KCET sat down with Janine Christiano, founder of the Arroyo Time Bank in Pasadena, which she started in March of 2009. The time bank has grown expand so rapidly that they are currently merging with the Echo Park Time Bank to create the Arroyo Sustainable Economies Community Organization (Arroyo SECO).
Christianna: What is a Time Bank?
Janine: A Time Bank is a skills and services exchange where one hour of service equals a time credit. Credits can be traded down to the quarter hour. When one member provides a service to another member, the credits are logged onto the website. To redeem a credit, members respond to offers posted on our site. Money does not change hands, and skills range from cooking to transportation to tax help.
For example, I provided a service called Sunday Suppers. The family that signed up came over for dinner paid me three and a half Time Dollars for the meal service, which is how long it took me to make dinner and feed them. I can now go spend those dollars on other members' listings. A common listing on the Time Bank site is rides to the airport.
Our Time Bank right now is four laptops in multiple locations. That's really it. We use the Pasadena Armory Center for the Arts for all of our classes and meetings.
Christianna: How does one turn working with the Time Bank into a Food Job?
Janine: More than half of the projects we manage are food-based. There's more garden space here in Pasadena and Altadena, and this is where most of our requests for help are centered. We've harnessed that social capital and enthusiasm into three gems in the Time Bank; a fruit-picking project which harvests unused citrus from community trees, an urban farmer's market and the Resiliency Project, a classroom learning component.
The Urban Farmer's Market was started by one of our members, Gloria Putnam, originally hosted at her and her fiance's residence. The event became so popular it literally outgrew the space, so we stopped holding it so we could rethink the process. Last week we had a small re-emergence of it at ArtisanalLA (a handmade food pop-up shop at the Armory Center for the Arts). But the market is where we've seen real food-based businesses emerge. Dee Dee's Jams is a home-based jammer who sells at the market, and the Time Bank provides her a group of people who are marketing something together, so she doesn't have to do it alone. By being a part of the Time Bank, she has a team of people behind her helping her launch her business to the next level, from kitchen assistance to running errands so she can focus on jamming. She was part of fruit picking project and received fruit for her jams from that effort. What she's providing back to the Time Bank is a class in the Resiliency Project on pickling and jamming. It gets her name out into the world, and helps her pay it forward to other people interested in starting a food-based business.
The Resiliency Project is based out of the Armory Center for the Arts and is a member-taught schedule of classes available to other members and the community at large. We focus on teaching basic skills, or the lost arts of food making such as bread baking and fermentation. Container gardening and seed saving classes are also popular.
Christianna: What inspired you to start a Time Bank?
Janine: I've always has a passion for food, volunteered heavily and been involved in community building, I was working in an art library at the time, but I have a background in events organizing. I saw a need arising in the community as the economy was tanking, and thought, "What are we going to do, nothing?" I started hosting some meetings, coordinating with people to trade time to organize a couple of monthly garden projects. I worked with the national chapter to get started locally.
I realized that just because people are losing their jobs, that doesn't mean their skills go out the window. No matter what the volatility of the economy, we all have a skill set and knowledge base that can be put to use. There's no shortage of people with good intentions who want to do good work in the community and accomplish things.
Christianna: What is the future of the Arroyo Time Bank?
Janine: Next year, we have three main themes we're focusing on; food, energy and childcare. We plan to offer classes in home weatherization and organize babysitting circles. Childcare is a huge issue for people trying to provide for themselves, so we want to address it.
Join Arroyo Time Bank or start your own in your neighborhood at http://timebanks.org/.
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