Local group trades goods, services with each other, using hours of work instead of money

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KENT -- Everyone has something to contribute.

Eleven-year-old Jagger Smith vacuums cars.

Attorney Ralph Oates likes getting outside for yard work.

"Zipper Lady" Judy Conway repairs zippers and offers tax coaching.

What if one person's hour of work equaled another person's, regardless of what job they do?

That is the basic philosophy behind a network of hundreds of Northeast Ohioans, all exchanging goods and services not with dollars, but with hours of work.

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"Everyone's hour is equal," Conway says. "I just loved that concept and joined."

The Kent Community TimeBank is a nonprofit organization where members pay each other in an alternative form of money called time credits.

Kent resident Abby Greer founded the timebank because she believed so strongly in the concept.

"Timebanking is a modern system of exchange where members pool their talents, skills and resources, and they exchange them hour-by-hour," Greer explains. "So one hour equals one time credit -- no matter the service, no matter the education, no matter the job. One hour equals one time credit."

Serving as Executive Director, it is Greer's full-time job. Standing by her principles though, she only works for time credits.

"I find myself thinking differently about money every week that goes by, and it's because of the timebank," Greer says.

Greer not only runs the KCTB, she also heads the umbrella organization – The Crooked River Alliance of TimeBanks, which connects the KCTB with Twinsburg Community TimeBank, Ravenna Community TimeBank and the new Stark County Community TimeBank.

"So that if the plumber is in Twinsburg, someone in Ravenna can call the plumber. If the attorney is in Kent, someone in Twinsburg can use the attorney. So just increasing the offers," Greer says of the benefits of the alliance.

The KCTB is one of the largest timebanks in the country, with one of the highest exchange rates.

"In 2013, we exchanged 31.5 hours every single day. So our data shows that every single day, 31.5 hours our members are time-banking with each other," Greer says.

Some services and talents offered by members include computer repair, massage, baking, plumbing, dog grooming, website design, landscaping, car repair, house cleaning and tutoring.

Members join the timebank for a variety of reasons.

Ralph Oates joined the group in his 70s, just looking for a change of pace from his day job.

"After 42 years, the law becomes pretty routine, and, as much as I hate to say it, it can get pretty boring," Oates says. "So I'm looking around outside for something for me to do that might be interesting."

While young Jagger Smith joined the timebank to help his mother get some house repairs done. He does admit to scoring a few luxuries for his hard work too.

"I've gotten a massage. I've gotten a bunch of books." Smiths smiles.

It's these extra luxuries and a little financial boost that are the reasons many people join.

"Maybe someone would like to give their child a music lesson, but they can't afford it," Greer says. "We've got tons of people who do music lessons in the timebank or a horseback riding lesson or a yoga class."

And Conway is quick to point out that it is not bartering, because it isn't a one-on-one transaction.

"You need your zipper repaired, so I do that for you. You pay me in time credit, and then I'm free to go somewhere else and use my time credit," Conway explains. "Perhaps I get a massage. Maybe I get an oil change on my car. Maybe I pay somebody to help weed my garden. The possibilities are endless."

If you are willing to put in an hour of work, you can be a member of the timebank.

"I think our youngest timebanker is not yet 1," Greer laughs. "And our oldest timebanker, I believe, is 77."

About a year ago, the KCTB got a brick-and-mortar location with the opening of its hOur Share store.

The shop is run entirely on time credits.

"So we have no price tags on anything in this exchange center and no cash register," Greer says of the unique shop. "Everything is done by donation, and you decide how much you want to give to have a particular item."

The store offers a constantly rotating inventory, including everything from jewelry and toys to food and cleaning supplies.

Along with creating an alternative system of currency, the timebank is cultivating a sense of community.

"The biggest reward I've gotten would be the new people I've met as a result of being a timebanker," Conway says. "That's really it. I've made some great new friends that I wouldn't have had the opportunity to meet if I hadn't exchanged with them."

Or as Smith puts it: "I just like whenever people help each other and help each other for the greater good."

Conway outlines the best part of being a timebanker in beautiful simplicity.

"In the timebank, those very things that we love to do -- somebody else might not have the skills to do ... and all of the sudden, the thing that I do because I love doing it has worth ... and I'm earning something that I can use in my life, and all by doing something that I love to do," she says.

For information on how to join any of the Crooked River Alliance of TimeBanks, go to crookedriver.timebanks.org. They'll even give you five time credits for joining.

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