• Official launch of Homer Time Bank May 19 at the Homer Chamber of Commerce
By Naomi Klouda
Opening an account with the Homer Time Bank doesn’t involve exchanging money – it’s all a matter of time.
You make a deposit every time you lend an hour of help to someone’s project.
You deduct from your bank account every time you let someone else perform a service for you.
The idea is based on a precept as old as time: People can accomplish needs in a bartering system just as well as they can with money, said Mark Tanski, one of the local organizers. And, it helps with community building.
It was a reaction to an ailing economy that saw hundreds of thousands suddenly unemployed. It offered a way, for example, for someone who can’t afford to hire a plumber to get a plumbing job done.
“This is an hour for hour trade. It’s not based on monetary value, it’s based on self worth,” Tanski told a group Thursday night assembled at the Kachemak Bay Campus. “It’s a website-based accounting system that isn’t based on a monetary system, which is important both philosophically and for legality – no IRS. The IRS is aware of us, and we’re within the law.”
Along with Laura Brooks and Adam Bauer, Tanski has launched the local network whereby people can sign up and exchange information about needs and abilities. Under the title of “Alaskans Helping Alaskans,” the Homer Time Bank is one of three in the state along with Anchorage and Willow. Homer’s began six months ago, but already has more members than either of the two other Alaska towns and it hasn’t officially “launched” yet, Tanski said. The official launch is a potluck at the Homer Chamber of Commerce on May 19.
“We have 99 members – we started later than the other time banks and we gathered more members in that time,” he said. (Since then, the number has grown.)
The possibilities are seemingly endless. Tanski used his own account as an example. He has accumulated 54.75 points by teaching the Time Bank class, volunteering at the Alaska Center for Coastal Studies and for the Homer Council on the Arts. Then, when he had a rip in his jeans and needed a shirt mended, he cashed in for an hour’s mending work. He used some credit to get bicycle parts. And, he is going to put up a yurt this summer, and will need help and expertise for that. That’s when he can trade credits for others’ labor. On his list of needs, he is asking for mandolin lessons.
“I’ve owned a mandolin for years, but I don’t know how to play it,” he explains. As luck would have it, a guy in his Time Bank class Thursday gives mandolin lessons – now they will exchange phone numbers.
Bryan Zak, who owns vacation cabins, has a notice that for a certain number of credits, a family of four can spend the night at his rental cabin. He will gain the credits from the exchange, which he can then use for getting landscaping done or repair work on the cabins. The other day, he “bought” an hour’s advice from a greenhouse expert.
It’s not easy to think of a night’s stay at a cabin in the same vein as help painting a building, but that’s how it works. Seldovia and Ninilchik residents are signed up with the Homer Time Bank as well, creating opportunities for trade between communities. Laura Brooks is helping Anchorage get its Time Bank up and running – there will be opportunities for trading between here and there, as well.
There will be more than 20 People’s Garden projects getting started this spring and a big need for volunteers. High tunnel greenhouse owners are also in need of helping hands. Time Bank is helping groups get the help they need in some surprising arrangements. People can help out in exchange for fresh vegetables.
Exchanging services and hours-for-hours, takes an adjustment in the traditional way of thinking, Tanski said. “Think of something you enjoy doing, and offer that as a service. What are you good at?”
The website at www.aha.com gives guidance for getting started. Designed by Adam Bauer, the website allows members to register, and then keep track of credits. If you give an hour to Homer Council on the Arts, for example, that will show up under your “account” and notifies the arts council of a one-hour deduction.
There have been cases of selfish people getting all the services and paying none out, Tanski said, but that is relatively rare. If account monitors notice someone is 50 credits in the red, for example, they may ask what’s going on. Also, there’s relatively few cases of fraud (Tanski said one case) out of the 250,000 operating time banks in the country.
The next Time Bank class is 5:30-6:30 p.m. Thursday at the college. For more information, go to aha.com.
Comments are closed