“They really saved my fanny; they really did,” Chinn said of the volunteers.

The catch is that the dozen or so people who helped make the wedding possible saved the hours they worked, invest it in the time bank and have the favor returned from other time bank members. 

Or put simply, the Royal Oak-Huntington Woods Time Bank is a way for members of the community to exchange professional and recreational talents with one another, explained Wendy Appleton, also a member. It has more than 70 members ranging from attorneys to midwives. Their skills are as simple as being available to drive people to and from the airport, to helping someone prepare for a large party they are hosting.

“The nice part is getting to know people you’d be embarrassed to ask for help,” Magary said. “You get to know people and know their skills, and you become friends and it’s much easier to ask that way.”

And in an attempt to have more of its members meet and become comfortable calling in favors, the Royal Oak-Huntington Woods Time Bank recently began its own community garden.

The idea is that people will get crop credits while working on the garden. “Then they can turn those crop credits in for when these things get harvested,” Appleton said.

The beginning

Time banks have been forming all over the world for the last 30 years.

But in Michigan, they began about five years ago with the creation of the Michigan Alliance of Time Banks. Under the alliance’s umbrella, more than 20 time banks have been formed, according to its website.

Chinn and Appleton first got involved in the Royal Oak-Huntington Woods Time Bank three years ago, when it only had three board members. Today, they and Magary are three of 11 board members, which they call Kitchen Cabinet Members “because we basically sit at someone’s table” for the meetings, Chinn said.

Since then, membership has expanded due to increased awareness. Chinn, Magary and Appleton have won the endorsements of the Huntington Woods and the Royal Oak city commissions. They are also involved in the Huntington Woods Fourth of July parade every year and host group events for new members. Its next outing will be a wine-and-cheese event June 13 at the Huntington Woods Library that is free and open to residents of either municipality.

The reason for keeping it to just the two communities is twofold, Chinn said. First, the time bank is to build community.

“So, if you get too scattered out … that sort of defeats the purpose,” she said.

Second, members want to be close to other members geographically to exchange services with them.

“I don’t want to drive from my house in Royal Oak to the other end of Troy to do something,” Chinn said. “It just wouldn’t make any sense.”

The community garden

Over the winter, the Kitchen Cabinet was trying to think of a way to involve more of its dormant members.

“One of the things we realized is that we had these members out here and not all of them knew one another,” Chinn said. Thus, they are less likely to ask for help if they don’t know anyone.

The idea for a community garden came up during one of their meetings, and Appleton — who has a long side-yard adjacent to her home — volunteered the land to the time bank.

“It was sort of birthed that way,” Chinn said.

So on April 6, time bank members showed up to begin setting up the garden and organizing where the various fruits and vegetables will be planted.

But unlike the one-time, member-engaging events that the time bank has hosted previously, the garden is going to require sustained funding throughout the year. In order for the garden to be maintained for its first year, Chinn estimates the time bank will need up to $1,000.

“What’s out (in the garden) so far has been donated by members,” Chinn said.

The group is hoping local businesses will either donate goods or provide sponsorship. Chinn said that, much like the time bank members value each other’s time, she hopes local businesses will see value in assisting.

“We’re hoping that local merchants will see it as a good investment,” Chinn said.

Royal Oak and Huntington Woods residents interested in joining the time bank can contact Nancy Chinn at (248) 435-6511 or by email at nchinn7@comcast.net.