A new bank for Orcas Island: the Time Bank

The group of Orcas Islanders that has committed to setting up a Time Bank for the island.

Clock in, lend a neighborly hand, clock out – and watch your credit grow at the bank. The next time you need help, you can cash in on that credit.

That’s the philosophy of “Time Banking,” an innovative reincarnation of a very old concept that has mobilized a group of Orcas Islanders.

“Time Banking is a way for communities to come together to help each other, without using dollars, or local currency, just time,” said Time Bank volunteer Diane Emerson, who recently visited the island to see old friend Phil Knight. “You know how people help their next door neighbor, and people trade help back and forth? Well, with a Time Bank, or Time Exchange, a coordinator and the internet, this helping of each other gets expanded throughout the entire community – all of Orcas Island, for example.”

Helping tasks run the gamut: a massage, digging potatoes, organizing closets, violin lessons – you name it, you can bank it. Emerson and friends are now working to set up a “Time Bank” for Orcas Island. The concept involves a paid local Time Bank coordinator and an online network to help connect members’ needs and skills.

Background on Time Banking

“The concept was developed here in the US over 20 years ago, and has spread to 33 countries and many communities in the USA,” said Emerson. “I first learned about it earlier this year when I volunteered in Christchurch, New Zealand after the big earthquake in February … I ended up volunteering [to help] the Time Bank Coordinator for the neighborhood of Lyttelton (epicenter of the quake).

“Lyttelton had a time bank for four years prior to the earthquake. It was the first time bank in New Zealand. Because of this, after the earthquake which destroyed the city, everyone in the area either needed help, or wanted to help. So who did they turn to? The Time Bank Coordinator! Jules Lee was busy putting people together so they could immediately help each other. She knew everyone, and everyone knew her. By the time the Red Cross showed up, and the City Council, we pretty much had things sorted. This disaster recovery was so successful that the New Zealand government got involved to promote the concept of time banks throughout the country, and now many cities and towns are setting them up. I am in the USA volunteering now, and everywhere I go, I tell people about time banking.”

Emerson believes in the concept so strongly that she has donated $300 in seed money for Orcas Island to set up a time bank. The funds will pay for a membership to http://timebanks.org/, access to the TimeWeaver software and training materials.