"Give an hour, get an hour"

Santa Fe Time Bank

Santa Feans use time as currency

Date July 13, 2011 at 10:00 PM

Author Polly Summar

Publication SantaFe.com

Categories Business

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There’s really no reason not to join the Santa Fe Time Bank. At the risk of being too graphic, it functions a lot like a blood bank (except that no blood is actually required): You put your time in, and you draw out someone else’s time.

So here’s how it works: On a sliding scale from $10 to $50, you pay what you can to join the nonprofit organization. Then when you attend the first monthly meeting to see what it’s all about, you automatically get two hours of “time dollars” (and more if you bring food for the potluck).

That’s when the fun begins. Let’s say you need a handyman to sand down the bottom of that door that sticks every time you go to close it. You go online to santafetimebank.org and use the software to find someone with a sander and some carpentry genes who has volunteered for handyman duty. The two of you arrange the exchange via email. (Oh, and by the way, everyone involved in the time bank has to submit references, which are checked.)

After Mr. Carpenter finishes your door, he ends up with another hour or two – whatever it took to do the job – in the time bank. What he wants now is not the dogsitting or the calligraphy you have to offer, but a massage, which he finds via the software at the time bank website.

Meanwhile, Sally Sophisticate needs a dogsitter for her two ShihTzus while she attends her yearly “Managing Inherited Wealth” conference, which she explains to you in your email exchange. Well, that just kind of rubs you the wrong way, so you don’t agree to it. That’s fine. Santa Fe Time Bank is a community and just like in life, sometimes it’s not a match.

However, there’s a nice family that’s taking a camping trip and needs someone to take care of their rambunctious mutt, Harley Houdini. It’s close to your house, and you enjoyed your email exchange with them, so you accept the challenge. And, you’ll get a lot of time bank hours in the process.

Are you getting the picture? It’s a give and take, community style. The concept was started by Yale-educated lawyer Edgar S. Cahn in 1980. He was recuperating in an intensive care coronary unit from a heart attack and feeling useless. According to his book, “Throw-Away People: The Co-Production Imperative,” he asked himself, “Why not bank time spent helping others – something like a blood bank?”

Each person’s time would be valued equally. “Give an hour, get an hour,” Cahn wrote. Since that time, tens of thousands of time banks have sprung up. Santa Fe Time Bank was started in January 2010 by filmmaker Adrianne McCurrach, acupuncturist Stella Osorojos and digital media artist Deborah Fort. Two other people were involved but they’ve since moved away.

McCurrach and her family had been living in Los Angeles but wanted a different kind of lifestyle. “And starting the time bank in Santa Fe was part of that,” she said.

At the Santa Fe Time Bank’s June meeting at Temple Beth Shalom, with more than 45 people attending on Father’s Day, the interest was obvious. Joni Nolan, a nurse at Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center was there because her neighbor, Joy Rosenberg, director of education at the temple, was a member.

“We started a year ago January with 20 people,” said Rosenberg. By July of this year, there were 253 members. “I get my house cleaned, house repairs, acupuncture, Reiki, clay studio, and lessons tatting.” And what does she give? Right now she’s doing mending for people but she’s also given a hair cut. “Someone said she wanted a hair cut and I thought, well, I could do a hair cut.  I’m not trained, but the woman sent me a video in Chinese” of a hair cut she liked. Rosenberg was game, and the woman liked the cut.

Besides the hair cut and the mending, Rosenberg has given compassionate listening, committee work, organizational skills and personalized name art.

As the meeting convened, the process included going around the room to see what people thought they could offer. Some of the skills included: teaching meditation, creative problem solving from a life coach, photography, piano lessons, transferring cassette tapes to CDs, helping with assisted listening devices, teaching French and Spanish, tarot reading, welding plastic and metal, offering homegrown mint, sage and catnip, cooking, doing faux finishes, child care, animal care, teaching swimming, weeding, bodywork, teaching guitar, beadwork, facilitating a drumming circle, dog massage (and attempting cat massage), nutrition counseling, Reiki, tutoring, developing web sites, lifting, dream interpretation, elder care and interior design.

It may take a while before all those people join the time bank, but the website already lists many of those options, plus such diverse skills as birth art, canning, event planning, hauling, instrument making, juggling lessons, legal assistance and pruning.

Santa Fe Time Bank meets the third Sunday of every month, from 4-6 p.m. at Temple Beth Shalom, 205 E. Barcelona Road. The potluck dishes are better than the standard fare. You can check out the website at www.santafetimebank.org or call (505) 216-6590.

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