PORTLAND, Ore. - When Molly Fitzpatrick graduated from the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine as an acupuncturist last fall, she, like many, faced a difficult climate in which to start a business.
So the 31-year-old tried a concept she’d stumbled upon years earlier, an idea embraced by a growing number of people in Portland: Time banking.
It’s a bank where people receive "time dollars" instead of greenbacks in exchange for providing services to other members. They then can spend those time dollars on the services they need.
By becoming a member of PDX Time Bank, Fitzpatrick was able to grow her clientele – even if some of those people could not afford to pay her. In return, she has used her time dollars to pay for everything from business photography and moving services to her rent.
"I can provide acupuncture for time dollars to people who wouldn't ordinarily have the means to receive it,” she said. “I'm excited that acupuncture is now more accessible to individuals with time dollars."
Trade your skill for services
PDX Time Bank's tagline is: "Do more of what you love, in exchange for what you don't!"
More than 60 Portland businesses are members. Services offered cover everything from business mentoring, graphic design, childbirth preparation, sports coaching, cooking classes, dog feeding, painting, tea preparation, Photoshop editing, carpooling, fruit preservation and even tennis lessons.
"With the economic transition, PDX Time Bank has really taken off," said Fitzpatrick, who now volunteers with the organization.
She was unemployed when she first stumbled upon the time bank concept several years ago in Portland, Maine. New to the area and eager to become involved in the community, Fitzpatrick was quickly hooked. Using time dollars, she was able to join a CSA (community supported agriculture) and she was paid in time dollars at a non-profit.
Time dollars not yet equal with cash
Though Fitzpatrick is a big believer in time banking, she admits it does have its potential downfalls. In Portland, the membership is still growing, so not all service and product needs are available. There is also at times inconsistent follow-through. Many times paying customers take precedent over time bank customers, so appointments can be delayed or postponed.
For her part, Fitzpatrick offers acupuncture, flower essences and shiatsu services (often called finger pressure massage) to time bank members from her practice at Nurture, an alternative health center located on Northeast Alberta Avenue. She operates her acupuncture business part-time, allowing up to two time dollar appointments per week, and also teaches classes, for which she accepts partial time dollar payments. Her other income comes from a traditional paycheck working part-time as a shiatsu teaching assistant at the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine.
While she likes being paid in cash, Fitzpatrick said she has a tendency to spend time dollars more liberally than she would spend actual dollars.
"I rarely shell out the standard $65 an hour for a massage. But I've been gladly paying time dollars for shiatsu and Reiki (a technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing), for one to two sessions per week.
“The same is true for gardening and landscaping. I have never paid anyone, or any company, money for yard work, but paying time dollars for starting my new gardens and growing plants has been invaluable to my life.
So you could say I am paying for preventative healthcare and soon-to-be groceries with time dollars.”
Chicken coops, auto repair, hair cuts needed
PDX Time Bank is now seeking new member businesses that offer auto repair, home construction, chicken coop construction, tree pruning, hair cuts, and massage - to name a few. The organization is also interested in pairing up with non-profits to increase membership and support individuals and businesses through time dollars.
"There are resources available all around us,” she said, “and if we can open up to new ways to access them, all our needs can be taken care of. If individuals have more time available due to unemployment, PDX Time Bank can help.”