Posted by: FBRuralDevelopment | 08/24/2010

Time Banks: strengthening communities through reciprocity

The other day on an airplane flight I sat next to Joan, who was volunteering in her community through a program called Time Banks.  She volunteers an hour doing something she is willing and able to do, and in exchange she can get an hour of help from someone else who is paying off a Time Dollar.  For each hour contributed to somebody in the community, she gets an hour of voluntary work from somebody else in this community support system. 

 To the average country person, Time Banks sounds a lot like the way their world already works; it’s called being a good neighbor.  In farm communities, we all have our networks of neighbors who we can call on for skilled help with harvest trucking, covering chores, or collecting escaped cattle.  But what about all the people in our communities we don’t know through farm or church connections?  Time Banking can extend the wealth of community connections to include many people and skills that you may not know are right around the corner. 

 Joan said that she had just recently stacked wood in exchange for a couple of baked pies.  She posted a Time Bank request to get a 4:00 am ride to the airport and got three offers from unknown neighbors who happened to be going that way in the early morning.  She helped clean somebody’s house and cater a party to pay off her requests.

 Time bank jobs can be grocery shopping, painting a house, planting a garden, child care, tutoring a student, helping with a project, office assistance, transportation, elderly care, house cleaning, or dressing up as a Santa for a Christmas party.  The point is, each of us has plenty of skills that we are willing to share with our neighbors, and we lack plenty of skills that we know our neighbors possess.  Sharing our wealth of skills builds invaluable community networks and turns neighbors into friends.  

 The Time Banks’ website explains it this way: “At its most basic level, Time banking is simply about spending an hour doing something for somebody in your community. That hour goes into the Time Bank as a Time Dollar. Then you have a Time dollar to spend on having someone doing something for you. It’s a simple idea, but it has powerful ripple effects in building community connections.

“Each Time Bank has a website where you list what you would like to do for other members. You look up Time Bank services online or call a community coordinator to do it for you. You earn Time Dollars after each service you perform and then you get to spend it on whatever you want from the listings.

“With Time Banking, you will be working with a small group of committed individuals who are joined together for a common good. It connects you to the best in people because it creates a system that connects unmet needs with untapped resources. To see what happens each week when you are part of Time Bank is deeply fulfilling, especially if you are helping to make it run.”

Anybody can start a Time Bank with the organization’s $65 intro package but there may already be a Time Bank already in existence near you.  Maybe it’s a way for your county Farm Bureau to reach out to the newer members of your communities and help them earn their Time Dollars.  Chances are it will make everyone better neighbors.

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