TimeBank movement helps weave together a tighter community
The St. Croix Valley's most recent social networking effort can't be found on the Internet or on Twitter.
We the People TimeBank has kicked off its volunteer cooperative movement in St. Croix County and Washington County, Minn., with the goal of creating stronger communities.
Barbara Lambert, Stillwater, Minn., has formed the local TimeBank chapter and conducted one organizational meeting. Only about 10 people have joined the movement so far.
"Were a start-up, so it's gradually getting there," she said. "Hopefully we'll continue to grow."
Lambert decided to start the regional TimeBank after attending an international conference in Madison this past summer.
"It goes along with my basic beliefs," she said. "We can become stronger as a community by sharing our resources. It comes down to people helping people."
The TimeBank movement's roots date back to 1980, when author and professor Edgar Cahn had a heart attack and felt useless. The feeling helped him come up with a new concept to spur on people to help others.
He dreamed up Time Dollars, a currency that allows participants to volunteer for an hour and, in return, receive an hour of service from someone else.
Since the 1980s, the TimeBank concept has enjoyed times of popularity and times of struggle.
Today, partly due to the down global economy, TimeBanks are experiencing a bit of a resurgence.
"There is a greater focus on the concept now because of the economy," she said. "It's useful in this economy because of the lack of money out there. But usually people get involved because they really believe in it. It's part of people's core beliefs."
TimeBanks are incredibly popular in some corners of the nation and world. The movement reports officially recognized organizations in 22 countries, including a vibrant program in Great Britain.
"I didn't realize how prevalent TimeBanks were in the world," Lambert said.
TimeBanks in Minneapolis and Rochester, Minn., are going strong. A chapter that operates in Madison has grown to 1,400 members in just four years.
"Hopefully we'll have as many members, if not more, in four years," Lambert said.
Lambert said she likes the TimeBank idea because everyone has a skill that can be shared. Older women who knit can donate their time, while men with knowledge about car repair can join in. Some people enjoy taking care of pets, while another may provide housekeeping help to someone in need.
"It makes people feel good about themselves," she said. "It doesn't matter what the service is. There is always something a person can do to benefit others. TimeBanking is a concept that anyone can appreciate because it's a win-win scenario."
People are volunteering anyway in the St. Croix Valley, she explained. With TimeBank, they can use the hours that they volunteer to help themselves too.
Currently, members of the We the People TimeBank offer a variety of services to others in the chapter, including dog walking, tax preparation, computer repair and advocacy.
Future services provided could include companionship, lawn care, transportation, meal preparation, recreation, painting, child care and more.
The local chapter is looking for additional members to join so that service exchange options expand. People of any age are encouraged to sign up.
The international organization's Web site, www.timebanks.org, provides a list of available TimeBanks and other resources. Potential members can get connected with chapter organizers through the Web site.
To join a chapter, prospective members fill out an application and a profile. A face-to-face meeting with the chapter coordinator is required, and references are called and background checks are conducted.
There is no membership fee charged to new members, although Lambert said those who sign up are asked to donate up to $25 to the movement to cover expenses.