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36. Because Time Banking Is Turning the City Into One Big Friendly Kibbutz

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In 2006, the Visiting Nurse Service of New York hired Mashi Blech to build a support network for patients and their families. Blech decided to set up a system that would allow anyone to volunteer their time and get someone else’s in return. To join, all you need are two references. The time bank is now the country’s largest, with more than 3,000 members, more than half of whom make less than $15,000 a year. Accumulating time credits doesn’t just help provide needed security. Time turns out to be less than precise currency; when members become friends, they often stop tracking hours and start trafficking in kindness.

Morea, 29, Battery Park City
Morea joined the time bank after moving to New York from Minnesota. She taught Tobe how to use her first smartphone and pet-sat for Christy’s cat.
Given: 84 hrs.
Received: 45 hrs.

Tobe, 87, Battery Park City
Tobe became more active in the time bank after her husband passed away recently. I’m usually in more of a receiving role, she says. She recently helped staff a flu-vaccination drive.
Given: 16 hrs.
Received: 10 hrs.

Gus, 57, Battery Park City
Gus gave a food tour of Astoria to Tobe and others. Another member is helping him organize his office.
Given: 32 hrs.
Received: 8 hrs.

Maria Apolinario, 62, North Bronx
After Maria arrived in New York from the Dominican Republic last year, Gus donated boxes of extra kitchenware to her.
Given: 23 hrs.
Received: 45 hrs.

Carmen, 73, Washington Heights
Carmen teaches a weekly knitting class at a community center. Both Maria Apolinario and Maria Aristry attend.
Given: 682 hrs.
Received: 287 hrs.

Maria Aristry, 64, Washington Heights
When Carmen tore a ligament in her leg, Maria ran errands for her and took her to her appointments. They’re now good friends. The yarn united us, Maria says.
Given: 260 hrs.
Received: 536 hrs.

Chelsea, 8, and Cindy, 10, Washington Heights
Sisters Chelsea and Cindy do cleanup at the community center where Carmen’s knitting class is held. We help feed the trees and take care of the plants, says Cindy.
Given: 4 hrs.
Received: 10 hrs.

Clara, 48, South Bronx
At first I thought, What can I give? I’m in a wheelchair, Clara says. But I thought I could teach someone English or to read. Chelsea and Cindy come over for tutoring once a week. Clara joined them for Thanksgiving this year.
Given: 34 hrs.
Received: 9 hrs.

Jane, 66, South Bronx
Clara attended a trip to hear samba organized by Jane, who baked for a potluck that Cathy and Clara attended.
Given: 200 hrs.
Received: 93 hrs.

Cathy, 61, Bay Ridge
I’m saving up my hours. You hear stories about old people who have no one to take care of them. If I ever got sick, all I’d have to do is call, says Cathy, who volunteers at senior centers.
Given: 200 hrs.
Received: 20 hrs.

Christy, 31, Financial District
Christy taught Cathy to bake bread using her grandmother’s recipe. The time bank, she says, transformed the way I thought about the city.
Given: 51 hrs.
Received: 27 hrs.


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