TimeBank members help woman clean up after fire

By: Heidi Roman | Royal Oak Review | Published January 25, 2012

ROYAL OAK — In addition to the emotional trauma Barbara Foster was left with after she lost a pet in a Jan. 2 fire at her home, she was left with a big mess to deal with.

A grease fire in her kitchen destroyed a portion of her home on Lincoln in Royal Oak and caused smoke and water damage throughout.

“I was OK, and I did get a couple of my pets out of the house,” Foster said. “I lost one of my cats.”

She hired a restoration company, but learned the more of the damaged belongings she cleared out herself, the cheaper the work would be. She removed everything that could be salvaged but was left with a lot of damaged items to get rid of.

On Jan. 16, Foster had a whole crew of helpers to tackle the project, thanks to her involvement in the Royal Oak TimeBank. The TimeBank allows members to trade labor or services for banked hours earned by performing tasks for others, without any exchange of money.

Foster is a member, but had not yet racked up any hours. Her neighbor, Laura Chinn, gifted her own hours to Foster. TimeBank members spent Martin Luther King Jr. Day clearing out her belongings.

“They showed up at my door and they immediately went to work,” Foster said. “I’ve never seen people work so fast. One of them even brought donuts, and they were all smiles.”

Nancy Chinn, a TimeBank member and Laura Chinn’s mother, said there was a human chain moving items from upstairs to the Dumpster when she arrived. It wasn’t the kind of work for one person to handle alone.

“It’s absolutely daunting,” Chinn said. “To be able to do that for her was a real gift. Because it was MLK Day, a lot of people had time off, and we thought it would be a significant thing to do in honor of (King).”

Chinn said a fire can be traumatic, especially with the loss of a pet, and she was happy to provide both emotional and physical support.

Foster said she never expected to need such important help when she joined the TimeBank.

“You just never know what’s going to happen,” she said. “They’ve taken a lot of worry off me. I don’t know what I would have done without that help.”

Royal Oak’s TimeBank has group projects every month, but members offer additional services in order to bank hours. They can withdraw against those hours to have other available services done, like yard work, mechanic work or even having electronics installed.

To join the TimeBank, members must go through an orientation process and pay a membership fee or donate four hours of time to the bank. Visit www.royaloaktimebank.org or email royaloaktimebank@gmail.com to learn more.