Doing time to earn time in Greenbelt -- Gazette.Net


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Time waits for no man, but it can be banked in Greenbelt if a new group’s plans to set up a currency-free system of exchanging services between members comes to fruition.

More than 30 residents attended a Nov. 29 meeting held by a volunteer committee seeking to establish a Greenbelt Time Bank.

The Time Bank concept was developed in the 1970s by Dr. Edgar Cahn, professor of law and justice at the University of District of Columbia School of Law. A Time Bank places equal value on the time worked by members and allows them to exchange services between them, said Greenbelt committee member Lore Rosenthal.

Rosenthal said she could rake another person’s yard for three hours, gaining a credit of three hours and then spend those hours on Spanish lessons from a different person, who would then have a credit of hours they could spend on rides, babysitting, yard work or other services.

All of these transactions, as well as services requested/offered, are kept track of on the Time Banks USA website, where all Greenbelt Time Bank members will need to establish an account, Rosenthal said.

Joining the website will be free, said committee member Mary Ernsberger, but people may donate to cover the costs of hosting the Time Bank community online.

Fees start at $25 per year for community Time Banks of 25 or fewer members and increase based on the membership size.

Membership is currently limited to Greenbelt residents, or to those willing to provide and receive services in Greenbelt, Rosenthal said

The program is still being established, but individuals wishing to learn more can contact her at lore@simplicity-matters.org.

Rosenthal said the Time Bank differs from GIVES, the Greenbelt Intergenerational Volunteer Exchange Service, in which some members join to volunteer time to help others in tasks they cannot complete, whereas the Time Bank is an even exchange of services.

Anne Arundel County's Partners in Care, expanded its Time Bank services to Laurel in 2010, but is dedicated to seniors and primarily centered around providing transportation.

Anacostia HOURS of Hyattsville, Brentwood and Mount Rainier is another community work-exchange program, but differs from a Time Bank in that it prints a local currency, which has a value deemed at $10 per “hour,” and can be exchanged for goods as well as services in combination with U.S. federal dollars, according to its website.

Greenbelt Time Bank Committee member Jane Young said that in a tough economic climate, families can offer their time in exchange for services instead of having to pay for them.

Ellie Isaac, an East Greenbelt acupuncturist, said she was excited by what she heard during the meeting.

"I see this as a way of coming together from abundance rather than lack," she said, adding, "It's an opportunity to share gifts without currency, so I'm really looking forward to it."

janfenson-comeau@gazette.net