by Barbara Sherf
Do you have some spare time on your hands and a desire to save money by exchanging that time for other needed services? If so, you will probably be interested in Time4Time Community Exchange, a new time-trading bank serving greater Northwest Philadelphia. It will hold a half-price membership special at a Kick-Off Party on Sunday, April 7, at the Center on the Hill in the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, 8855 Germantown Ave.
Time4Time, a volunteer organization, normally charges membership fees of $30 a year for an individual and $40 for a family. But organizers are offering a special “2-for-1” membership deal for those attending the opening event from 3 to 5 p.m. if they bring another individual or family with them.
To sweeten the deal, every new member will also receive free time credits to begin trading. Local businesses and organizations can also join Time4Time. They can earn time credits in a number of ways, like sponsoring an event, and they can then cash in their time credits by having Timebank members help them out. Weavers Way Co-op and the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill are the first organizations to come on board as a Time4Time Community Partners.
For those not familiar with the concept, a simple Google search points to it as being the brainchild of law professor Edgar Cahn, a legendary anti-poverty activist and author of “No More Throw-Away People” and “Time Dollars.” In his books, Cahn describes how trading services — from weatherization and healthcare to knitting instruction and car repair — can strengthen communities. Now an international movement, a time bank arrangement is more than bartering; it is a circle of people who share skills for time credits instead of money.
Time4Time’s founders are Betsy Wallace, a retired lawyer from Wyndmoor; Jackie Yorko, a Mt. Airy resident as well as Director of Center on the Hill; Ambler resident Bob Wenger, a computer network consultant; Mt. Airy resident Meenal Raval, owner of Philly Electric Wheels and co-founder of PhillyFreecycle; Wyndmoor resident Mickey Leone, Co-Director of SoundStage School of Music, and Nick Ferrante, an information technology consultant and Blue Bell resident.
On a recent afternoon at the Center on the Hill, armed with glossy brochures (designed by Mt. Airy graphic designer Malcom McAtee in exchange for time credits), Wallace explained how the system works.
“It is really quite simple,” Wallace explained. “At Time4time, all work is equal. The important thing is how long it takes for you to do the work. If I spend an hour helping a Time4Time member solve a computer problem and another time bank member spends an hour preparing a meal for someone else, then we each get one hour of time credit each for our work. Each of us can then bank those credits and seek other services offered by fellow time bank members.”
All of this back and forth banking is made possible through special software called Community Weaver, developed by the national umbrella organization, Timebanks USA.
Time-banking differs from bartering in that some forms of barter are taxable by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). According to Wallace, the IRS has ruled that time credits are not taxable because time banks value all work equally and because the work is done for a charitable purpose and on a non-contractual basis.
Currently there are over 300 time banks in 36 countries worldwide, with nearly 25,000 members logging in approximately 1.8 million hours. For a directory and to browse the myriad services, go to timebanks.org.
In Pennsylvania, there are 18 time banks already established, including exchanges in West Philadelphia, Media, Phoenixville and the Lehigh Valley.
“There was a small group in Fort Washington and another in Cheltenham that fizzled out,” said Wallace, “but we believe this area is ripe for embracing this idea now.”
When Raval heard about the concept, she set up a Time4Time table at the Mt. Airy Village Fair last September. “On that day alone, about 60 people registered their interest in time banking. We hope to have 150 people or more sign up on or before the opening in April,” Wallace said.
When Yorko heard about the concept, she offered space and resources at the Center on the Hill and signed on.
“It’s a great idea,” she said. “Personally I would rather do personal training with someone than rake leaves. I’d rather do something I enjoy, and this system allows you to do that,” she said, offering a printout from Timebank Media in which a host of services are offered from yoga to graphic design to French and sewing lessons.
For more information, visit Time4TimeXchange.org. For more details about the April 7 kick-off event, call 215-247-4654.
When not conducting PR and speech coaching, Barbara Sherf spends much of her ‘time’ in Flourtown. She can be reached at Barb@CommunicationsPro.com.