NEWS

'Time Bank' group grows, moves to new downtown Cedar Rapids space

Model of giving allows people to trade skills for services

Bryon Neff of Marion and other clients of Goodwill Daybilitation attach dining table legs as they prepare for a fundraiser at The Tapestry Furniture Bank in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Oct. 17, 2014. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Bryon Neff of Marion and other clients of Goodwill Daybilitation attach dining table legs as they prepare for a fundraiser at The Tapestry Furniture Bank in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Oct. 17, 2014. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Hate cooking dinner but love to garden? Not so good at plumbing but great at cutting hair? A Cedar Rapids organization might be able to help you trade your skills for things you don’t have the ability or inclination to do yourself.

The Tapestry, a “time bank” organization, is looking to grow after four years in Cedar Rapids. The group recently started renovating a downtown space with the goal of expanding access to its resources.

Here’s how time banking works: a member puts in an hour of work for someone in the organization, doing things like driving people to appointments, teaching guitar lessons or providing companionship to elderly residents. For each hour of service, members get a “time dollar,” which they can use to purchase services for themselves.

Co-founder Marti Gray said the model offers an alternative to the traditional way many non-profits seek to help clients.

“In a charity model of giving, it’s off-center. You have ... you determine as needy, and sometimes you really run them through major hoops,” she said.

She said that creates uneven power structures.

“We’re trying to get back to a reciprocity model. It’s more of an even playing field,” she said. “The expectation is that you use your gifts to pay it forward.”

Some people aren’t able to pay for the services they need right away — for example, if they need help while recovering from a hospital visit. But Gray said almost everyone eventually finds a way to pay things forward.

“We have some people that have a hard time finding out what they can give, what their gifts are,” she said. “That’s the other side I really enjoy, helping them figure out what they can give.”

She gave an example of a homebound time bank member who made phone calls as a way to serve. Every member’s time is weighted equally. An hour of making phone calls is equal with an hour of carpentry, for example.

“Everybody has something give,” Gray said.

The group has grown to more than 250 individual members and several organizational partners, whose members earn and spend their time dollars as a group. They’ve also added a furniture bank, where people can exchange their time dollars for donated furniture.

While operating in their current office in the Ecumenical Community Center, Tapestry members have kept the furniture bank’s goods in a storage unit. Once they move into their new space across the street, patrons will be able to browse the furniture. There also will be room for meetings and for workshops led by time bank members.

The group’s board also wants to start repairing used furniture and breaking down discarded mattresses to keep them out of the landfill.

“I just love the concept, and I think if we could really get this going big in Cedar Rapids, the possibilities are endless,” board member Emelia Sautter said.

To facilitate all this growth, the group is preparing to host its first fundraiser on Friday. The event, “Junk to Funk,” will offer upcycled furniture and art made from secondhand items by area artists. The pieces will be sold through a silent auction alongside services like massages, catering and house cleaning. Hors d’oeuvres, live music, a presentation on time banking and a chance to see the new space will accompany the auction.

If you go

• What: Junk to Funk fundraiser

• Where: 600 Second Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids

• When: 6:30 p.m. Friday

• Cost: Free

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