Time bank treats members’ work equally
In this growing exchange, everyone’s labor is equal
As income inequality moves to the forefront of this year’s political debate, a growing movement is taking hold in Durango and across the country that treats everyone’s labor equally, regardless of gender, race, education or skill level.
Time banks allow residents to share services by valuing everyone’s contributions equally: An hour’s worth of shoveling snow is worth an hour of tax preparation. Think of it as a karma bank: The more time you give, the more hours you earn in your account, which can be used to access services offered by other members.
The local time bank, called hOur Exchange La Plata (or HELP), has about 100 active members who volunteer time performing skilled and unskilled labor. It is one of more than 400 time banks across the country and uses software hosted by www.hOurworld.org.
Beside treating everyone’s time equally, time banks foster neighborly connections and promote community volunteerism, said Elizabeth Anderson, who started HELP two years ago with her husband, Eric Nylund.
“So much about it is building relationships,” she said. “It’s about getting to know people.”
In an effort to bridge connections and make it more natural to ask strangers for help, the local time bank hosts potlucks every month.
People join for different reasons. Some enjoy doing projects while others want to socialize and meet neighbors. Others participate only when there are group activities, such as last weekend when time bank members helped sort almost 2,000 cases of Girl Scout cookies, 12 boxes per case, and distribute them to troops throughout the region.
Nylund and Anderson, who live in a somewhat remote location between Durango and Bayfield, said they started the time bank to build a network of friends who they can rely upon in times of need.
“As we continue to get older, we’re not going to be able to do everything for ourselves, and we didn’t feel like we had a particularly close-knit bunch of friends, so I wanted to meet people,” Anderson said. “I wanted to have more people in our lives that we knew we would be able to work with.”
La Plata County resident Bagheera Latimer said she joined the time bank about two years ago to gain access to services she otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford. She has earned hours raking leaves, doing erosion-control work and giving people rides to appointments and the airport.
“Time banking is just formalizing how you already exchange favors among friends; it’s just a larger group of people,” she said.
Time banking also compensates people who do traditionally female-orientated tasks, such as child care and elder care, she said.
The local time bank offers dozens of services, including project-based and people-based services. Categories include arts and crafts, tutoring lessons, counseling, pet care, transportation, marketing and media, writing and research, and legal help. Those general categories can be drilled down into subcategories, for example, under “gardening” there is composting, organic gardening and caring for fruit trees.
“If you look at what’s there and you don’t find exactly what you want to offer, then we create a new category,” Nylund said. “So it’s not limited in that way. You can pretty much offer what ever you want.”
Like many time banks, the local bank has an abundance of members who offer services, but too few who cash in on hours owed to them, said Eric Nylund. People are generous with their time, but uncomfortable about asking for help.
“It may have something to do with the rural West – that we’re all independent and we can take care of ourself – but that lady down the street needs firewood for the winter,” Nylund said. “That’s a generous attitude, but you don’t get a time bank unless you get the flow in both directions.”
Robert Lea of Durango joined in November 2014 to offer his skills in carpentry, mechanics, plumbing and electrical work. Since then, he has participated in about 15 projects and accrued more than 100 hours of credit. He has a large painting project that should eat up a chunk of those hours this summer, he said.
“My goal really isn’t to accumulate hours,” Lea said, “it just happened that way.”
Most people have a skill or interest they enjoy, but they can’t necessarily go out and market those services, Lea said. The time bank allows people to share their skills and knowledge without becoming involved with the monetary economy.
Lea said it’s unlikely anyone would hire him because he’s older and doesn’t want to work full time. But he still enjoys his craft.
“I can figure out what’s wrong with things and repair them if that’s what’s needed,” he said. “I particularly like the problem-solving aspect of some of these little jobs.”
Not long ago, a time bank member purchased a solar array but needed help installing it. Nylund, who has experience with solar panels, helped the man find the right location and helped install a rack to support the panels. About a month later, six or seven members helped install the panels.
“It cost him some hours,” Nylund said, “but it didn’t cost him any money.”