The ingredients for making yogurt were simple, and Phyllis Dolph’s instructions on how to put them together were easy. Jan Woodruff had no problem following her as Dolph mixed up a batch in her home Friday morning.
The time Dolph spent teaching the process to Woodruff would be returned to her someday by somebody completely different. He or she might provide her with some vocal coaching to give her upper register a “more beautiful, rounder tone quality,” she hopes.
Dolph and Woodruff are part of Transition Fidalgo & Friends’ newest project to build community resilience and connections — the F&F TimeBank, where time rather than money is exchanged for services.
One hour is equal to one hour, whether it’s an hour of something as easy as pie or something as complicated as filling out tax forms.
“This is an important concept of the TimeBank — that everybody’s time is valued equally,” said Evelyn Adams, F&F board president. “Everyone has something to give. Everybody’s time is worth something.”
The parallel economy is not bartering where two people try to exchange something, but an entire network of people paying their services forward, Adams said. It’s also different from volunteering in that members get something in exchange.
The F&F TimeBank opened mid-June and already members are offering services from gardening and budgeting advice to digital photography and Spanish lessons. There’s even a former director of a music school in Switzerland putting up piano and cello lessons.
The TimeBank is particularly useful in these challenging times, especially for seniors who live on a limited income, said TimeBank coordinator Maryellen Zell.
“You can think of TimeBank as a recession-proof type of exchange,” Adams said.
“We’re going to have to band together,” Zell said. “It’s what we used to do — we used to build houses together. We need to go back to simplicity and help each other out.”
The TimeBank is also about strengthening community connections.
“Every time I learn something, from someone, I get to know them,” said Woodruff while chatting at Dolph’s dining room table after the yogurt-making session.
“It’s almost a social safety net,” Adams said of the TimeBank.
Dolph decided to offer her time teaching how to make her Smooth Yogurt Supreme because she thought it would appeal to somebody.
“Now I have three people interested in it so it must be true,” she said.
Most people wonder what they can offer in the TimeBank, but everyone has something, said Woodruff, who offers marketing consulting services and how to stage a home for a quick sale.
“It’s trying to open people’s eyes,” she said.
TimeBank members are encouraged to offer three services and make three requests to encourage them to spend the hours they earn.
In addition to offering yogurt making, garden tours and piano duets, Dolph has requests in for voice lessons and weeding her garden.
“Most people are more comfortable with giving than receiving,” Woodruff said. “You have to give other people an opportunity to give.”
To join the TimeBank, prospective members go through an orientation process to set up a profile, provide a personal reference, have a background check done and learn how to use the Community Weaver software to advertise their services and requests those of others.
Zell reviews everything to make sure people create user-friendly ads and place them in the right category in addition to keeping an eye on e-mails for inappropriate communications. Zell gets a copy of every e-mail going between members and will bring issues to the TimeBank team if something is questionable.
That, and the background check, are there to protect the members who will have one-on-one meetings with each other, Zell said.
Additional requirements are needed from people wanting to provide transportation, such as a copy of their drivers license, proof of insurance and a visual check of their vehicle done by a TimeBank representative. Those providing child or adult care will require a more extensive background check, Zell said. And professionals, such as doctors, will have to carry their own liability insurance.
Members are also asked to sign an agreement form, which includes issues of liability and confidentiality and a code of conduct.
The 7th Generation Suppers held by Fidalgo & Friends on the last Tuesday of the month at the Senior Activity Center are a good way for members to meet each other and talk in person before an exchange is done, Adams suggested.
Though there is no money passed between members, there are membership dues. A donation of $35 is suggested for households, $25 for individuals, $15 for college students, seniors and those with an income less than $25,000 a year, and $10 for high school students. The program is free for those 13 and younger but does require parent or guardian approval for anyone younger than 18.
“Even though we’re creating an alternative economy, we have real-world costs,” Adams said.
The money pays for insurance, promotion and the Community Weaver software from TimeBanks USA, which charges annual dues of $25 for TimeBanks with 1 to 25 members, $120 for 26 to 100 members, and up to $900 for 801-plus members.
TimeBanks USA is a nonprofit founded in 1995 and based in Washington, D.C. TimeBanks set up through the organization are all over the U.S. as well as in New Zealand, Uruguay and the Philippines. Others in Washington are in Seattle, Kirkland and Eastsound on Orcas Island.
Just like the Fidalgo and Friends organization, its TimeBank welcomes residents on Fidalgo Island and elsewhere.
About the TimeBank
Applications and information xare at http://fidalgoandfriends.timebanks.org/
More information on Transition Fidalgo & Friends is at http://transitionfidalgo.org/
To learn more about TimeBanks USA, go to http://timebanks.org/
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