By Mike Cook
Las Cruces Bulletin
LAS CRUCES – A Las Cruces timebank that began in April 2016 with about 60 members has grown to more than 250 members in Las Cruces and as far away as Cuidad Juárez, Mexico who have exchanged more than 3,000 hours of services including transportation, garden/yard services, auto repairs, conversation/counseling, sewing help, cooking lessons, computer help, moving/hauling services and secretarial work.
“We all have something to offer and we all can benefit by learning from others,” said Kari Bachman, executive director of Doña Ana Communities United (DACU), the Las Cruces-based nonprofit that hosts the timebank.
“People join the timebank for different reasons, but we all come together over our shared five core values: assets, reciprocity, redefining work, respect and community,” said timebank coordinator Mairead McCarthy. “Each timebank exchange helps me know someone in our community better, helps me understand their hopes and motivations and reminds me to see everyone as fully human.”
“You get to meet people and you get to understand people better,” said Stanley Smith of Las Cruces. Smith contributes to his timebank account by doing yardwork for people, but he was finding it hard to accept help from others in exchange.
“I like to do things on my own,” Smith said, “but there’s some things I can’t do.” He calls on other timebank members for rides to DACU meetings and doctor’s appointments.
The timebank is good for building self-esteem and developing new skills, member Sean Bolen said. Members can “learn a new hobby or skills or find a place to pitch in.” Bolen said his contributions to the timebank will include unskilled labor and teaching beginning guitar.
In exchange for yard work and rides to doctors’ appointments to treat a back injury, timebank member Steve Harris said he provides digital portraits and computer assistance.
“It’s good,” he said. “I look at it as a trade of services. All in all, it evens out. Also, it fosters a sense of community, and makes you grateful for what you’ve got.”
Doña Ana County Commissioner Shannon Reynolds spent several days helping a fellow timebank member finish the cabinets she built in a double-wide trailer. In addition to attaching striker plates, knobs and handles on the project, Reynolds said he learned about cabinet making, which is one of the benefits of being a timebank member. “I learn from them and they can learn from me,” Reynolds said. “The timebank is important. I’ve watched it grow.”
In exchange for helping others with household chores, two-year timebank member Kevin Moose gets time on a DACU computer. “It has helped me,” he said.
“I have a lot of time on my hands and I like to help people,” said timebank member Michael Seamster, who just turned 21. The timebank, he said, is “a fun way to experience helping people with whatever they need help with. It’s great to get to know the people here. They’re really good people. Some of them are really inspiring.”
Timebank member Shana Bachus is also a community change advocate. She not only contributes secretarial work to the timebank, she’s helped lead the timebank’s year-long beautification of Gallagher Park in cooperation with the city Parks and Recreation Department.
Bachus has also worked with Las Cruces advocate John Hamilton to help make the park a pesticide-free zone, she said. She also helped coordinate two events at Gallagher Park: Shamrock Shindig, a St. Patrick’s Day event that included a parade and a leprechaun contest for children and adults, and this year’s Hippity Hoppity Egg Hunt Easter event.
Timebank members can sometimes “get caught up in reciprocity,” Bachman said. But their interactions with each other “get beyond transactions … to giving and receiving, because that’s who we are.”
Bachman remembers one young member who had been homeless and got his bicycle repaired through the timebank. An immigrant from Iran helped Bachman fix the locks at her house. In exchange, she helped him practice his English.
“We’re all needing things from each other. The process is as important as the product,” said Bachman, who became DACU executive director in 2015.
“As a young person just becoming involved in the community of Las Cruces, the timebank has been an amazing resource for me,” said McCarthy, who became timebank coordinator last September. “I’ve met so many interesting and fun friends with incredible stories, who continue to overcome incredible challenges. I’ve received much more than the sum of the hours in my timebank balance, and I’ve been challenged to give back to our community in ways that I would have never valued before.
“Even providing a simple ride to the grocery store for someone else can make a huge difference in their life and completely alter the emotion of their day,” McCarthy said. “Changing our community isn’t always about donating money or passing laws. Often, it’s about bringing humanity back into the lives of the people around us, and we can all do that so easily if we are intentional about it. In the timebank, we truly care about making our community the best it can be, and we see no limit to the possibilities.”
Timebanking is an international movement that has been around since the 1980s, McCarthy said.
DACU hosts regular events for timebank members, including monthly potlucks, at its office 151 S. Walnut St., Unit B 13, at the corner of Walnut and Griggs Avenue. New members can join the timebank without cost or a background check, although they must sign a member agreement, McCarthy said.
DACU was created in 2013 to “create welcoming spaces for all people, especially those whose voices and stories go unheard,” according to its mission statement. “We build genuine relationships, carry out uplifting projects and engage with local government.”
DACU is a grant- and community-funded organization that receives funding through many channels, including the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the McCune Foundation, community donors and small donors.
Mike Cook may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Timebank core values
Timebanking is based on five core values created by Doña Ana Communities United staff and the timebank steering committee:
• Assets: Everyone has many valuable gifts to offer. We honor all individuals’ unique talents. We seek opportunities to help others express their gifts.
• Reciprocity: Timebanking is not charity. Just as we all have gifts, we all have needs. Each timebank member provides services and receives services. By taking on both roles, we come to value ourselves and each other as whole human beings.
• Redefining Work: In the timebank, all time is valued equally. We honor all work, especially work that is undervalued in the market economy.
• Respect: We accept members as they are. We engage others without judgment and seek to broaden our own perspectives.
• Community: We are stronger together. The timebank is about building a circle of diverse relationships, not just exchanging services or forming exclusive friendships.