Time bank ‘Hour Nevada County’ turns skills into currency
Nevada County residents looking for a ride to an appointment or help in the garden can now put down their wallets and pay for the services they need with a different kind of currency backed by good deeds.
Former Nevada City Councilwoman Reinette Senum has launched Hour Nevada County, the area’s first time bank — an online community where residents give and receive simple services free of charge. For every hour participants spend volunteering their skills, they earn one hour of credit that they can redeem for a service from someone else.
Participants can log into the website to view services needed, post a request and log their hours.
“The objective is ultimately to re-weave the fabric of the community,” Senum said.
The site is focused on fulfilling the everyday needs that people may not be able to take care of themselves — such as repairing a rain gutter, walking the dog or completing yard work.
“These are neighborly deeds, the things we used to do all the time for each other,” Senum said.
The time bank concept has been around in the United States since the 1980s, and there’s a nonprofit dedicated to facilitating their creation. According to the TimeBanks USA website, there are over 200 time banks throughout the country and active time bank communities in 32 countries around the world.
Senum said she became aware of the concept several years ago and has always wanted to bring the idea to Nevada County. She began working more seriously on doing so about six months ago, setting up and figuring out how to administer a time bank website. She said both individuals and businesses can become members of the time bank. There is a suggested annual donation of between $25 and $40 to participate – Senum said that money goes toward paying for the website and toward the cost of insuring all the volunteers – but those who cannot afford to pay will not be turned away from participating.
The time bank fills a need in Nevada County, said Laura Reed, Senum’s neighbor, who signed up to participate as well as help Senum organize the effort.
“There are a lot of people in our community that are on limited income and need all sorts of things and services for themselves and don’t know where to get it,” Reed said.
Reed said she will probably begin exchanging services in the next month or so. She’ll be helping a woman with garden work and will also build up time credits with the volunteer work she does twice a week cleaning up the Nevada City Boardwalk.
“Now if I want something in exchange, I have hours to give,” Reed said, adding she might find someone on the site who is offering massage services to cash in her time credit.
Senum said there are safeguards built into the community to ensure participants are comfortable and that no one abuses the site.
After a participant completes a service, the person on the receiving end of that service will be given the opportunity to verify the hours worked as well as review the experience — sort of like Yelp, Senum said.
She will also be organizing monthly potlucks in order to give participants the chance to meet face to face and build relationships.
In doing research on other time banks, Senum said she found those in the online community will often police others who are not following the rules.
“It’s a tight-knit community,” Senum said. “It’s not a place to get away with stuff.”
Amy Hobbs said she had no qualms about signing up for the time bank when she saw a link to the site posted on the Nevada County Peeps Facebook page.
“Right away I knew, this is my kind of thing,” said Hobbs, a Grass Valley resident who works as a mail carrier for the United States Postal Service. “I like to be available and do things for people in my off-hours.”
She said that for her, the appeal of the time bank is the sense of community it can help create.
“I think it will bring people together,” Hobbs said.
Senum said she’s been telling people about the website both in person and on social media, and she held an orientation last week for interested community members. So far, Senum said, the site is at 46 members and counting. She said she’ll continue to promote the idea at local events and reach out to area business and groups to get them involved.
She believes the time bank community can thrive in Nevada County — and eventually people won’t even rely on the site to help each other out.
“It’s a complete success when they don’t even go and put in the hours,” Senum said. “It’s just, this is a buddy of mine now, and this is just what we do.”
To contact Staff Writer Emily Lavin, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4230.
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