Need help cooking dinners during the week? Finishing a project? Getting a ride occasionally? Don’t have much money?
The Sebastopol Area Time Bank may be the answer.
Starting October 2, the Sebastopol Area Time Bank will open for new members (www.sebastopoltimebank.org). This all-volunteer, grassroots initiative sponsored by Cittaslow Sebastopol and the City of Sebastopol, assists Sebastopol residents in securing services they need or want without having to spend dollars. Instead, members provide services for each other in exchange for “Time Bank Hours.”
One hour of work is worth one Time Bank Hour.
“The beauty of a time bank,” notes Time Bank Project Lead, Gayle Bergmann, “is that everyone’s work is equal. Everyone has something to offer. Everyone has value.”
Time banking is not bartering. Two individuals do not need to exchange with each other. Instead, think of time bank hours as an alternate currency.
For instance, Randy needed help hauling away some wood that was piled up in her yard. She posted a request in the time bank and Kent stepped forward to help. He earned 6 Time Bank Hours for his 6 hours of work.
Kent, in turn, needed help getting easy weekday meals prepared ahead of time. Terri loves to cook so she offered to roast a turkey and made several dinners that Kent and his family were able to pull out of the freezer whenever time was short. Kent bought the food and “paid” Terri for her time in Time Bank Hours.
Terri needed help finishing a bench she had started in a class. She put out a request and Jeff helped her finish it by working with her in his workshop at home. (In this case, Terri didn’t want him to do it for her. She simply needed someone knowledgeable to walk her through the remaining steps and give her tips as she learned. Not a skill one could readily hire.)
Sebastopol City Manager, Larry McLaughlin is quite excited about the Time Bank. "As a City, we can't control the price of housing. It just does take up a large portion of one's paycheck. What I like about the time bank concept is it gives our citizens a chance to get services they want or need without having to spend the limited cash they have left after their housing costs."
Last Spring, Cittaslow Sebastopol conducted a pilot study to explore the feasibility of opening a time bank in Sebastopol. During the study they tested time bank software. They also gathered feedback from participants about the challenges and benefits of time banking.
Sebastopol Area Time Bank member Kent Don, commented, “I’ve done things like this off and on. I’ve helped friends out and then they help me out. To have something that was organized, where you could track it and draw on a much larger pool of people—that is what really attracted me. Plus there’s another benefit and that’s a chance to meet a bunch of people in the community that I would otherwise not have met.”
The motto of the Sebastopol Area Time Bank, is “Building community one hour at a time.” Indeed, many in the study commented on that aspect. “Just being involved in the Time Bank study made me feel more involved in the community. I really liked that connection,” said Time Bank participant Randy Johnson.
Others noticed there is a surprising amount that they can do to earn time credits. “I have more skills than I realized,” says Time Banker Marie Bhavani Torelli. “When you start hearing what other people are sharing as skills, you think, ‘I have those skills as well.’ I guess I’d say it’s a confidence builder.”
The services people want, or choose to offer, are frequently unconventional. Many are quite fun. For instance:
- Want to milk a cow once a month?
- Care to teach someone to crochet?
- Like to wrap gifts? (You’ll be busy during the holidays!)
“One thing we learned is that this is not just about tracking hours or getting services,” says Clare Najarian, Co-Chair of Cittaslow Sebastopol. “A key benefit of our time bank is about creating a social network. That’s why we decided that Sebastopol Area Time Bank members need to come to an initial orientation meeting, to get face-to-face time with other members.”
Indeed, people in the study who attended the meetings were much more likely to give and receive services than those who did not attend.
“I think the meetings help people feel more comfortable with the process,” says Sebastopol Area Time Bank Administrative Team member, Debbie Ramirez. “They see who is participating and often find someone at the meeting who can provide exactly what they are looking for.”
The Sebastopol Area Time Bank will be holding several orientation meetings in October. Some will be during the day, some at night, some on the weekend, some during the weekday. Beginning in November, this will change to only one orientation a month. Sign up for an orientation meeting at sebastopoltimebank.org.
Sebastopol Area Time Bank members must be 18 or older, and must consider Sebastopol their home (i.e., have an address within zip codes 95472 or 95473). For more information, go to sebastopoltimebank.org or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.