Time is of the essence

Ferndale TimeBank seeks new members from around the community

By: Jeremy Selweski | Woodward Talk | Published June 14, 2011

 Michelle Foster, 26, of Ferndale, pictured here during the Ferndale Downtown Development Authority’s Pimp Your Pot event last summer, is the founder of the Ferndale TimeBank, which currently boasts about 50 members.

Michelle Foster, 26, of Ferndale, pictured here during the Ferndale Downtown Development Authority’s Pimp Your Pot event last summer, is the founder of the Ferndale TimeBank, which currently boasts about 50 members.

Photo provided by Michelle Foster

FERNDALE/PLEASANT RIDGE — With the hectic lives that so many people lead these days, where too much multi-tasking often gives way to compromise or neglect, time has become our most precious resource.

Michelle Foster knows this as well as anyone, which is why last spring the 26-year-old Ferndale resident and a group of friends and colleagues got together to launch the Ferndale TimeBank. The organization has been going strong ever since, with 50 current members helping each other out with a variety of day-to-day tasks.

According to Foster, the method behind time banking is remarkably straightforward. “It’s about the concept of shared services, but all transactions are based on time rather than money,” she explained. “We keep track of every transaction that’s made, so all the time that people spend goes into a bank. It’s really as simple as that.”

The Ferndale TimeBank, which follows a philosophy of “good neighbors make great communities,” was established to develop, support and promote a caring Ferndale based on reciprocity by providing a networking system for local residents.

The organization is always seeking new members, who can get involved by registering online at www.ferndaletimebank.org. Foster stressed that all TimeBank transactions are monitored by coordinators like herself, who safeguard against any members’ attempts to abuse the system by only taking and never giving.

She also noted that time banking can be used for any number of jobs, everything from house cleaning and furniture moving to painting and gardening to walking dogs and mowing lawns. One of the larger purposes is to redefine the meaning of “work” and show that everyone has something to offer to others in their community.

“A lot of these things are jobs that I might be able to do myself, but maybe I’m not good at them or I just don’t want to do them,” Foster said. “The only real requirement is that people have to be residents of Ferndale or Pleasant Ridge. This is really about neighbor-to-neighbor exchange, so it’s best if people don’t have to travel very far to help.”

Although time banking is still relatively new to Michigan, other cities in southeast Oakland County currently have time banks of their own, including Royal Oak, Southfield and Lathrup Village. One of the people responsible for introducing the concept to metro Detroiters is Kim Hodge, co-coordinator of the Lathrup Village TimeBank and executive director of the Michigan Alliance of TimeBanks. It was after hearing Hodge speak at a sustainability conference in Detroit a couple of years ago that Foster was inspired to organize the Ferndale TimeBank.

“I thought that Ferndale would be a great place to start one since it’s already a tight-knit community where neighbors help each other,” she said. “It just seemed to make perfect sense.”

According to Hodge, since launching the Lathrup Village TimeBank in January 2008, about 130 residents have signed up and participated. Now, she is hoping that the Michigan Alliance of TimeBanks will bring together even more people across the region.

“Our long-term vision is to be able to connect all the different time banks in this area,” Hodge said. “There is a lot more awareness about time banking now than there was three or four years ago. … It’s really all about plugging into your community and getting to know your neighbors.”

A big part of what Hodge and other time bank supporters are trying to achieve is an antidote to a technological age in which people have become increasingly disconnected and now do the majority of their communicating via cellphones, text messages and social networks. Hodge was motivated to organize the Lathrup Village TimeBank after realizing that after 15 years of living in her home, she still didn’t know any of her neighbors.

“This is kind of about going back to our roots,” she said. “People are searching for different ways to have their needs met and to connect with more people. … I think there’s more of a need for this right now because of the economy, where people have less money to spend. It’s a paradigm shift where people want to find new ways to connect and get back to looking out for each other.”

Foster agreed. She believes that time banking is especially viable in smaller, older communities like Ferndale, where a friendly, small-town atmosphere still exists.

“I think people are starting to change their way of thinking a little bit, and now they want to be able to interact with others more than they used to,” Foster said. “I’ve seen the transformation of residents wanting to feel more connected and help each other out. In a bad economy, I think they’re realizing how important this concept can be.”

For more information on the Ferndale TimeBank, go to www.ferndaletimebank.org.

Staff Writer Jennie Miller contributed to this report.