Time is money according to the old adage, and for the past four years, Central Vermonters have been able to trade it for goods and services. Now, that experiment is expanding.
Joan Black frequently deposits and withdraws time from the Onion River Exchange in Montpelier. For every hour she spends promoting the service at farmers' markets, she receives a credit, which she can trade for an hour of someone else's time.
Black enjoys a tidy home. She regularly trades her time for dusting, gardening, and shoveling in the winter - activities she now finds tough to do. "The time bank has changed my life," she said, "it has enabled me to maintain a standard of living that I once had when my health and wealth was in good shape."
Staff at the bank recently found her a haircut for one credit. Black even tipped the beautician in hours, handing over five of them so that the new user would have time to spend at a craft show. "I assured her it wouldn't happen every time," said Black with a laugh when questioned about the size of her generosity.
This October, the service merged with REACH - a similar style program aimed at helping senior citizens. Bank Outreach Coordinator Heather Kralik says the combined site boasts more than 700 customers swapping more than 450 hours a month. "There's the naturally curious but then there are people who just really need some help," she said when asked to describe their account holders.
Users can offer services, products, or learning experiences. Kralik says many choose to simply donate the hours they accrue, either to organizations or individuals in need. "It's kind of a clearinghouse for volunteerism," she said.
Fearn Lickfield is self-employed. She teaches to earn a living and offers wool spinning classes, ceremony organization and flower essences on the exchange. "I am thinking of ways of incorporating, to actually have my business being a member," she said.
Lickfield says she would like to offer guest instructors compensation through the time bank. She also hopes to allow students who are low on funds to pay in hours.
Lickfield says she has found a few trusted partners to trade with almost exclusively. She meets with a business consultant she met through the exchange regularly, and they've reached a pay agreement based partially on money and partially on time. "She's helping us get ourselves up on an accounting system right now which is something that I've avoided all my life," Lickfield said with a chuckle.
Those involved say the bank offers more than just a stockpile hours, it's also compounding interest, slowly tying the community closer together one favor at a time.
Last week, the bank ran a special Thanksgiving themed promotion. More than 600 hours changed hands, more than in a typical month. Staff say investments like that should pay major dividends in growing the time-exchange movement.
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