If you have ever found yourself needing a hand in your daily life but had no one to call on for assistance, a St. Petersburg not-for-profit offers a novel solution – time banking.
The St. Pete Timebank’s overarching mission is to place value on people and things that society often overlooks – specifically, a person’s time. Time banking is a system of community exchange that uses time as a currency. When someone gives an hour of service to another person, they receive an hour’s credit in return. St. Pete Timebank uses software to track the credits and stores them in an online bank. Members can then redeem the credits for goods and services as needed.
BJ Andryusky, the founder of the not-for-profit organization, is quick to differentiate time banking from bartering.
“In barter, I have to give back to the person I received from,” said Andryusky. “In a time bank, you don’t.”
St. Pete Timebank is rooted in the idea that regardless of the value placed on different types of work in a market economy, everyone’s time is equally valuable. Whether a person helps someone edit documents, complete yard work or simply offers an ear after a bad day, those services are worth an equal amount of time.
“Everyone has things that they love to do, that they’re not necessarily licensed or studied in, and they can offer those things to people,” said Andryusky.
The concept of time banking has been around since the 1980s, although official organizations have gained popularity in recent years. Interest has also spiked following the pandemic. Andryusky became involved with the Tampa Timebank in 2014 and decided to create something hyperlocal “because I didn’t want to go mow someone’s yard in Lutz.”
Building a community network that people can depend on is a core tenet of time banking and another reason there was a need for a bank closer to home. Andryusky relayed how the timebank community rallied around each other during natural disasters, such as when a hurricane struck Homestead. A global phenomenon, Andryusky also credits the time banking community in Christchurch, New Zealand, for its response after a major earthquake struck the area.
“The time bank was the epicenter of the relief effort,” said Andryusky. “Because the time bankers know who does what and what skills they have, and how to reach them and where they live.”
St. Pete Timebank believes everyone is an asset and has something to offer. While time bank services can save someone money by eliminating the need to hire help, more often than not, it is assistance with things that society does not value much – like composting or checking in on a senior. St. Pete Timebank also places just as much value on receiving as they do on giving to others.
“We’re not second-class citizens when we ask for help,” Andryusky said. “It’s not a bad thing to say, ‘hey, I can’t do this alone, will somebody please help me.’”
Unlike other banks, Andryusky states that St. Pete Timebank does not care if someone has a “negative balance.”
“We don’t even call it negative,” she said. “We don’t care if you go on the other side of zero because if we value giving and receiving equally, what does it matter if you happen to receive first?”
St. Pete time bank has around 300 members, although that number was once up to 450. Andryusky said the drop is due to the organization disabling accounts of those that do not complete any exchanges within a year. She equates non-active members with leaving lights on in an empty room, and the organization encourages members to interact and build relationships. New members must attend a 90-minute orientation where they learn the finer details and rules of the program.
In just five years since the program has started, and amid a pandemic, St. Pete Timebank members have exchanged over 30,000 hours of their time.
“There’s things like the goodness of our hearts that are invaluable,” said Andryusky. “And if we spread that around, we’re going to change the world.”
For more information on the St. Pete Timebank, visit its website here.