Community Exchange Program

Posted By Lifestyles over 50 - on May 2, 2013

by Art Villafane, Lifestyles over 50

Community Exchange is a program of the Department of Community Health & Health Studies of Lehigh Valley Health Network funded by the Dorothy Rider Pool Health Care Trust and is an affiliate of TimeBanks USA. This program allows individuals to provide services such as painting, cooking, minor home repair, and more in exchange for "time credits". One time credit can be exchanged for an hour of service received. Members can then use their earned credits to receive a service. Services vary depending on the skills, talents and abilities of the current members. All services are equal in value, and the Community Exchange TimeBank tracks all services and credits.

Community Exchange TimeBank is part of a national organization, Time Banks USA, which has 250 affiliated time bank programs in the U.S. and over 100 internationally. Members can even transfer their time credits if they move, provided a time bank exists in their new location.

Community Exchange started in 1999 as a way to encourage seniors to help one another. Currently there are about 650 members in the Lehigh Valley group. Membership Coordinator Kathy Perlow says that everyone has a service they can provide. Even if members have limited mobility, they can knit or bake and therefore participate and receive service. Receiving service isn't the only benefit; there are also the wonderful relationships that develop as members help one another. "There is a wealth of talent out there," says Perlow. The most common services requested are companionship and transportation. Community Exchange uses a website for members to facilitate the exchange of services. They also have a newsletter to keep members informed.

Here's an example of how Community Exchange works:
Tony needed help tiling his bathroom before his new baby arrived. He earned "time credits" by installing an air conditioner for Carol, driving Ellen to the doctor and helping Linda move furniture. He earned enough "time credits" to have Frank help him with the tiling.

In exchange for Tony's help, Carol teaches drawing and transports Community Exchange members to the grocery store. Linda uses her computer skills to assist members with word processing, and Ellen serves on Community Exchange's advisory board and offers telephone assistance and companionship.

Even if you are not sure as to what services you can provide, the personnel at Community Exchange can help you to find out what you can do to be of service. "Everyone has something that they can offer". Some members even donate some of their hours to other members who could use help, but do not have enough hours on their own yet.

Some of the categories of services and samples of services:
Transportation - Local, Long Distance, Medical Appointments
Help at Home - Child Care, Cooking and Sewing, Housekeeping, Respite Care
Home Repair and Maintenance - Carpentry, Yard Work, Gardening
Companionship - Home Visits, Book and Game Clubs
Art, Crafts and Music - Dance, Needlepoint, Photography
Business and Technology - Clerical, Computer Support
Recreation - Travel, Sports
Wellness - Diet and Nutrition, Fitness and Exercise
Community Activities - Leaf Raking, Snow Shoveling
Education - Tutoring, medical interpreter training

There is an enrollment process that you go through when applying to join the Exchange program, but the overriding requirement is a willingness to share skills, talents and abilities with other members. The program has a Member Handbook that is especially helpful to new members as it explains the entire program and answers many of your questions. For more information on the program please call Community Exchange at 610-969-2432.

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