Timebankers build community at Mother’s Day Celebration

Several Timebankers donated cups and saucers and shared refreshments at the Refugee and Migrant Women’s Initiative Mother’s Day Brunch. At the event, 46 women and their children discussed the values and qualities of womanhood, shared food from their various countries, and participated in individual family photoshoot sessions. At the end, each woman received a special teacup set to take home.

Circle of Care

By Grace Maselli

When TBT leadership and volunteers recognized a pivotal community need, members took action and the Circle of Care was formed. Initially conceived by members Jude McCormick and Tammy Bertoncini, the idea to create the group came from the realization that many elderly people in the Tampa Bay Area live alone. Or they’re geographically distant from family and potential caregivers and genuinely need an action-driven support structure.

The Circle of Care is just such a network of friends who nestle one another in empathy and practical help. This may come in the form of companionship, reassurances, and active listening, not to mention pragmatic supports for transportation, navigation through social services and what can be a fragmented medical system, and estate planning, for instance. Most of all, the Circle of Care functions to create a sense of belonging driven by compassionate interest in lives beyond our own.

Since its recent inception, the Circle of Care has expanded to 15 participants who bring a host of skills to the circle, including medical, time management and organization, computer know-how, and more. Besides local, hands-on support, the Circle of Care is also Interconnected by digital technologies and cell phones, so even when members may be out of town travelling they can still connect with one another for guidance; in this way they keep themselves encircled within this homegrown and powerful system of care. For more information, contact Rita at (608) 335-3383 or send an email to: ritacobbs31@gmail.com.



Going Deeper into Hurricane Preparedness

By Christina Bellamy


* Tampa Bay Time Bank Third Tuesday Zoom: May 17, 2022 6:30 – 8pm
Elizabeth Dunn PhD “Disaster Preparedness in Hillsborough County, Florida”

Tampa Bay Time Bank offers Zoom programs for their membership on a monthly basis.  There are many ways to learn about disaster preparedness in our community. The internet, TV, radio, newspapers, and other local media offer lists, maps, and guidelines.  Dr. Elizabeth Dunn, who teaches Global Disaster Management, Humanitarian Relief, and Homeland Security at the University of South Florida’s College of Public Health, offers some of all that to be sure—but the distinction of what she offered us in the recent 90-minute Zoom was what populations in our “bioregion” need in order to be prepared, safe, and connected. And most important—valued.

Due to her work at USF, her roles with the hurricane shelters, and her broad understanding of municipal resources, Elizabeth offered us a timely, comprehensive, compassionate overview. Hillsborough County has ethnically and racially diverse neighborhoods, overtaxed roadways, and is vulnerable to extreme coastal weather. All that makes for complicated hurricane readiness. Elizabeth’s ongoing understanding of refugee communities, unhoused individuals, neglected neighborhoods, and families struggling with complex stressors won’t be found in the local newspaper’s guidelines.

Instead, Elizabeth offers information that addresses what is between the lines of policy reports and standard guidelines.  From her work with the Refugee and Migrant Women Initiatives (RAMWI), she knows what shelters might receive recently arrived families, and where to find translators for effective communication. From her work with multiple community groups, she knows where the resources are in times of power outages.  At USF, her teaching is collaborative, experiential, and equitable, where the students learn in the community, not just the classroom.  That requires patient exploration of what is out there, and possible ways to connect all the moving parts when disaster hits.

This was not a pro forma PowerPoint slide deck-backed presentation.  Yes, of course there were slides with information, but the presentation dug deeper into what happens in a community when food, electricity, transportation, school, medical centers, work places, retail outlets, and other everyday connections are not accessible.

Elizabeth offered a presentation about reality, diversity, possibility, and resilience. We are grateful that Elizabeth spent time with us, and that she is a bright light in our Tampa Bay region. For more information contact (813) 974-3623.





Honoring the Life of Dr. Edgar S. Cahn: Timebanking Founder, Legal Scholar, Humanitarian

By Grace Maselli




Dr. Edgar S. Cahn left the world in better shape than he found it. The father of timebanking died Sunday, January 23, 2022 of heart disease. He was 86 years old, as reported in The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Edgar Cahn was many things to many people: in addition to being the creator of timebanking, he was a lawyer who helped thousands of poor Americans receive justice as the driven individual who catalyzed the emergence of public interest law. He co-founded the groundbreaking National Legal Services Program and Antioch Law School in Washington, D.C., now the David A. Clarke School of Law. He was the author of three important books, No More Throw Away People: The Co-Production Imperative; Time Dollars; and Our Brother’s Keeper: The Indian in White America. Edgar was also creator of the “Time Dollars” concept, a refreshed approach to currency enabling people to earn credits through hours of volunteer work; within this system, once hours are accumulated, people can spend those credits to receive services from other volunteers — a particularly useful way to build connections between timebankers, especially those living within economically depressed conditions.

Edgar Cahn’s work, compassionate intellect, and humanitarian drive to assist the disenfranchised, inspired Marie Nelson (pictured here on the left with him) to found and continuosly build our very own Tampa Bay Timebank until her death in 2021.

Edgar was also about beauty, particularly where flowers and plants were concerned. “He was an avid gardener,” Dr. Christine Gray says of her husband of 22 years. “Being Edgar, he had to blend the public and private, and made this a project that he said was a way to be a good neighbor.”

Edgar and Christine lived together in Washington, D.C. where their place became known locally as “the flower house.”

“Our flower show ran from late March through August every year, a kind of slow fireworks display, full of color, and changing configurations. Every day was different,” adds Chris, an independent scholar-practitioner, organizational consultant, and longstanding partner with Edgar in timebanking.

Last year was particularly abundant for reasons that started as accidental in Chris’s telling of a story. One of the couple’s annual rituals together was to get out flower catalogues in spring and fall to order hundreds of bulbs and other plants that Edgar would joyfully and diligently plant each year. “Last year we pre-ordered 800 spring bulbs, then forgot we had done that so ordered a whole different 800 bulbs in the fall. We were busy assigning places to plant the first set of bulbs when the new boxes suddenly started to arrive,” Chris says.

Undeterred, the gardeners went to town: “We planted them all. Stuffing bulbs into every little corner we could find,” says Chris. “When spring came it was amazing, the best show ever.” The COVID-19 pandemic meant public gardens in Washington, D.C. were more meager than usual. “So our show became a fallback for locals and their visiting friends. Whenever we walked out the door, there would be people wandering up and down the sidewalk, taking photos, talking to each other. We would meet people from all over the United States.”

“This year I’m going to put up a little plaque commemorating Edgar’s passing, because so many people would recognize him as the man doing the gardening, even if they didn’t know him,” says Chris, pictured here in an embrace with her husband.

Those of us at TBT are indebted to Edgar. Not only for his intelligence, but his tenderness and life dedicated to the betterment of others, including us. The world has lost an irreplaceable humanitatrian who applied his gifts for the advancement of others. The effects of Dr. Edgar Cahn’s work and community-building will resonate for generations to come.


Tis the Season for Appreciation, Even If You’re Not in the Mood

By Grace Maselli

Tis the Season for Appreciation, Even If You’re Not in the Mood

Sure, it’s arguably not easy to be thankful. Especially given this déjà vu thing: The holiday season in 2021 means staring wide-eyed into the prospect of another tenacious COVID-19 mutation, ominous omicron, alongside a climate of vaccine hesitancy. These 20 or so intense months since March 2020 have resulted in more than 5 millions deaths worldwide from the dreaded virus.

But we here at TBT choose to keep moving. To keep doing what we can in our own backyard to make a positive difference—despite the swirls of uncertainty caused by the pandemic and so much more.

This starts with our very own TBT Coordinator, Rita Cobbs. Rita saved the life of an abandoned and precious dog, Lacey, pictured below in her new home with Rita. Lacey is a beautiful girl who’s been taken into the fold by several timebank members after Rita’s call for support to keep the Lacey well exercised and happily frolicking. So TBT members and friends have been taking Lacey on jaunts here an there, walking her in Tampa Bay Area parks, and doggie sitting too on a recent occassion when Rita spent a lush holiday trip with her family in town from Wyoming. Because after all, it takes a village to do it right.



But this is just one of many mitzvahs engineered by TBT and its leadership team, members, and volunteers who remain grateful for their homes, and health, and the food they’re able to eat. Following are a few 2021 highlights, but certainly not an exhaustive list:

  • Attended a Community Pet Project fundraiser event, helping to distribute pet food for homeless persons.
    Several members fostered dogs through the Lucky Ones Rescue.
  • Collaborated with the Life Enrichment Center to promote monthly online member programs and classes.
  • Joined forces with Lutheran Services Florida to organize clothing and household goods for donation and distribution to refugee families in the Tampa Bay Area.
  • Partnered with Radiant Hands to gather and bring furniture donation to arriving Afghan refugees.
  • Worked alongside the Refugee & Migrant Women’s Initiative, Inc. to promote services and activities devoted to refugee women, including assembled donations of 56 self-care baskets of personal items and a monthly Zoom support call.
  • Brainstorming and information sharing online with a Georgia permaculturist to support minority farmers.
  • Hosted an online Celebration of Life and outdoor potluck in Phillipe Park for TBT founder Marie Nelson.
  • Hosted a members’ decluttering workshop and financial literacy workshop, among many others.

In the spirit of the pending new year, all of us here at TBT wish you new, joyous beginnings and deepening connections to your local communities, where ever they are.




Change: The Only Certainty

By Grace Maselli


by Tanya Markul

The pain
that made you
the odd one out
is the story
that connects you
to a healing world.

An abrupt (or slower-to-manifest life change)—whether because of a major move, job loss, natural disasters, or perhaps the most difficult to adjust to, the death of someone beloved—can feel unimagineable. It can feel to the person going through the experience of quantum shock that the “me” he’s known for many years is gone, replaced by a phantom. It can take months or years, sometimes, for confusion to turn to acceptance, or trauma to subside. For some people, acceptance of changes large and small can be more or less difficult; this may depend on how attuned a person is to this mortal coil’s impermanence.

In her beautiful book, Wake Up Grateful, The Transformative Practice of Taking Nothing for Granted by Kristi Nelson, the author poignantly writes, “Getting comfortable with impermanence allows us to more deeply appreciate all the things we do not want to take for granted—our body, emotions, relationships, and mystery. There are few things more certain than the fact that we will experience change and loss in many aspects of our lives and, ultimately, loss of our own life.” The reference to mystery, and the idea that nothing in this life is promised to us, is particularly moving.

“Stop thinking of change as interruption to a story; the story was always going to change, many times. It was never guaranteed,” says Maggie Smith in, Keep Moving, Notes on Loss, Creativity, and Change, adding, “In fact, only change is guaranteed. Expect it today, and from now on.”

Sometimes acceptance of what’s in our control to manage and what’s completely out of our control can be a way to deal with overwhelming change. When change feels unmanageable, reaching out to support systems, TBT friends or people throughout the Florida Timebanks network, can make the difference. There are moments when a connection to someone willing to spend quality time listening deeply to our pain can tip the balance in the direction of our ability to endure difficulty.

It’s what Markul’s poem Eleven aims to express. You don’t have to run from the pain of change and the humanness that allows a person to feel.  Sharing grief with others holds the promise of what can “connect you to a healing world.” And as Kristi Nelson writes, change, and the grief that can often attend it, “is the cost of loving and respecting life, our Earth and all its inhabitants, and our values of fairness, safety, justice, love, and dignity…The more we love, the more we courageously commit to walking through life thin-skinned, bound to the full range of how much the heart can feel, break, and break itself open—ultimately into even greater wholeness.”


Destined to Succeed Despite a Pandemic

By Grace Maselli

Given the public health push to vaccinate, for one shimmering moment in spring we thought we’d beaten back COVID-19. Then came the Delta variant and whammo—the trauma continues, with social distancing, mask wearing, and other survival behaviors and more forced change set in motion yet again.

Our own TBT had high hopes for in-person community and educational events. But like the rest of us, we hit the reset button and we’re back to Zooming and digesting life during a pandemic.

Despite the intensity of what communities and timebanks have lived through since early 2020, TBT was recently notified by hOurworld that we’re ranked in the Top Two internationally out of more than 400 timebanks around the globe for activity and exchanges, undeterred by lockdowns and enforced shut-ins. hOurworld is an international network of timebanks—an online system—where people log or bank the number of hours for which they provide exchanges to other members; the system likewise lets members keep a running tally of the hours spent receiving services provided by their member peers.

News of our happy catapult to the Number Two slot came at us like an adrenalin-pumped surprise party. Gratitude for the ranking goes to Coordinator Rita Cobbs and the TBT Leadership Team, including some serious volunteer and community development chops from Leadership member Christina Bellamy. Rita keeps the full head of steam on our timebank partnerships and collaborations, trainings, brainstorming sessions with Leadership, and the group’s collective energy for moving through the sticky parts of problem solving in the synergistic process.

“We’ve had to continually ask ourselves, ‘How do we build on discussions and idea sharing from diverse experiences and points of view when we can’t meet face-to-face?’ and ‘What do want to learn together’?” Rita says, using technology as an enabling tool.

This extends to our regular Third Tuesday membership and guest meetings. The next one on Tuesday, September 21, will focus on financial literacy, budgeting, and more; presenter will be Faith Wilson, Financial Advisor at Edward Jones in Clearwater. The educational event runs from 6:30 to 8 PM with a Zoom link sent to members and guests closer to the September date. For questions, or to get on the Zoom routing list, text Rita at 608-335-3383 or send an email to: rcobbs@sum.net.

Ideas for future Third Tuesday Zoom topics are always welcome!

A Pearl of a Partnership

By Grace Maselli

Fun, independence, and a daily sense of discovery. These are the values driving the community partnership between the Tampa Bay Timebank and Pearlena’s Adult Activity Center in Tampa. Just like the dynamic, mature seniors in each organization, the association aims to make the most of every day by bringing people together for timebank exchanges, nurturing connections and creative passions—everything from gemstone and jewelry collecting to woodworking and piano playing.

Representatives of TBT’s leadership team recently offered a timebanking how-to presentation to Pearlena members and happily signed a number of the latter to the TBT member roster. The connection between the two organization’s is an organic one, with TBT’s emphasis on social vitality and community—valuing all members of society—echoed in Pearlena’s mission statement, “To provide older adults an opportunity to receive mental, emotional, social, and physical stimulation.”

Katrina Osborne pictured here is Pearlena’s Administrator and actively engaged in the collaborative efforts between Pearlena’s and TBT with Coordinator Rita Cobbs and Leadership Team Member, Christina Bellamy. Katrina’s mother Arlena Chisholm is the Owner and Founder of the organization and named the senior center in her mother Pearlena’s honor.

“I have had a concern for Seniors who idly live alone for many years, desiring to create a place where they could frequent to socialize with others and participate in activities that will add value to their lives,” Arlena says. “My adoration for Seniors and my desire to honor my mother’s memory has been my long-term motivation,” she adds.

“It is a blessing to be able to encourage others to have a better quality of life and lift someone’s spirits,” Pearlena’s granddaughter Katrina says.

The kinship between TBT and Pearlena’s is now part of the local melting pot nourishing the idea of members staying active and developing friendships.

Maintaining vigorous social networks advances healthy aging, evidence-informed research tells us. Community connections and lifelong learning are among the best ways to reduce the risk of cognitive decline, a circumstance that respondents feared most about old age, according to a ­Con­sumer Reports’ survey of 2,066 Americans age 50 who also placed a high value on maintaining quality of life into retirement and well beyond. Here here!