Royal Oak TimeBank looking for new members

By: Heidi Roman | Royal Oak Review | Published August 31, 2011

ROYAL OAK — One neighbor can grow the tallest, healthiest tomato plant in town, but doesn’t know a lick about her fancy new sound system she wants to hook up.

Next door, her neighbor is a major tech nerd, but he never keeps his house as clean as he’d like it to be.

Neither of them have any extra money to hire help.

In a community TimeBank, those neighbors could trade their labor for service hours to purchase some help, without bringing money into the equation. That’s exactly what the Royal Oak TimeBank does.

“It’s a cool concept of leveraging community resources for people who don’t have any money,” said Rachel Reyst-Carroll, a member of the Royal Oak group. It builds a greater sense of trust and community among neighbors, and gets back to a time when neighbors helped each other out.

In a TimeBank, members log hours by performing services for other members in the group. They can then withdraw against those hours by choosing among other services offered in the group. Each member offers whatever skill they may have or something they enjoy doing.

“Myself, I provide administrative tools to the TimeBank,” Reyst-Carroll said. “In exchange, I might get assistance with cleaning my house. My husband did the brakes for another member because he used to be a mechanic, and in exchange I might have someone come over and cut my grass.”

Reyst-Carroll tried starting a TimeBank in Madison Heights, where she lives, but didn’t have much luck. She ended up joining Royal Oak’s TimeBank because her kids go to school in the city. The group has been around for about a year now and is expanding its membership.

The TimeBank has group projects every month, like helping a member move or providing a service to the community.

New members go through an orientation and learn how to use the TimeBank software, and either pay a membership fee or donate four hours of time to the bank. The suggested annual donation is $25 per individual or $40 per family.

Royal Oak isn’t re-inventing the wheel; there are seven others in Michigan and another nine or 10 in the planning phases, said Kim Hodge, founder of the Michigan Alliance of TimeBanks and Lathrup Village’s TimeBank.

Locally, Ferndale, Southfield, Huntington Woods and Plymouth also have them.

“It’s different for different people, but largely it’s about exchanging skills,” Hodge said. “I have these skills, and maybe you need them, and we can exchange them. But it’s also about getting together and getting to know your neighbors.”

The latter reason is why Hodge founded the Lathrup Village TimeBank in 2008, which she believes was the first in the state. It’s now grown to more than 100 members.

It’s like an alternative economy for a time when people are short of cash.

“We still have skills, and we still have needs,” said. “If we just matched people up … we can change the paradigm of our community.”

Her organizational skills are what she offers to the group. Others in her group offer home help, pet care, childcare, transportation and computer skills. An Indian woman in her TimeBank teaches cooking lessons.

“I had someone marry me for time dollars, since she’s a minister,” Hodge said. “I’ve even had a massage.”

It could be something as basic as teaching a child to tie their shoes or helping someone hook up a wireless printer.

“There is no limit to the things people are willing to donate,” she said.

Eventually, a successful TimeBank will incur costs for paid staff, but the actual services come without currency exchange.

To get involved with the Royal Oak TimeBank, www.royaloaktimebank.org or email royaloak timebank @gmail.com.

To learn more about TimeBanks, visit www.mitimebanks.org.