A Bit of WSTB's History

Written by time bank member, Bruce W.

It is difficult to believe that it’s already been more than two years since we organized the first meeting of what was to become West Sound Time Bank (WSTB). Initially, there was a core group of about a dozen volunteers that met weekly for a few months, progressing from the philosophical and conceptual strategies to identifying and articulating the specifics. While “Vision and Mission” were juicy topics, considerably more time was spent on pragmatic elements such as liability and financials. Using the experiences and expertise from other Time Banks and the support of Sustainable Bainbridge, WSTB’s web site was launched in January 2012.

Need your trees trimmed? Bruce is your man! 
While the idea of non-monetary exchanges of effort has been the basis of local communities and neighborhoods for millennia, it seems to have waned in the last few decades. Most likely there are a variety of reasons for this change. Possibly it’s the fear being imposed on us by the nightly news or perhaps it’s our more litigious society. Once you think about it however, it really comes down to individual choice. It is Our Choice to interact with and support neighbors. It is My Choice to ask them for support when I need it.

Over the last year and a half I have participated in 11 exchanges with other individuals. Every one of them was both productive and fun. For me, the most important elements were the camaraderie and the making of new friends. Yes, it was nice having assistance watering the yard while on vacation, and yes, having someone help care for our old pooch was a real gift. (And, those rowing lessons were quite fun.) For me, however, the sense of community that I felt from helping someone else is what’s most meaningful and long lasting.

If you haven’t requested a service in a while, just go do it – you’ll be happy you did and you’ll be doing your part to build a more friendly and supportive community (in spite of this era of divisiveness at both the local and national levels).

Ode to WSTB

The people of West Sound Time Bank are my heroes. Sans capes, of course! This is a love letter; or, if you like that kind of thing, an “Ode.” WSTB how do I love thee, let me recount the ways...

Time bankers have helped me in my gardens, moving furniture and teaching me how to make no-knead bread. I've received day lilies and Raspberries. I've even had my parents' seventy-five year old analog recordings converted to digital. Most amazingly of all, a fellow member allowed me to repay a debt with a gift of my hours. And that's just some of my “Asks!” When a recent injury caught up with me, it was time bankers who kept my spirits up and got me to my doctors appointments. Without the help of members who cleaned my house and shopped for me my recovery would have been compromised.

Super Annee! Off on another
important mission for WSTB
Then there's the countless ways I've been allowed to help others! Yep, I have had the great fortune to be a “hero” too. (I keep meaning to have my cape dry cleaned.) I've sat member's dogs. Helped with painting a friend's bedroom, and with moving her household. I've been working with the core group of individuals running West Sound. I've had a hand in pretty much all aspects of our day to day running. From helping to design and distribute our brochures to hosting events and manning our office hour. I've “tabled” and handed out leaflets. Been an “ebuddy” tutoring members in the use of our platform and logging exchanges for them.

Best of all, I've brainstormed solutions and schemes to further our time bank. I feel empowered and powerful. Competent and vital. I get to be “part of the change I want to see!” I'm an introvert and a weirdo. I'm smart, an artist and writer who could theoretically “do anything.” As a result of Mental Illness my successes have been short lived. I simply have not done well in a “9 to 5” setting. Here I am successful. My waxing and waning energy is accepted here. In the Time Bank I have found my tribe.

The folks I've met via West Sound are some of my closest friends. When I discovered Time Banking and other “alternative economies,” I began a journey of healing. Worldwide more and more folks are figuring out new ways to get what they need. And finding they often get what they want. I finally found the acceptance and support we all crave in my West Sound Time Bank family.

With my best wishes,

Eating Hours

This article written by time bank member, Monica A.

Monica & Baby
Doing very well with a little help from the time bank!

(photo by Michael Free)
“Stock your freezer!” Everyone had the same advice when I was pregnant. But no one warned me that grocery stores and cooking would be out of reach; I wasn’t able to stand the sight of food for months, not even the neat colorful boxes on store shelves. (Yes, I often ate with my eyes closed, holding my nose.) So, no cooking for me. I was delighted when I realized that I could use the Time Bank.

I had joined the Time Bank earlier that year. My husband and I were walking down to the ferry on a sunny afternoon, having a pleasant conversation about non-monetary exchange systems, when we stumbled upon some theoretic challenges. We were trying to figure out how to fairly measure work done, effort, skill, demand, etc. For instance, what if two people each paint a fence, but one person does a better job than the other? Should the two people get credited the same, or different amounts? Should the person who owns the brushes get credits, even if she does no work? The time bank cuts through all of that by counting all time as equal: an hour credit for an hour worked. A week later my husband told me there was a time exchange group on the island, and we should go learn about it. While we were learning about the West Sound Time Bank, it occurred to me that this neighborly system would be extremely useful to new parents.

I was hesitant at first, because I would have to get into serious time debt to get started. But people reassured me that debt is required; it takes a balance of people offering services and receiving services to keep the system going. So I posted a request for help with all that freezer stocking I wasn't able to do for myself. To my absolute delight, a professional chef responded. Her healthy meals kept my baby and me going for months.

I have made other fun exchanges: I offered computer assistance in exchange for German conversation lessons (you can squeeze both into one hour if you conduct the computer assistance in German); digitizing bluegrass tapes and family heirlooms using an old cassette player I’d bought at the Rotary auction; giving rides to the beach…

I get a thrill from recording hours and knowing that I’m helping neighbors. And at a certain point, keeping track of hours falls away as friendships flourish.

Growing Friendships and a New Garden

This article was contributed by West Sound Time Bank member, Norm Keegel.

I have a small lot in town. Before this summer, it was a typical suburban yard: lawn, a border of bushes, and a Himalayan blackberry hedge. (Wonderful for a month in late summer when the berries are ripe, otherwise just prickly.) I'm also a member of West Sound Time Bank, so after reading a few books on permaculture and feeling the imperative to grow some of my own food, I decided to get help from other time bank members to turn my yard into a permaculture food garden. Permaculture focuses on growing food in a way that is as close to the way a natural environment maintains itself as possible. Once it's established, a permaculture garden takes far less maintenance than a conventional vegetable garden. I envisioned a garden on my small lot that would give us food with a minimum of work. Getting help from other time bank members would make establishing that garden much easier, reducing my work two ways.

Jim adds compost to the new berry plants
I started by asking time bank member, Mickey – another permaculture enthusiast - to help me with a design. Mickey referred me to additional books that I later borrowed from the library. She walked around my yard, making suggestions and taking measurements and came back with a plan for the space. I decided to begin with my back yard. At Mickey's suggestion, I picked up cardboard from Schmidts Appliance store to supplement what I had been collecting. (Cardboard and mulch are great for smothering lawn and weeds.)

Meanwhile, my good friends Maia and her partner Erik, who live on a local twenty-two acre farm, grafted 3 apple trees and planted them for me. Had I known that Maia was a member of the time bank, I could have paid them in time bank hours. I know that they need help on their farm, so they could have used the hours. I got a few berry bushes from our local Land Trust plant sale which Maia and Erik planted at the same time they planted the apple trees. Mickey referred me to Michael, who generously offered me free compost and did more than half the work of loading the pickup truck I borrowed from my neighbor, Rick.

I think both Rick and Michael are good candidates for the time bank, although I have not yet invited them to join. Have you invited your friends to join? The more members we have, the greater the variety of Offers and Requests and the more satisfying for all of us.

After I spread the compost around the small apple trees, another time bank member, Noreen, used her truck to pick up dirt from a construction site nearby. Noreen did most of the work of carting it to the back yard and dumping it on the compost. She lent me her rake to spread it out, which I leisurely did in the next two days.

The next step was to ask time bank member, Jim, to weed. He has a one-acre farm on the island. Jim is a retired nurseryman, so I got much more than weeding! “Dirt is what you sweep out with a broom; soil is what you use to grow plants,” said Jim. He did most of the work of picking up another load of compost from Michael (giving Michael a break from shoveling) and taking it to my back yard. That reminds me, I'll have to finish mixing it in with the other compost and the dirt before Jim comes back on Thursday!

Jim also weeded around the berries, removed two ornamental bushes and spread compost around the baby berry bushes. As we worked, he gave me lots of tips. For instance I had planted watermelon and squashes around the apple trees a few weeks before. He told me to forget about them, they would not produce before the cold weather killed them. That saved some unnecessary watering for me! On Thursday, he will be back to do some pruning that will take some climbing. That sort of work is getting a bit scary for me to do myself (especially for my wife) at my age (74). It will be good for Jim to take care of it.

Co-incidentally, Jim runs the table tennis program at the Senior Center and he invited me to it. As a teenager in Sri Lanka, I loved playing and have often thought about taking up the sport again, but somehow have not. That's a bonus for me from the time bank!

The latest time bank member I met was Lauren. She weeded the little patch of garden in my front yard. She's an expert gardener, so I didn't have to tell her what were "weeds" and what were "plants". She is yet another expert who gave me tips as we worked. I'm not sure which was better: making all these new friends or getting a great start on my new permaculture garden. But why choose? They're both wonderful!

About the Author:

Norm Keegel is 74 and has recently retired from several years working with developmentally disabled people. Before he came to this country, 23 years ago, he spent 30 years in Melbourne, Australia, where he mainly worked as a computer programmer. He has two children and a grandson there. He was a registered psychologist there and became a certified hypnotherapist in California. He volunteers with Hospice and is excited by their new program which provides volunteers, at the family's request, to sit with patients who are actively dying. Through the time bank he offers hypnotherapy, sitting with housebound people to provide respite to their caregivers, editing written works and coaching.

Time and Talents

A brief history of Time and Talents, the on-line software that West Sound Time Bank uses to track member transactions:

Onion River Time Bank in Vermont

Here's a video about a time bank in Vermont. They're five years old and have 700 members. West Sound Time Bank is a year old and has almost a hundred members already. This is where we are headed! Spread the word. Join WSTB and be part of making time banking happen right here at home.

Raspberries Anyone?

Bruce (on right) delivers raspberries to Norm Keegel.
Got raspberries? Time bank member Bruce Barrus does! He'll pick and deliver a quart of raspberries for one time bank hour; that's about how long it takes him to pick a quart. He'll have another crop next summer, so join the time bank, meet other members of your community and make fresh raspberry smoothies! 

Time Banking is Changing Lives

Here's a great video produced by TimeBanks USA.

TimeBanking is Changing Lives from timebanksusa on Vimeo.