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Time bank encourages helping others

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

By BEN R. WILLIAMS - Bulletin Staff Writer

A new area program can offer assistance to those who need a little help and are willing to offer a little help in return.

Brooks Jones, mobility manager at Southern Area Agency on Aging (SAAA), recently created a “time bank” for the Henry County-Martinsville area through the website timebanks.org. It is available at www.mhc.timebanks.org.

Jones describes the free program as “a barter system for time.”

Users go to the website and create a profile, a process that Jones said takes about five minutes. In the profile, users specify what skills they have and what hours they are available. For example, a user might enter that he can assist others in writing résumés and he is available on weekday evenings.

Users need to provide only as much personal information as they are comfortable with, Jones added.

Once a user has created a profile, other users can contact him for his services, and he can contact other users for their services.

“It’s a pay-it-forward mentality,” Jones said. “The community’s helping the community.”

Jones said he first learned about time banks at a mobility management conference in Minnesota.

“A woman had established one in her community,” he said. “She was telling us stories about it. That’s what we do at these conferences. We share our ideas and what we’ve done, things that have worked and things that have not worked.”

The stories Jones heard inspired him. For instance, one woman, a dialysis patient, used the time bank weekly to get rides to dialysis appointments, but because of her poor health, there was not a lot that she could do to put hours back into the bank.

“What she did to give back to the system was call people in the community and tell them about time banking,” he said. “An hour a day ... she would just make calls to people: ‘Hey, do you know about this?’”

Another story, Jones said, involved two men who lived in a city but worked on a farm outside the city. They used the time bank to get rides to work. To put hours into the time bank, they volunteered their skills in their neighborhood, painting fences and doing gardening and landscaping.

“You do not have to help the person that helps you,” Jones said. “You just have to give back the hours that you’ve used. You’re bartering with the system. Say you use 10 hours, you could help five people (for) two hours apiece. You could break it up in any way. Everything is recorded and saved in the database.”

Similar time banks exist in other relatively nearby locations, Jones said, including Charlottesville and Floyd. The Charlottesville time bank has about 150 members, he said, while the Floyd time bank has about 55.

Jones said that before creating the local time bank, he contacted the operator of the Floyd time bank to see if she had any difficulties regulating the system.

“She said she hadn’t had any trouble with that,” he said. “I feel like when you have another human being taking the time out, you feel so appreciative for it that you want to pay it back. People don’t have to make you. ... That pay it forward mentality really seems to go far in this world.”

The program is open to anyone, Jones said, adding that college students and high school students looking to fulfill volunteer hours will find it particularly useful because it records and catalogues those hours.

From his perspective as mobility manager for SAAA, Jones said, volunteers willing to drive others to out-of-town doctor’s appointments are a huge need in the area, but local transportation — to the grocery store, for example — also is needed.

Job skills training — such as résumé writing or using word processing programs — is needed as well.

Right now, Jones said, the time bank is in its early stages, but he is hopeful that as more people learn about the program, it will snowball.

“There are so many applications to this, it’s limitless,” Jones said. “It’s up to the imagination and the effort that people in the community put into it. I think this will completely change our community.”

To join the time bank, visit www.mhc.timebanks.org. For help or information on the time bank, call SAAA at 632-6442 and ask for Brooks Jones.

 

 
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