By Grace Maselli
It’s with heavy hearts and deep gratitude for her visionary work that we announce the death of Tampa Bay Timebank founder Marie Nelson. Marie died on January 21, the 21st day of the 21st year of 21st century. She was 78 years old.
Marie’s grassroots and tireless passion to structure and educate the community about timebanking—how it works and how it holds the potential to benefit intergenerational members of all communities—set the stage for a system of exchanges that continues to reach across Florida’s Tampa Bay Area, including more recent timebanks and timebank hubs in Hillsborough, Pasco, and Hernando Counties.
Petite in stature, Marie had Herculean energy for big picture strategy and hitting the pavement. She developed the inaugural Tampa Bay Area timebank, meeting with individuals, private businesses, and local government agencies in some cases to talk a blue streak about how to bring community members together to build timebanking alliances across counties and among neighbors.
“My mother was an exceptional woman,” says Naomi Nelson of Gainesville, FL. Marie is best described, Naomi says, as a person who dedicated her life professionally and privately to humanistic principles and ideas. “From the early 1960s, in every community she lived in, she was an activist and community organizer. She was not tied to a single ‘ism’ or oppression. [Her humanistic approach] was part of an integrated world view that encompassed her professional life in education, environmental and climate activism, racial and LGBTQ+ equality activism and, or course, the alternate economy work she did through the timebank.”
Fearless and Persevering
Marie was a bonafide academic who came from a long line of well-educated parents and grandparents. Her fearlessness and conviction is well demonstrated in a particular story Naomi shares. In the early 1960s Marie taught high school English at Furman College in Greenville, S.C. where she got her undergraduate degree. She taught for one year until she was fired from the job for leading interracial “meet and greets” in Greenville before desegregation, “so that black and white students could meet and talk to each other,” Naomi explains. Marie also lived and taught at Columbia S.C.’s Benedict College, a small historically black college in Columbia where she was very active in the Women’s Rights Movement and served as one of the founding members of the city’s National Organization of Women’s chapter.
“Marie was a strong and spirited woman and always made sure there was a place at the table for anyone who wanted to be involved with what she was doing,” says B.J. Andryusky, coordinator of the St. Petersburg Timebank and longtime friend of Marie’s.
Marie was no stranger either to the founder of timebanking himself, Edgar Cahn, a distinguished legal professor and former counsel and speech writer to Robert F. Kennedy. Dr. Cahn is the author of Time Dollars (1992) and No More Throw-Away People: The Coproduction Imperative (2004), detailing how to mobilize a non-market economy that recognizes and rewards reciprocal contributions of service and caring.
“With Marie Nelson’s passing, the timebank community lost a dear and precious member of the family,” Edgar remarks. Marie believed that, as people who care about community, “We are here for each other,” Edgar says. And for Marie, “Community was not just an array of nonprofits and transactions by networks of do-gooders. Community was simply family, extended family, open-ended family…For Marie, Community was organic and alive.”
Dr. Chris Gray, Edgar’s wife and partner in timebanking, believes “Marie brought people together. She helped them think about the future and its possibilities—possibilities anchored in values of social justice and equity. On that, she was always crystal clear, she never wavered. Edgar and I so valued knowing her, sharing ideas with her, learning where her thinking was going.”
Wisdom to Share
For nearly four years Marie lived in Tampa with Karen Lowman, a member of the TBT Leadership Team, and Karen’s wife, Mandy O’Neil. “She was like family,” the two women remark. “She had an emotional impact and shared a lot of wisdom and stories,” says Mandy, adding “Marie was adventurous. I loved hearing stories about her rebel days growing up. She had a remarkably positive outlook on life even during the most difficult stretches of her health challenges. She always focused on perseverance.”
Marie’s efforts improved the lives of people in her orbit as she worked to create a safety net for some of the most vulnerable in our local communities. She acted on behalf of the greater good.
“Marie was fearless and liked to shed light on the darkest places; this was symbolic of her work with the Tampa Bay Timebank,” says Karen. “She was always patient and extremely diplomatic. She had a go-with-the-flow attitude. Marie truly loved groups and supporting an alternative economy, especially for aging populations whose physical abilities change over time,” Karen says.
A Laser Beam with Language
Marie’s love of language came as no surprise to anyone who knew her. She earned a Ph.D in Language Education and an M.Ed. in English Education from the University of Georgia. She studied French Literature at Furman University in Greenville, S.C. where she earned a Bachelor of Arts; she was also Emeritus Professor of Integrated Studies at National Louis University, Chicago, IL. In the late 1960s and early 1970s she taught English in Japan.
“Marie was always concerned about very specific words, their precise meaning, and how they sounded together to be sure a message was relayed absolutely perfectly,” B.J. recalls. “I remember spending hours with her to help create key documents for the Tampa Bay Timebank. She cared so deeply about people and about the message she had to share.”
From community activists and documentary film makers, to students and professionals, Marie loved and mentored many people across her nearly eight decades of life. For those who worked alongside her and became her dearest, closest friends, Marie’s death is a profound loss—even as she leaves behind a legacy of service and the results of her commitment to make the world a better place than the one she found.
Marie is survived by her daughter Naomi Nelson of Gainesville, FL, her son, Joshua Nelson of Beaufort, S.C., and a grandson, Elijah Nelson-Ehrsam of Gainesville, FL.
This Saturday, January 30, 2021, interested friends are invited to an outdoor memorial for Marie at Philippe Park in Safety Harbor, FL, by/around Shelter 7. Wearing masks and observing all social distancing recommendations, we will gather to celebrate Marie’s remarkable life. Plan to bring a chair and share a vegan potluck dish with a description of ingredients for those with dietary/allergen-related restrictions.
|Event: Outdoor Celebration of Life for Marie Nelson|
|Day: Saturday, January 30, 2021|
|Location: Philippe Park, Safety Harbor, FL, near Shelter 7|
|Time: 11 AM to 1 PM EST|
|Questions: Contact TBT Coordinator Rita Cobbs at 608.335.2382|
TBT will also hold a Celebration of Life for Marie via Zoom at its Third Tuesday meeting on February 16 at 6:30 PM EST. The Celebration will be facilitated by Karen Lowman with participants invited to speak for three to five minutes each to give all guests an opportunity to express their love and appreciation for our founder. Tampa Life Enrichment Center Executive Director and community partner Maureen Murphy is assembling a presentation to commemorate Marie’s life to be shared with Zoom participants.
|Event: Zoom Memorial for Marie Nelson|
|Day: Tuesday, February 16, 2021|
|Time: 6:30 to 9 PM EST|
|Questions: Contact TBT Coordinator Rita Cobbs at 608.335.2382|
By Grace Maselli
Wow: 2020. It wasn’t for the faint of heart. Adults, youth, essential workers, best friends—almost everybody’s lives got shaken by the wrath of COVID, an upside-down experience that turned “normal” living into strange and confined terrain in order to stay safe. Of course, the public health crisis continues and has even worsened in many states in the U.S., with infection rates spiking and hospital beds becoming more scarce.
Some people have turned away from the news. Or seriously limited the intake just to stay sane.
But there are rays of light breaking through. The soon-to-be Biden-Harris administration has a clear stance on safety and the pandemic, “A decisive public health response that ensures the wide availability of free testing; the elimination of all cost barriers to preventive care and treatment for COVID-19;…and the full deployment and operation of necessary supplies, personnel, and facilities,” according to the Biden-Harris camp. President-elect Joe Biden’s gotten his first of two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
And even if we’re lonelier, the whirl of technology connects many of us, screen to screen. The pandemic of 1918 afforded no such luxury. People have been creative with social distancing. Virtual girls’ night out, Microsoft Teams holiday parties with a professional trivia host and cash prizes. Of course, there’s also getting away from a screen (screen, scream!) and going outside for a stroll, a bike ride (recumbent, too), and kayaking under safe conditions.
Maybe 2021 will bring us to the entryway to that tunnel, where we can see more light at the other end?
Here’s hoping we all have the capacity to appreciate some of those little miracles—like being able to breathe, and hear, and walk. Maybe we can turn the corner this year and build some momentum by looking at some of the things that go right?
From all of us at TBT to all of you, we wish you a slice of joy in the complex holiday season.
We’re starting a TBT book group with a focus on art in all its forms! The inaugural read: On Photography by Susan Sontag first published in 1973 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. The group is open to our sister (and bro) timebanks and the community. Of course, to be Covid-compliant, we’re convening by Zoom. Here’s how it’s rolling:
- First Zoom gathering is Monday, December 7, 2020 at 7 PM;
- We’ll meet every two weeks to nosh on the text and partake of participants’ thoughts and dialogue;
- (Because the next two-week interval lands during Xmas week, we’ll step out of the two-week rhythm just until the New Year and start again on Monday, January 11, 2021 at 7 PM);
- Those interested should contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 215.834.4567 so I can collect names and email addresses to send a Zoom link the day before each meeting time…
- Group members will pitch ideas for the next book and we’ll take an informal vote on what to read next!
By Grace Maselli
The Tampa Bay Timebank took on the subject of grief and loss in its Third Tuesday of the Month member and guest meeting on Tuesday, October 20. Psychotherapy and hospice-trained experts from the TBT leadership team—Nancy Wolf, Christina Bellamy, and Judith Rose—guided about 25 participants in a Zoom meeting to recognize and honor the various faces of grief. The tender examination of loss and its effects included disruption to mourning by Covid-19 and people forced to be separated from loved ones infected or killed by the virus. Grief was discussed in the context of the profoundly unsettling absence through death of someone loved and the painful adaptations necessary before adjustments can be fully integrated.
Giants in the field of grief and loss were invoked: psychiatrist, humanitarian, and hospice pioneer Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and her five stages of non-linear grief—Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance, and leading death educator and grief counselor, Dr. Alan Wolfelt at The Center for Loss & Life Transition.
Grief can cause a broad range of symptoms both emotional and physical, TBT’s presenters reminded us—from forgetfulness and detachment to everyday life, to fatigue and chest pains.
The discussion, inclusive of a small group Zoom breakout session, extended to the significance of rituals and their power to comfort people in deep emotional pain. Even within the context of Covid, family members, friends, and neighbors can reach out, safely drop food off for grieving families, and be present to another person’s pain with attentive, compassionate listening. Rituals can demonstrate that even in active mourning, we can still be surrounded and cared for by people who remain in our lives. With presenters drawing on Dr. Wolfelt’s work, we understand this can arguably happen (even now using masks and social distancing) through “companioning” with a person who has experienced a loss, being present to another person’s pain—going into the deep wilderness of the soul with another human being—and honoring the spirit, not the intellect.
Grief and its stages, our TBT experts offered, are ultimately a natural and adaptive response to deep loss. The experience is singular and personal and does not follow a prescribed path to reach a given level of adaptation.
The presenters also shared community resources. Following is a partial list of Tampa Bay Area organizations available to assist individuals and families:
- The Life Center of The Suncoast Inc.
6811 N Central Ave, Tampa, FL 33604
- Compassionate Friends
6938 Riverview Dr, Riverview, FL 33578
- Unity North Tampa [First Sunday of the month, 12:30-2:30; donations accepted]
19520 Holly Ln, Lutz, FL 33558
- Soaring Spirits International, Tampa Bay Widowed Persons Group
TBT welcome guest blogger Dr. Robert McGinnis, TBT Leadership Team member, professor, MBA, Ph.D, St. Leo University/St. Petersburg College
By Dr. Robert McGinnis
As we reflect on the tragedy of 9/11 19 years ago, we are reminded how connected all of humanity is. We are also reminded of the vision of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
These immortal words are just as true and relevant today as they were during the Civil Rights Movement 70 years ago. Since that time, we have had many tragedies and challenges. They all have one thing in common: they bring out the best in us. The “Beloved Community” always picks up the gauntlet and rises to challenge. During the pandemic of 2020 we are once again reminded how interdependent we are on so many: teachers, store clerks, first responders, students, caretakers, doctors, nurses, waste disposal workers. So many risking their lives on a daily basis to keep the “Beloved Community” alive.
“Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls, as well as a quantitative change in our lives.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reminds us.
We are blessed to have many heroic individuals and organizations in the Tampa Bay area. one of which is the Tampa Bay Time Bank.
Many of us have shared Dr. King’s “Dream,” including Dr. Edgar S. Cahn. In 1995, Edgar Cahn founded the Time Dollar Institute—now known as TimeBanks USA—to promote timebanking in the U.S. and around the world. Passionate about social justice, Edgar saw timebanking as a way to restore community and to recognize and reward civic engagement. In the decades that followed, he became its strong, persistent champion, promoting timebanking as a tool for creating a more just, more caring world. Today organized timebanking takes place in more than 30 countries—including China, Russia, and various countries in Africa, Europe, North America, and South America. In the United States, there are about 500 registered time banks, and together they have enrolled more than 37,000 members. ( Stanford Social Innovation Review, SSIR.org)
Universally, there are five core values underlying timebanking:
- Assets – We are all assets. We all have something to give.
- Redefining Work – Some work is beyond price. Work has to be redefined. Creating “the village” that raises healthy children, builds strong families, revitalizes neighborhoods, makes democracy work, advances social justice, and even makes the planet sustainable is valuable work and needs to be rewarded.
- Reciprocity – Helping works better as a two-way street. The question: “How can I help you?” needs to changed so we ask: “How can we help each other build the world we all will live in?”
- Social Networks – We need each other. People joined in shared purpose are stronger than individuals. Helping each other, we reweave communities of support, strength & trust. Community is built upon establishing roots, building trust, and creating networks. Special relationships are built on commitment.
- Respect – Every human being matters. Respect underlies freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and everything we value. Respect supplies the heart and soul of democracy. When respect is denied to anyone, we all are injured. We must respect where people are in the moment, not where we hope they will be at some future point. (timebanks.org)
Tampa Bay Time Bank is an integral part of the “Beloved Community” and has been actively engaged in Tampa Bay for more than 13 years. When the news of the pandemic peaked in mid-March, Delphine Geraci, a Bariatric RN and dozens of other timebankers pulled together as a community of workers and immediately started making face masks. They have distributed more 6,000 masks to individuals and communities in the Tampa Bay Area and beyond. Many are made from “PUL,” or what’s described as a “disposable, breathable, and waterproof fabric, specially treated so that it is not harmful to the skin, both in adults and babies.
My most current timebank project is working with two new member organizational members RAMWI and Radiant Hands, both of which provide support for Tampa Bay’s refuge population. Tampa Bay Time Bank members are scheduled to be tutors for elementary math at teh start of school.
As we reflect and remember those who lost their lives in the many tragedies in our country’s history, let us also be reminded of those whose heroic efforts continue to build and heal our “Beloved Communities.”. Thank someone, anyone, today for their contributions to the quality of life that we enjoy today.
By Grace Maselli
You’ve heard of it, right? Fun fun fun. To say the least, COVID’s put a kink in the pleasantries we took for granted—in the freedom to move around, pre-quarantine. All the more reason why the vital reminder to rip the Band-Aid off ho-hum and jump into some safe boisterousness, or amusements you’re personally stimulated and refreshed by, is so more important. We have Maureen Murphy, Executive Director of Tampa’s Life Enrichment Center, to thank for a stellar Zoom talk to about 25 people during August’s Third Tuesday of the Month event on August 18.
Maureen’s exhaustive and inspiring presentation on the benefits of fun even in the context of lockdown stirred participants to share what they do to let their coiffs out of the hair net—get into “flow” where time effortlessly slips away— as it motivated others to amp up fun time and creativity in their daily lives. Maureen talked in depth about the psychological and physical health that fun can mean for the psyche and the body. With pure enthusiasm she delighted us with factoids and substance: Fun reduces stress. It helps people cope better with stress. It trips the seratonin switch, a good brain chemical. It boosts energy and memory and concentration. And when you make fun a habit, it’s relaxing, it pumps up positive feelings, it helps you sleep better, and it improves the relationships you care about. Whao!
The sky can still be the limit if you turn that box upside down and see things from a new angle! Here are some ideas:
- Dress up your dog and snap some pix for fun…
- Do cartwheels in your backyard
- Go to the beach on a Wednesday when there are fewer people
- Make art with LEC
- Get creative with cooking
- Do 20 jumping jacks in your living room
- Take the St. Pete’s Mural Walking Tour
- Blow bubbles lakeside
- Cut up some magazines and make a collage to tell a soul story
- Join The Rumpus Book Club
- Jump into The Sofa King Music Fest
- Check out BroadwayHD shows for less than the cost of a standard Netflix subscription
- Explore new podcasts that make you happy and inspired
By Grace Maselli
There’s Rocco and his brother. And Chevy, Chance, and Blue. And don’t forget Goose. Goose is a dog. A dog who looks like an Irish Setter and has nine brothers and sisters. There’s Nyx the cat too, named for the Greek Goddess of Darkness—a nine lives cat who survives despite the strong odds of being eaten while living in an encampment in the woods.
What do these dignified, intelligent, and unconditional lovers of people have in common? They’ve all been rehomed by Ellen Paul, Founder and Executive Director of the Nature Coast Community Services Foundation, a 501(c) 3 nonprofit; NCCSF’s aim it is to do what it takes to get homeless people living in the subtropical backwoods out from the elements and snakes and into homes and jobs. More formally, NCCSF and its small coterie of devoted volunteers’ mission is to “identify and help fund social needs existing in Florida’s Nature Coast region that are not adequately addressed by existing governmental or private organizations.”
“To date,” the NCCSF’s website makes an important point of noting, “we are getting one person a month on average out of the woods, into a paying job, and into permanent housing. But for every person whom we help escape homelessness, another one or two [more] find us.” Ellen puts the approximate number of lives changed at 43 since NCCSF’s formalized founding in October 2018, two years after Ellen began her deeply spiritual—strategic, logistical—and compassionate work.
TBT learned more about Ellen and NCCSF at the recent Third Tuesday of the month meeting on July 21 with 30 people in attendance by Zoom and a focus on the topic of building community.
For Ellen, the community of homeless people she and her volunteers help all started with the Rocco’s and Chance’s of the world—homeless people’s dogs and Ellen’s passion for them: This mother of renewal and invention understood canine love from the get-go and what it continues to mean for homeless people on a deep, archetypal level. “The general public will often say, ‘Why do these people have pets? They can’t even take care of themselves. I get a lot of blow back,” Ellen says. “People just don’t understand that these animals are the only source of companionship, love, and protection many homeless people have. Whether an animal is trained or not, whether it’s a dog or a cat, it doesn’t matter. Everyone needs to be loved.”
Living in a Station Wagon with a Five-Year-Old
Things arguably got underway in Ellen’s world with a big woman we’ll call “Chauncey.” Chauncey is a middle-aged female described as 6 ft. tall, about 300 lbs., and living in a station wagon with her five-year-old grandson. “Everything they owned was in their car,” says Ellen of the family, including a 60 lb. dog—people and their beloved pet who were displaced when Chauncey lost her job because of illness. “When this happened, everything unraveled,” Ellen says. Ellen first met Chauncey in a homeless encampment in Hernando County’s Masaryktown woods (until the police threw the dispossessed off the site). “Nearly every person in those woods had a pet; some people had three or four,” Ellen says. She would know. Her job continues to be handing out clothing and food, “and talking with people, to understand where their heads are, to see what we can do to help them.”
One day after such a visit to the woods Ellen “got a strong sense” that Chauncey wanted to talk. “I asked her if there was anything she needed and what she asked for was dog food.” Chauncey’s dog hadn’t eaten in several days when Ellen encountered the family because Chauncey couldn’t afford the cost of the food, or gas for that matter; the whole family including the dog was hungry. “That morning we had met Chauncey she managed to scrape together enough money to get to the Hernando County pound to surrender her dog. But she couldn’t do it. She was crying all the way back to Masaryktown. She was crying and praying for a sign,” Ellen says. “And then I showed up with a 50 lb. bag of dog food. It was the first time I was called an angel. It’s way above my pay grade to be called that! But I understand the gratitude that comes with the remark.”
Four-Legged House Guests
“The dogs are deeply important to these people,” says Ellen, who has personally taken care of homeless people’s dogs in her house so people would agree to get surgical procedures done. “Otherwise, they wouldn’t go to clinics or hospitals,” she says of the deep attachments to animals. Ellen’s most recent canine house guest was Rocco, a puppy pit bull.
“Lyla” was about 62 years old and homeless in the Masaryktown woods when Ellen met her. Lyla was in love with her all-black cat, Nyx. So much so she wanted a better life for her. “Lyla said, ‘This is a special kitty. She follows me in the woods like a dog. She talks to me all the time; we talk together. I want her to have a long life and lots of friends.’ And then Lyla handed me the cat,” Ellen says.
Among the services Ellen and her volunteers provide through NCCSF is low-cost spaying and neutering through the PetLuv Spay & Neuter Clinic in Brooksville. “I’ve had dozens done,” she says. The day Ellen was taking Nyx to be spayed the vet told her the cat was pregnant. “Neutering would have killed the kittens in utero, and I couldn’t do that.” So instead Ellen kept two of Nyx’s babies and found reliable, loving, indoor homes for the other two kittens.
A third recipient of NCCSF’s efforts is a woman, “Charlene,” who the nonprofit had helped for a number of years. When Charlene ended up in jail, she asked her friends in the Masaryktown woods to take care of her three dogs. One of them, Chevy, was left without food or water and to fend unsuccessfully for himself. “Chevy looked like he’d just gotten out of Auschwitz,” as Ellen describes it. But even in his emaciated condition the fawn-colored Chevy was a big boy at 60 lbs. and anticipated to grow to 150 lbs., according to a veterinarian’s estimate. Despite her heartbreak over losing him, Charlene went to Ellen and said, “I need your help to get Chevy out of here.”
The Universe Is Listening
“So I put the word out to the universe and said, ‘I need a home for this dog,’” Ellen explains. Within a couple of hours the universe got back to her. Ellen got a phone call from another homeless woman, “Pam,” who told Ellen, “I need a large dog. I need him to be a service dog. I have seizures.” And as soon as Pam got word about Chevy, she immediately wanted him.
Most people living in the woods have jobs, Ellen says based on her years of experience. But these are routinely low-paying, part-time jobs that don’t generate enough money for even a modest rent and living expenses. “Corporations are not hiring for full-time work, so they don’t have to pay benefits,” in many cases, Ellen says. This reality leaves little choice than to live in the woods and participate in the gig economy—short-term contract work or day labor, let’s say, compared to permanent jobs—so people can survive.
And as the universe would also have it, Pam, who was continuously moving on foot or bicycle between Weeki Wachee and Brooksville, is a professional dog trainer. Within seconds of Charlene and Ellen introducing Chevy to his new owner, “Chevy focused like a laser beam on Pam,” Ellen remembers. “And within another five minutes Pam had him sitting on command”—the bent elbow, fist up, configuration in the dog training world. That first night together Pam had two seizures, and Chevy knew instinctively what to do without any training: He stretched out behind Pam to soften her fall and created as much cushioning as possible. “Two days later Pam had Chevy walking through Walmart—this is a dog who had never been on a leash before.”
Now Pam and Chevy are inseparable. In Pam’s meanderings across the nine miles between Weeki Wachee and Brooksville, Chevy is in heaven and in lockstep, jogging alongside the love of his life as she pumps the pedals of her bike through the subtropics. They stop at the halfway point where a store owner gives Chevy water and Pam also gets refreshed. “Chevy loves Pam and he loves the exercise,” says Ellen, who also helped Chevy go legit with the right service dog paperwork to confirm he’s the real deal. “We got Chevy rated as a service dog with the paper to prove it. So if Pam goes into the hospital, or jail, or Walmart, Chevy goes with her,” Ellen says. Chevy is an extension of Pam.
“The whole thing is a miracle,” says the Founder of NCCSF. Besides seizures, Pam grapples with depression too. “Chevy comes over and licks the tears off her face and leans into her for comfort,” Ellen says with a kind of childlike wonder. As of this writing, Ellen and NCCSF are gifting Pam and Chevy a four-man (one-dog) tent to give the wanderers a much-needed, deeply appreciated home base in the woods—a precious space to call their own. “There are so many incredible stories like this,” says Ellen. “They’re pure magic.”
In honor of this magic, donations of pet food, clothes, and towels for wet dogs in the woods and, of course, cash, are deeply and thankfully accepted by NCCSF at the organization’s website.
By Grace Maselli
Got uncertainty? Get some glue in the form of social adhesive. No argument that making life big and colorful and filled with art of all kinds requires more creativity in the days of COVID-19. Take member Robert McGinnis’s ingenious approach and arrangement of a mix of paid services and Tampa Bay Timebank resources—our characteristic offers and requests exchange model in action—to celebrate his lovely wife Debbie’s locked-down birthday. Robert hired violinist LaRon Hearst (classic and electric) accompanied by the violinist’s wife Angel’s (angelic!) singing voice. “He played an hour on our deck for the alligator and all of the neighbors on the other side of the pond,” Robert says, adding how groovy it would be, “to get musicians to show up at every members’ house to cheer them up with a song.”
Robert also commissioned some art from brilliant artist/educator/member Qinghong Wei to support the arts and honor the day. This includes a watercolor of a double rainbow taken by Qinghong, auspicious given its powerful symbolism for Robert and Debbie: “On our first real date there was a torrential downpour that broke with a double rainbow,” he says. Way to make it romantic and real and keep it safe, Robert!
For any of you reading, here’s a rolling echo from the TBT Leadership Team—reach out and touch someone by phone. Get on the TBT website and call a fellow member; check in, see how folks are doing. Spread the glue.
Speaking of social stickiness (think: reach out and touch someone in the metaphorical sense and by cell phone), here’s a local Community Resource and Referral Guide that may be of use to readers or someone you know who might benefit.
Assets: Everyone is an asset. We all have something to give.
Redefining Work: We redefine work to value whatever it takes to raise healthy children, build strong families, care for elders, revitalize neighborhoods, make democracy work, advance social justice, and make the planet sustainable.
Reciprocity: Helping works better as a two-way street.
Community: We need each other; networks are stronger than individuals. When people help each other, they reweave communities of support, strength, and trust.
Respect: Every human being matters. Respect for all means accountability to all.
Here here. Everyone matters.
By Grace Maselli
Invoking the recent words of former President Barack Obama to high schoolers and 2020 college grads, “If the world’s going to get better, it’s going to be up to you.” Or in the case of our Florida Timebanks, which have always been about inclusivity and valuing all members of our society, it’s up to the collective community energy—the social adhesive and grassroots mobilization we strengthen and invigorate together—that can make a positive difference. And a critical and encompassing change in our neighborhoods and localities, particularly given the intense negative effects of COVID-19 on our most vulnerable populations.
TBT and its nearby timebank partners are forging organizational connections with groups dedicated to helping the Tampa Bay Area’s refugee populations; to reinforce the local social safety net, we’re taking citizen action for emergency responses and aiming to help expand refugee support programs. The locus of initial activity will begin around Tampa’s University of South Florida and Temple Terrace neighborhoods where concentrations of Congolese and Arabic-speaking refugee families live.
Organizational partners have joined TBT and surrounding timebanks to participate in the exchange “system” that uses time as its currency instead of money—welcoming refugee families to exchange “person hours.” Individuals and family members who sign up to do the things they love for other members, offering what they enjoy in a service exchange where every hour of time is equally valued.
To make it happen TBT is working closely with Tampa’s Radiant Hands, Inc. whose mission is to “empower women and families in the North-Central Florida region by providing them with spiritual, emotional, educational, and financial support with the goal of helping them to achieve independence in mind. In doing so, we hope to encourage and enable women and families to contribute individually and collectively in strengthening our community as a whole.”
Like Radiant Hands, we’re also collaborating with new organizational member Ramwi Refugee and Migrant Women’s Initiative, Inc. Based in Tampa, Ramwi (pronounced ram-wee) places emphasis on support with the potential to blossom into self-actualization that can come with being an independent and much-valued community member: “Our mission is to bring newly arrived refugee, migrant and other vulnerable women, children and their families residing in Tampa Bay together. Doing so, we hope to empower, engage, and support them during the difficult phases of resettlement and transition.”
Volunteers to Deliver Much-Needed Food
The unfolding community work means there’s an opportunity for timebank volunteers to help deliver food in the USF area and to donate storage space for canned food. Also in the planning phase for timebank exchanges:
• A community garden
• Help with Radiant Hands’ and Ramwi’s Thanksgiving dinner
• Mask sewing for healthcare workers in need of Personal Protective Equipment
Many of Ramwi’s female program participants will graduate from sewing classes and be given a sewing machine of their own. The graduate “collective” is talking about potential plans to sell the things they make, including possible wedding guest favors. But of course we’re all open to all kinds of creative ideas for goods that can be handmade and brought to market.
No pairing of timebanks and community stakeholders dedicated to serving refugees could fit the Tampa Bay Timebank mission and revitalization efforts with more symmetry than the work now underway with Radiant Hands and Ramwi. Increases in our 550+ membership is a telltale sign of interest as more organizational leaders and families join, welcoming all who come to our city and its surrounding area.
For donations, to volunteer for food delivery and storage, and ideas to share, contact TBT Coordinator Rita at 608.335.22382 or by email: email@example.com
By Grace Maselli
Today’s the day. Started in 1970, the global Earth Day event to honor environmental protection and the miracle of our abundant planet involves 193 countries worldwide. A lot has changed since 1970 and the inaugural Earth Day when Richard Nixon was at the helm of the U.S. government (and the year he created the Environmental Protection Agency). To put it in terms NPR’s using, “Earth Day at 50: Climate Activists Go Digital Amid Pandemic Shutdown”—the celebration and activism are forging ahead despite the effects of COVID-19.
A stunning “It Can Be Done” Earth Day message also honors Stephen Hawking, theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author who was also Research Director at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at the UK’s University of Cambridge. Hawking reminds viewers to take protective action in the precious time that remains. But you don’t need to be a theoretical physicist to make difference.
Teen Vogue prompts us to remember we can all become catalysts for positive change right here in our own Tampa Bay Area backyard. Take the lead from our youth and do some simple stuff: plant something, ride your bike, buy reusable bags, stop subscriptions to paper-made catalogs. And Tune into Earth Day Live for inspiration and emphasis on small steps with the power to add up to meaningful environmental impact.
In the renowned words of Rachael Carson, an American biologist who drove awareness of the dangers of pesticides and author of Silent Spring, a powerful book that influenced the environmental movement in the U.S.: “The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.”