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Madision, Wisconsin: Troy Gardens Board Member Pitts and theTime Bank

  • Subject: [cg] Madision, Wisconsin: Troy Gardens Board Member Pitts and theTime Bank
  • From: adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Thu, 19 Jan 2006 10:57:44 -0500

Brisk business at the Timebank

JAMES EDWARD MILLS jmills@madison.com
January 18, 2006
North Side residents Marge Pitts and Clare Norelle have little in common but the desire to give and the need to receive. 
But on an uncommonly warm January day, the two met at Sunrise Stables in Oregon to trade in the one commodity precious to them both - their spare time.
So with the help of her wild- born mustang named Toby, Pitts gave Norelle's children - Imani, 10, and Sasha, 6 - a free horseback riding lesson. A neighbor, Cora Wiese Moore, 9, came along as well. In exchange, Pitts will receive credit for an hour's worth of many free services available through the Dane County Timebank.
"There's a lot of skill and talent in our community," Norelle said. "This is a way we can help one another without involving money."
A new program that allows participants to trade in good deeds, the Dane County Timebank lets area residents give and receive services that can be circulated like currency throughout the community. Timebank participants offer any service they can, but they do not necessarily trade directly with other members on a quid pro quo basis.
"Fundamentally, it's a service-exchange system where people in a community or an organization pool their talents to do things for each other," said Stephanie Rearick, Timebank's interim director and the owner of Mother Fool's coffee shop, 1101 Williamson St.
"People list the things that they have to offer and all the things that they're looking for and it goes into a database, a Web-based system that's coordinated by national TimeBanks USA," Rearick said. The national organization records and tracks good deeds performed by members in its networks.
The Dane County Timebank was launched in October with the help of a Neighborhood Leadership and Capacity Building grant from the city of Madison. Dane County contributed $2,500 in matching funds. As of Dec. 1, the organization had a membership of more than 50 volunteers who have exchanged more than 100 hours of their time.
Edgar Cahn, who developed the concept of Timebanks, said the Dane County network is different from Timebank groups across the country and in 22 other nations. He said Timebanks are usually created on a small scale, established within an organization such as an assisted living center or a low-income housing facility. Cahn said Rearick and her group have more effectively pooled local resources and have mobilized public interest better than any other community.
"I'm looking to Madison as a leading light for what can be done," Cahn said. "What (Rearick) has pulled together is a community-wide array that's really remarkable in its breadth. Madison is a model for how communities in the U.S. and around the world can implement this program."
Pitts, who works nights as a waiter at a Downtown steakhouse, said there's no better way to spend her afternoons. "I like donating my time during the day doing something I enjoy," she said.
As a board member of Troy Gardens, a community gardening plot on the North Side where residents grow their own food and other plants, Pitts is accustomed to giving her time. But she said the Timebank allows her to give of her talents. "It's better than sitting in a boring old board meeting. Plus I get something back."
Norelle said she will repay Pitts' donation of a horseback riding lesson with a gift of her services as a Spanish translator. "I could also do some baking," Norelle said.
Raking leaves, shoveling snow, home repair, teen mentoring and many other activities are all valued equally. When a member of the network performs an hour of service for someone, he or she receives an hour of credit or one Time Dollar.
"Then they can use that for an hour of service with anyone else in the network," Rearick said. "It's available in quarter- hour increments as well."
Fifteen-year-old Travis Kahel volunteers his time doing odd jobs around his neighborhood on the North Side. He has earned 15 hours and 45 minutes watching his neighbor's dog. Having some difficulty in algebra, Kahel plans to redeem his credits by enlisting a tutor. He said he might even get a massage.
"I like the fact that the possibilities are endless on who can volunteer for you," Kahel said. "If I need help on algebra or my family needs a plumber, then we don't have to spend our money on it."
Because no cash changes hands and all time donations are valued equally, Timebank contributions are tax-exempt. Unlike barter programs such as Madison Hours, a local organization whose participants trade in services of varying monetary value that are taxed, Time Dollars are exchanged evenly, no matter what service is offered. The Internal Revenue Service exempts Time Dollars because they are intended as charitable contributions, are not legally binding and are backed only by moral obligation.
Rearick hopes to expand the Timebank concept throughout Dane County. "We're working with the sheriff's department to help people in the jail to earn credit for when they get out, like for transportation to job interviews," she said. "They can also earn credits for things while they're still in jail like literacy training, preparing resumes and basic financial planning."
Kahel said he plans to create a Timebank at East High School, and Norelle said she hopes to organize a Timebank at Lindbergh Elementary where her children attend school. She said Time Dollars can be earned while serving on the parent-teacher association. "People will do it anyway, but this will let them get something in return, so it's not such a burden," Norelle said.
For more information Dane County Timebank members will meet from 6 to 8 tonight at Lakeview Lutheran Church, 4001 Mandrake Road. Prospective participants are invited to attend.
An organizational meeting for new membership applications will be held at 7 p.m. Feb. 2 at the Villager Mall, 2300 S. Park St.
The group will meet again from 2:30 to 4 p.m. March 8 at the United Way of Dane County, 2059 Atwood Ave.
For more information, visit www.danecountytimebank.org or call 608-443-8229.

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