ABINGDON, Va. — Carla Dolce needed someone with sewing skills to alter her clothing since she doesn’t own a sewing machine. Mary Ragland asked for help assembling book cases for her home.
Neither paid a dime for the work they received.
So, what’s their secret?
Both Abingdon women are members of a new service exchange that uses time as money.
As many as 26 local members already have joined WCOVA TimeBank since it formed earlier this year, creating the first time bank for the Washington County and Bristol, Virginia, region.
The organization will host a pot luck dinner for those interested in becoming members from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 19, at the ElderSpirit Community’s Common House in Abingdon.
The way it works is simple. Members pool their skills and time to exchange neighborly services without using money.
“It’s a money-saving proposition. You get help without having to pay money. You offer services in exchange,” said Dolce, one of several Abingdon women who founded the local organization after learning the time bank movement is spreading throughout the country.
Dolce, along with other members, hosted a kitchen swap last week at the Washington County Public Library to bring attention to the organization and to recruit new members. The public was invited to bring anything from their kitchen they no longer wanted to exchange for items they can use.
The group plans to host more swap events, such as for books, clothing, and tools, throughout the year. “It’s a good community event because it helps people recycle things, too,” Dolce said.
Ragland became a member a few months ago. “I think the organization will unite the community. It’s like fostering an old-fashioned sense of helping our neighbors.”
Sigrid Phillips of Abingdon, who came to the kitchen swap with a ceramic plate from Switzerland and a few canning jars to donate, said she likes the practical part of just being a good neighbor.
As a member of the new time bank, Anita Manuel also participated in last week’s kitchen swap. Manuel was a time bank member when she lived in Seattle, Washington, before moving to Abingdon. “It’s such a good resource for the community.”
Denise Nelson of Abingdon brought some random kitchen items to the swap. “I think the program is great. I want to get involved.”
There’s nothing new about time banking which has been around since at least the 1980s. Dolce said there are numerous time banks in Virginia with the nearest ones located in Blacksburg and Floyd, Virginia.
The concept works along the same lines as a bank account of money. Earned time credits are stored in each member’s online account. Members spend time credits by asking other members to do things for them, like pruning shrubs, moving furniture, or driving them to the doctor.
Members use their computers to track service hours. The person providing a service generally enters online the time it took for the service. This generates an automatic email to the person who received the service who can check to see that the time was accurately entered.
Member hours are tracked with Community Weaver 3, online software that was obtained from TimeBanks USA, a company formed in 1995 by Edgar Cahn, who is known as the father of time banking.
“Everyone has skills to share and each hour of service is valued equally,” said Dolce.
Local members represent a wide variety of professions, including an arborist, retired attorneys, nurses, store owners and teachers. Dolce said even home-bound people can be helpful members by making telephone calls, preparing mailings and baking.
“We believe it’s a wonderful way for people in the community to get acquainted with each other.”
She believes resurgence in time banking has arrived when people need it the most. “We have national and local issues that are separating people. It’s nice to have something that brings people together,” she said. “That’s one reason I wanted to start this. I believe everyone should express their opinions about different issues but at the same time people need to interact and get to know each other.”
Dolce’s goal is to recruit non-profit organizations as members. “I’m hoping we can provide volunteers to non-profits in exchange for them promoting membership in our organization,” she said.
Irene Mooney, also a member, has accumulated 13 hours donating her time to causes supported by the Animal Defense League of Washington County. She wants to spend her credit getting another member to help her with technical support for a home computer.