At most stores, you pay with money.
But at one store in Kent, you pay with time.
hOUR Share is thought to be one of the only storefronts in the country to utilize time banking.
Time banking is a system based on an exchange of time rather than an exchange of money. Everyone’s time is equal. An hour of brain surgery is valued the same as an hour of yardwork. People exchange everything from rides to work to nights at clubs.
The members of the Kent Community Timebank come from a wide range of fields and even include Kent’s city manager. A computer program keeps track of the exchanges and maintains a database of who needs services and who can offer services.
Inspiration from a book
In Kent, both the timebank and hOUR Share are led by Executive Director Abby Greer. She was inspired to get involved in timebanking after reading Time Dollars by Dr. Edgar S. Cahn, the man known as the “father of timebanking.” His book changed Greer’s life.
“I wasn’t looking for it, i didn’t know it was there,” she said. “But when I read how a timebank operates and what it brings to a community, I was enthralled.”
Greer said it didn't take long for her to find what the timebank brings to its members.
“It’s helping people save money, it’s making members feel validated and valued in the community. It’s giving people more opportunity to do things where they may not have had the financial means to do so,” she said.
Once members of a normal timebank accumulate time credits, they can exchange them for services from other timebank members. But in the Kent timebank, they can also go shopping.
hOUR Share is a tiny thrift store wedged into a space in the historic Carriage House on Water Street in Kent. It sits in stark contrast to the modern buildings sprouting up around town featuring trendy restaurants, bars, and retail. But it fits in the neighborhood, with other historic buildings that now hold coffee shops and bakeries.
The assortment of items in the store is as ecletic as Kent itself. Members of the timebank make items such as children’s tiaras, soaps, and scarves for the store. But there is also much of the usual assortment of thrift store fare: games, toys, household items, and candles to name a few.`
You won’t find clothing at hOUR Share, but you will find something rarely seen in secondhand shops: Food. The store carries canned goods, cornbread mix, and other non-perishable food items.
“We feel that timebank members who may be able to go serve others in the community can then be rewarded or reciprocated by coming in to our exchange and donating some of that time for some canned goods or some boxed items,” Greer explained.
Community is key
The store gives the Kent timebank something that most don't have: a tangible location to call home. That benefit isn't lost on timebank member Barbara Hood.
“The hour exchange store lets people know that we’re a part of the community and that we’re here,” she said. “We get to tell them all kinds of stuff about the time bank and how we’re building community. It’s not just a place to come and drop off your donations or find something cool that you can take for a birthday present for your friend for time credits. It’s a place to make community.”
Community is a word that comes up a lot among timebankers. But while Kent’s timebank focuses on community, its expansion into a storefront made it necessary to focus on tax law.
In the past, the IRS has said that exchanging services for other services doesn't require the application of sales tax. It's simply an exchange of favors between two people. But hOUR Share changes things a bit. It allows people to exchange time credits for tangible items, most of which would be taxed if purchased at a traditional store. But Greer consulted with an accountant and she believes the store is in the clear.
“As far as we know it’s clean with the IRS because it’s a donation-based center. We do not sell things, we do not buy things, we do not have employees,” Greer said.
Passing it on
Greer got to introduce the man whose book and ideas changed her life to her fellow Kent timebankers. Dr. Edgar Cahn spoke at an event hosted by the Kent Community Timebank Saturday.