Time bank program trades volunteer time for household servicesImagine paying for services you need - such as yardwork or home care or housekeeping - by donating some of your own time volunteering.
By: By Breann Schossow, The Leader-Telegram, Eau Claire, Wis., Superior Telegram
Imagine paying for services you need - such as yardwork or home care or housekeeping - by donating some of your own time volunteering.
With the formation of a time bank in the Chippewa Valley, that soon could be a reality.
"It's exciting," said Chippewa Valley TimeBank coordinator Natalie Robarge, noting that this will be a vital addition to the community.
Time banking trades time, instead of money, for services.
"It's basically kind of like a creative way of volunteerism," Robarge said. "We really believe that everybody has a certain element of volunteerism in them."
Time banks are part of an international program, but Robarge said several successful programs are close to home, such as in Dane County and Milwaukee. The Chippewa Valley TimeBank started as the result of teamwork among local and multicounty agencies that wrote and received a federal grant through the Older Americans Act, Robarge said.
Dane County coordinator Gary Messinger said the Dane County TimeBank started about seven years ago. Since then the bank has garnered more than 2,000 members, including 140 organizations.
Messinger said the type of services he sees requested or offered range from transportation to home-cooked meals to housekeeping and more. Messinger said the sky is the limit for types of services.
"My favorite request from somebody was, 'Make me a pie once a week,' " he said.
Messinger said time banks put value in work that isn't valued in the economic system but still is something that helps build strong communities.
"It puts value in mowing the neighbor's lawn or helping the elderly person down the block shovel their driveway," he said.
Robarge believes the Chippewa Valley TimeBank will thrive in Eau Claire, Chippewa and Dunn counties.
"The demographics in that area, between people that are young that have a lot of skills and people that are older that have a lot of skills, is huge," she said.
Time bank databases allow people to sign up for the kinds of services they could provide as well as seek what needs people have. Services are dependent on what people are willing to barter.
Dorothy Moen, director of the Eau Claire County Aging and Disability Resource Center and a member of the time bank steering committee, said time banks can thrive anywhere. However, she said the volunteer spirit and the generosity in this part of Wisconsin creates a good atmosphere for the Chippewa Valley TimeBank.
Moen is excited by the opportunity for groups and individuals to join in the effort. In her role as part of a group that works with older people, she often gets calls from church and youth groups asking for lists of people that need help with yardwork or home care.
"Of course our agency can't give out lists of names of people," she said. "But on the same hand ... we know firsthand that (there are) a lot of older people in the community that could use those services, and the time bank would do that matching and provide that opportunity."
Time bank organizers likely will start taking applications by the end of September, Robarge said. People involved with the time bank will feel an increased feeling of belonging to their community, she said.
"I just think that there's going to be a lot of pride and ownership in the Chippewa Valley," Robarge said. "I think it's just a phenomenal area to do it."
Schossow can be reached at 715-830-5832, 800-236-7077 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
(c)2012 the Leader-Telegram (Eau Claire, Wis.)
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