Islanders can swap services with launch of new timebank

Staff Writer

Islanders will soon have a way to provide and receive services for free, with the creation of a community timebank scheduled to begin this weekend.

A new partnership among Welcome Vashon, Seeds 4 Success and Kirkland’s Eastside Timebank is bringing a timebank back to Vashon after more than a decade without such a program.

Timebanks exist in many areas across the country and are based on the idea that every member of a community has something valuable to offer. For every hour members invest doing something for someone in their timebank, they receive an hour that they can spend on any service offered by any other member of the timebank — not just the person they provided service to.

“The goal is to bring the community together,” said Joan Eads, the executive director of Eastside Timebank and a mentor and liaison for the Vashon Timebank steering committee. “Vashon is way ahead of the game in that there is a great network there already.”

Vashon’s first timebank was created in 1997. Known by several names over the course of its roughly four years of operation, “Vashon Time” was a popular service on the island and was run and managed entirely on paper and by phone. Linda Ceriello, a former steering committee member, noted that the group tracked services with ledgers.

“Members would call in to report their hours, and we all took turns logging everything,” she said.

According to Ceriello, the membership was very active. “People loved it,” she said. At regular potlucks, organizers would hand out surveys to find out how members felt about their timebank involvement. “We always got very positive responses,” she said.

When asked why the service folded, given that it was so popular, Ceriello couldn’t pinpoint a specific reason. “It may well have been that it just became too much since it wasn’t a computerized system back then, but I think it was really a combination of things.”

Greg Dember, also a former steering committee member of Vashon Time, had a different theory. “It served its purpose. After a few years, everyone had already gotten to know each other and were connecting on their own, not through the timebank,” he said, “so it wasn’t a failure at all. It was a good thing in terms of what it accomplished.”

With the amount of time that has passed and the ability to use the Internet to manage such a system, the idea has come around again, said Carrie Sikorski, who works for Seeds 4 Success and is the coordinator of the timebank project for Welcome Vashon.

“There is so much amazing talent on the island, I think it will be a good reservoir for people to tap into,” she said.

Vashon organizers contacted Eads, who is mentoring the Vashon steering committee because the Eastside Timebank was the first in the area to be set up entirely on the Internet. “We started two years ago,” Eads said, “and we’ve learned a lot from our mistakes and our successes.”

There are currently three other timebanks that collectively make up Timebanks of Puget Sound: Eastside, Mercer Island and West Seattle. Vashon will soon be the fourth. The communities that have been participating are happy with their results, Eads said, noting that running such a program is easier now than in the past.

“The concept of bartering has been around for a long time,” she said. “Now that we have the Internet, it’s just much less cumbersome.”

There is a yearly cost to join the timebank: $75 for a household, $40 for an individual, $15 for college students, seniors and people with an income of less than $25,000 per year and $5 for high school students. The fees are used to pay for the operation and management of the timebank system. Businesses or corporations may also join, with fee amounts based on their annual revenue.

Vashon Timebank should be ready to launch this coming weekend, though Eads and Sikorski say that the agreement between Timebanks of Puget Sound and Vashon Timebank has not yet been made, and the timebank cannot be up and running without this agreement. When asked why the agreement was still pending, Eads said that Timebanks of Puget Sound requires the steering committees to have a specific administrative organization and that the Vashon committee hadn’t decided which members would serve in which roles yet.

“Hopefully, it will get sorted out before their launch date,” she said.

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