Abby Greer is one of the three founding members of TimeForAll, a TimeBank dedicated to helping coordinators help coordinators. Abby is the founder of the Kent Community Timebank which has grown into becoming a part of the Crooked River Alliance of Timebanks. Below is an interview with Abby: blue font indicates Abby’s words, black indicates the interviewer’s summaries of Abby’s answers, and questions put to Abby are in bold.
To start off, could you tell me 3 words that you would use to describe TimeBanking?
Trust, community, and justice.
I would not have said that a couple years ago. This is a growing, changing thing in me. I am changing.
How long have you been involved with TimeBanking? Chris tells me that you started by reading Dr. Cahn’s Time Dollars.
I read the book about 10 years ago and started timebanking 6 years ago. Although I started planning the timebank 7 years ago. Yes, reading was the start.
So, how did you become a timebank coordinator?
I was the founder. Time Dollars started the process. I waited a couple of years and then a community leader helped me form the timebank [now Kent Community Timebank].
I see that you are a part of the Crooked River Alliance of Timebanks which “collaborates with local timebanks and their members to educate, train, and share resources to strengthen neighborhoods and build a web of healthy, sustainable, and interconnected communities in the Great Lakes region.” And I believe there are 5 timebank hubs connected to it, one of which is the Kent Community Timebank which you founded– can you explain to me how this works?
The 5 timebanks are hubs which essentially form one big timebank: the Crooked River Alliance. The alliance stands as the umbrella timebank – inside the umbrella are these hubs with different needs and wants and resources.
The Crooked River Alliance made the timebank bigger but the hubs have their own individuality.
These hubs are the Kent, Twinsburg, Ravenna, Stark County, and Cuyahoga Falls Community Timebanks. Because the Crooked River timebank is fairly new compared to these hubs, it works as a way to bridge these five timebanks together and connect more people even though the distance between them is greater.
How has [Kent Community Timebank] achieved its mission?
It didn’t start off with a specific mission. Now its general mission is building community. Everyday people are logging in, making exchanges and connections. They are making new friendships, people are gaining a sense of belonging, people are getting jobs, they are networking, saving money. We can see the exchanges happening on the software, we can see the interactions at the monthly potlucks, along with our other social events — we see the community being one together. Potlucks are really magical.
Chris has told me that you are working to have a youth court with your timebank could you talk more about that?
The youth court is still in the conversation stage — but we built the timebank in a way to utilize the community in a youth court model. However, we need more people to get on board — stakeholders and people with funding. There are so many questions, but it is exciting because the city juvenile police lieutenant and high school administrators are getting on board.
Can you share with me the greatest 2 achievements you have witnessed in your TimeBanking life?
I struggled with this question a lot because we are a small timebank and we haven’t won any awards… but my first achievement was hosting Edgar Cahn and Chris Gray for a weekend when the Kent timebank was about 2-3 years old. It was the highlight of my life.
Is it really an achievement? Well, I think it is! Edgar and Chris saw the timebank as something special. It was an honor to have them come and to meet members. They even came to a potluck and Edgar gave a speech.
The second achievement involved hard-working effort. A timebank member, Amanda Edwards opened a brick-and-mortar timebank store – a pilot program — called the The hOur Share Exchange. We only had one year with it but it was a huge achievement because it worked so well. There was no cash register, no prices on items (except for handmade items that had a certain amount of real labor time to make the item). Brand new or gently used items were donated to the center/store by timebank members and people could come in to purchase the items. There were fifty-five staff members. Timebank members could acquire these items by donating their time. For example, if there was a crock pot on the shelf and a timebanker wanted it, the staffers would say “how much time are you willing to give to the community to have that crock pot?” And that is what it cost the timebanker. The public could also “shop” there too by just donating in cash what they felt they wanted to pay for that item. We even started a food shelf – and food was just flying off the shelf for time credit. Which has so much deeper meaning if you really look at it — it was not a handout. It was a really good system that made people feel good.
What has been the top 2 or 3 challenges you – or your timebank – have faced?
- Getting people to trust in one another.
- Getting people to understand that this is actually a lifestyle change.
- “Getting people to understand the depth of the tool of timebanking” – Most people think, “Oh what a cute, little service exchange!” People only see the surface exchanges of timebanks but there’s actually a deep, beautiful, and powerful undercurrent.
Interviewer: However, Abby has combated these challenges through marketing -illustrating people’s stories and experiences with timebanking.
Another way to combat miscommunication is having really good discussions through informal activities at the potluck. “Why don’t we talk about poverty, the youth, single, pregnant mothers. Let’s have a conversation.” They need to know that here are the problems and here is this beautiful tool [timebanking] but the tool is not going to work unless we change our lifestyle. So, when you need something, one thing we should all think is, “I’ll check the timebank!” And honestly — that’s hard to do! I forget! My daughter needed a refrigerator and I thought, “Let’s go to the store” but then I was like….wait… and of course within five minutes I found her a refrigerator on timebank that my daughter could donate time credits to have.
You will have many, many member stories – but of them all, can you share with me one or two of them that have most powerfully impacted you as a coordinator – and why these stories are so meaningful to you.
- There was a member who was about 8 years old and it had been 6 months that he had lost his dad to cancer. He used the timebank because he wanted to learn how to grill atomic cheeseburgers. And another timebank member — a dad — gave him a grilling lesson.
- One was when a member who was trying a macrobiotic diet due to a blood cancer needed a carp. Yes, a whole carp. She posted on the Facebook page and within minutes, she had someone going to an Asian market and getting her one AND delivering. Then, she realized, in horror, she had to dissect it a bit…she immediately found a professor of biology to come over, for time credits, and take out the parts she was not supposed to eat.
- Read the full story here: http://timebanks.org/carp-and-more/
- There was a member whose true passion was to dress up in costumes, earned time credits dressing up as a black squirrel (our city mascot) earning time credits for our member Main Street Kent.
- I love it when members say out loud, “I wasn’t sure if I was giving or receiving during that exchange!” I have a 16 year old timebanker helping me walk and train the new puppy. She said those very words the other day and I realized just how much this puppy means to her too!
- Abby also powerfully narrates another one of her member stories in her own blog post. Read it here: http://timebanks.org/a-wealthy-man/
What would be a top coordinator or timebank founder tip you would like to share with others?
Be a leader. If you are not a leader — or even if you are a leader — find more leaders and champions.
Being a leader is crucial and if you don’t have the skillset — which not everyone does — you need to find a leader or it’s not going to work. And it’s hard because not everyone is willing to admit that they are not a very good leader, but I have seen so many timebanks fail because of leadership failure.
So recognize what leadership is.
Moving on to discussing TimeForAll, you founded TimeForAll — a timebank dedicated to helping TimeBank coordinators help one another.
- What is your personal vision for TimeBanking for the future?
- And how would you step forward into making that happen?
My personal vision for timebanking is that timebanks would be as common as regular banks. Every major city and even small villages would have timebanks so that there are more and more people switching to this lifestyle and that would create more of global timebank. Just like people who started Uber, I think it would be cool if people in every city would sign up and drive people around. So if you live in Ohio and go to LA, you just find a car. But I have some warnings on that. I don’t think there is one way to timebank. Timebanking is so multifaceted that I don’t think everyone should be doing what we have been doing here in Kent but there’s a time credit element that is global and usable. My house is available for time credits. Actually there are a lot of coordinators who do that. And of course they say, “Don’t worry about time credits”. But yes worry about time credits! We need to put our work down on paper and show that it is working.
TimeForAll is a great way to have the coordinators actually walk the talk! Offering your house without time credits is not walking the talk. That is volunteering and of course we all want to volunteer but until it’s a lifestyle change we have to prove that it works. TimeForAll is a global piece to walk the talk and be rewarded when they are sharing resources. People spend hours and hours helping other timebanks but shouldn’t we be rewarded for that?
TimeForAll is one little piece of the bigger picture. It needs some marketing and needs people to use it. It is not used as often as a local timebank because people are spread out. But still, to me, it’s another great way to have these leaders have a place of support and a place to get to know each other. Because a lot of people who do what I do are very lonely — including me — I get very lonely, believe it or not. I’ve got a hundred billion people but none of them are leading a timebank — and frankly they might be a little wary of the timebank [laughs] — I don’t think so. But really, let’s get together and meet and keep everyone in the loop.
You have coached many members. Would you be willing to continue to coach? What amount of time might you be able to offer? What type of coaching would you be interested in?
I am always willing to help with whatever I have experience in and willing to share, for example about board development, orientation, potlucks, lending an ear, whatever is needed. A lot of things I have already offered on the TimeForAll timebank.
Crooked River Alliance website: https://crookedriver.timebanks.org/page/1-*home
Article written by Abby about Kent Community Timebank (see page 20 for article) http://www.aroundkent.net/featured-articles-10.html
Abby’s own blog post: http://timebanks.org/a-wealthy-man/
The Carp Story: http://timebanks.org/carp-and-more/