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Southern Oregon Time bank up and running

Organizers of the new Southern Oregon Time Bank are trying to re-create the sense of community people had during an old-fashioned barn raising, when neighbors pitched in to help each other without pay.

Participants in the time bank offer their services to others and earn time dollars for the hours they work. They can then spend their time dollars to get the services they want. No money changes hands.

Southern Oregon Time Bank coordinator Melanie Mindlin said getting involved with the time bank has made her realize how modern society has monetized most of the things friends and neighbors once did for each other.

"They took care of each other's kids, they went to the barn raising, they brought food to you when you were sick. Now you pay someone for everything," Mindlin said.

The time bank — which values everyone's time equally in awarding time dollars — is a way for people to link up by offering and receiving services.

For people interested in learning more, time bank organizers are holding a public informational meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 24, at the Hidden Springs Wellness Center, 635 Lit Way. To reach it, go to the parking lot behind and to the southeast of Ashland Cinema, 1644 Ashland St. There is an archway through a wooden gate that leads to the Hidden Springs Wellness Center.

For more information on the time bank meeting, call 541-357-7682 or visit www.sotb.org.

The time bank's website at www.sotb.org has an "All Offers" section that lists the services people are offering. They include child care, house cleaning, taking care of pets and farm animals, knitting and crocheting lessons, piano lessons, grant writing for non-profit groups, help organizing records for tax time and massage.

Some of the more unusual offers include making a gallon of soup and teaching people how to make an iTunes music mix for a party, use a sewing machine, sell items on eBay or do Sudoku puzzles.

When time bank participants want to spend their time dollars, they just contact people who are offering what they need.

"Members can book a service by e-mail or by calling the member directly," said time bank co-founder Bram Larrick.

Participants who can't find someone offering what they need can post specific requests on the website in the "All Requests" section.

Services people have requested include help moving downed trees to a cabin to use as firewood, guidance on how to use music recording software, car detailing, help with packing and moving items into storage, shrub pruning and help with painting trim inside a house.

"The scope of cool services people share in a time bank depends entirely on what people offer and what individuals, groups or the community needs," co-founder Will Wilkison said. "Members figure that out together."

The time bank started last year and was tested with a group of 20 people. Membership has tripled in the last few months, Mindlin said.

Organizers have discovered that more people are trying to give their time than take services from others.

"People are more inclined to offer than they are to receive. Learning to receive from people is a little more difficult in our society. It takes a bit of a stretch to let people help you," Mindlin said.

Mindlin said she will be working to find out what needs people have so that time bank giving and taking can become more balanced.

For now, the software does not allow people to go into debt with time dollars. However, if a person needs to borrow some time bank hours in order to use an offered service, that person can contact the coordinator for permission.

Based in Ashland, the Southern Oregon Time Bank is part of a network of thousands of time banks that have been operating around the world for decades, organizers said.

In troubled economic times, when many people are short on cash, time banks make even more sense, they said.

Mindlin said time banks help people build relationships with each other so that the community is more resilient.

Residents get to know each other when they offer and receive services.

"It's a social thing. It doesn't feel so much like going to work. It's more like meeting a friend and helping them," Mindlin said.

Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.