Time Bank concept offers equality of skills and time

Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Stacy Mahurin, left, and organic farmer Patrice Gros have come up with a plan to create a Time Bank for Eureka Springs, where members trade skills and service at equal value -- hour for hour. An information and new membership meeting will be held May 20 at the Carnegie Library annex from 6-8 p.m.

EUREKA SPRINGS -- In a cash value economy, a person who makes $7 an hour may have to work three eight-hour days just to pay for 15 minutes of a professional's time.

If this kind of income inequity describes you, there's hope: the Eureka Springs Time Bank.

"A Time Bank is a community of people who support each other," says the brochure from the international Time Bank organization. "When you spend an hour to do something for an individual or a group, you earn a Time Dollar. Then you can use that Time Dollar to buy an hour of a neighbor's time or engage in a group activity offered by a neighbor."

In other words, everyone's skills and time are valued equally. One "time dollar" of babysitting is no different from one of dentistry, bookkeeping, errand-running or construction work.

The Eureka Springs Time Bank is being organized by local stonemason-turned-organic-farmer Stacy Mahurin, a single father of three who has lived in Eureka Springs for 14 years and who was introduced to the idea by organic farmer Patrice Gros.

Mahurin and Gros are part of a wider coalition of "sustainable community" groups.

"I started a group called EurEco Springs Organization, which consisted of Patrice and I and a small group of others talking about a sustainable, intentional community, like an eco-village," Mahurin said. "The Time Bank comes from that."

The Time Bank is not about a cash-based economy, said Mahurin.

"It's about giving and receiving and what you can accomplish with your hours. It's about helping your fellow community member. The after-effects of it are just more love, as if everyone were your family members, extended family."

For Mahurin, that's important. He says he's never had an enemy and loves people for who they are.

"I've never had a thing of just hanging out with certain people. I hang out with everybody, and would like everyone else to do this, too. We already do that in this town."

He said Eureka Springs and its surrounding area is ideal for the Time Bank because it is already a tight-knit community.

Mahurin said he used to travel every winter to many destinations, mostly third-world countries.

"They still had that -- everyone relies on each other and they take care of each other. Whole families and whole towns would get together almost nightly but for sure every weekend and had open-air markets, everyone together, people holding hands and just loving the moment. I keep wanting to bring that to our little town. I think America needs that."

He has also just started the "Great Eureka Potluck" every other Sunday at Lake Leatherwood. At the first one May 3, 25 people showed up.

"We played soccer, and I brought my canoe and everyone took a canoe ride. All the kids and everyone were having fun. I love those moments in life."

A Time Bank includes everyone: senior citizens and children, too. Everyone's contribution is valued.

"They have something to offer that's good, and it brings them back into the society just like it used to be," said Mahurin. "It doesn't involve money."

Time Banks are international in scope: they are found in 22 countries on six continents.

The Eureka Springs Time Bank is just in its infancy, Mahurin says. A core group of five coordinators is needed to help get it off the ground. Mahurin is the team leader, and the group needs a webmaster, events coordinator, membership ambassador, and membership coordinator.

"I'm kinda playing all five roles right now, and I'm busy!" he said.

He is planning a meeting for Tuesday, May 20, from 6-8 p.m. in the Carnegie Library meeting room to introduce the concept to the community and accept memberships.

He'll give an introduction to the Time Bank, show some videos on it, and have a question-and-answer period. Refreshments will be served.

The first 50 people to sign up will have free memberships. After that, there will be a nominal membership fee to cover basic administrative costs.

Mahurin said the Time Bank will probably start small, but it could grow and evolve around the needs of the community. Although at this point he sees it as being based in Eureka Springs and its outlying areas, no one will be turned away.

But communities east of the Kings River may want to start their own Time Bank, he said, simply because the driving distance of being part of the Eureka bank could be prohibitive for people to both give and receive Time Dollars.

Mahurin sees the Time Bank becoming an important resource for the community in these uncertain economic times.

"To have an economy not based on money, it's really important," he said. "Just the banking foreclosure problems, we're feeling it in our town now. With food and gas prices going up, that hits us also."

For more information on Time Banks, visit the website at timebanks.org.

Mahurin can be contacted at stacymahurin@gmail.com.

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