CA joining time-bank program

In service-exchange effort, residents earn credit for helping others

November 22, 2006|By Tyrone Richardson | Tyrone Richardson,Sun reporter

In a move that will make it part of an international public service network, the Columbia Association is joining a system in which residents earn credit for helping their neighbors in what is known as a time bank.

The program, called the Columbia Association Network, or CAN, is part TimeBanks USA, in which participants help others and are rewarded with "community dollars" that can be redeemed for services. Locally, officials expect those credits could be used for tutoring, landscaping, transportation and errands, among other services.

The program, which starts officially in February, is a partnership with Columbia-based Horizon Foundation. If successful, it could branch out to include the rest of the county.

"We are more than a volunteer program," said Muriel Nolen, time-banking manager for the Columbia Association. "This is a program of service exchange -- the philosophy is we help each other and we provide for each other."

Those joining the program will be required to complete an application that asks for listing of skills and times available. Depending on the types of services offered, a participant would be required to undergo a background check and have a valid driver's license.

"Some people say they don't have skills, but if you can talk, you have a skill -- we need people to call people. ... There are many things you can do for this program," Nolen said.

The TimeBanks USA program was the brainchild of Edgar S. Cahn, a law professor in Washington, who came up with the idea while recovering from a heart attack in 1980. Time-banking systems have since sprouted up around the country, in cities and towns including Chicago, Ithaca, N.Y., and Allentown, Pa., and in some European countries.

The program is not new to Maryland. Severna Park has a similar program, and in 2002 a system called Baltimore Hours was established in the city. The Columbia Association explored the idea in 2002 as a way to serve senior citizens and soon began looking for ways to make it more formal.

The association has set aside $106,000 for the program for the fiscal year that began in October and $116,000 for the coming fiscal year. The funds will be used to maintain a database to keep track of the hours and for staff expenses.

Officials are expecting a large turnout for the program, which is open to all age groups.

"We have people with various skills and various amounts of time on their hands, and ... there are also people in the community that have needs and don't have the money," said Barbara L. Russell, association board member representing Oakland Mills. "Somebody who would be able to paint houses might want some language lessons and could use their skills and get what they want from their fellow community members."

Nolen said she is receiving commitments from participants -- some of them from outside Columbia -- and that an informal version of the program is under way.

One of the participants, Melva Delaney, 61, of Canton has been racking up credits each time she drives one of her friends to a doctor's appointment. She uses some of that credit when she has another participant cut her hair.

"Right now, I am not in need of anything, but at least I know there is something that will be there for the hours of time ... and I can use it eventually," she said. "If I need something done, I can request it and be able to get something for me which is a good thing."

Information about the Columbia Association Network: 410-884- 6121.

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