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
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
The Tampa Bay Timebank Leadership Team has been as busy as 80,000 honey bees in a colony. No kidding. They’ve been envisioning, planning, writing, and doing—all along the way sweetening the connections between and among our 549 members. This includes a focus on areas of expansion.
This unfolding expansion, dear member, is where you can earn TBT hours for your activities—and exchanges—with fellow members by moving as the bees do: productively (and “in the context of ‘electric fields’!” It’s all true!).
Our all-volunteer org means no paid staff or central office. No Gal Friday. What we do have: several coordinators managing the website and handling organizational planning. All other activity is generated by you, valued member, for members. And because we charge no fees, TBT relies on volunteer energy and donations whenever materials or cash are inevitably required.
What follows are some significant areas of interest that TBT would like to expand to meet organizational need. Some categories are only bubbling ideas at the present moment—or, significantly, they’re being handled by just one person.
So here’s the thing, if you’d like to get involved, don’t hesitate. Be like the bee and getta move on with another person or small group. Jump into something that maps to your passion or skills or both. We’re all ears and also open to hearing suggestions that may not be on this list. So please let us know what strikes your fancy and we’ll attempt to make it happen.
In the mean time, take a look through our Action Groups list and each category’s quick description to see what you think. To get things rolling or ask questions, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Administration Action Group
Handles administrative necessities including paperwork and phone calls.
- Community and Group Projects Action Group
Engages in community service.
• Co-Production Action Group
Helps other organizations with their projects.
• Education Action Group
Either attends or offers educational workshops.
- Emergency Services Action Group
Volunteers to help in an emergency. Those with medical credentials can use them. Others may offer transportation, phone contacts, or general support. We’d like people to join in various geo areas so we always have people nearby to call.
- Entertainment Action Group
Selects fun things to do for members and schedules open social events. It is a good way to get to know other members before making exchanges.
- Events Action Group
Puts on events around the area, such as Gathering with a Purpose and Introductory events. Support staff is always needed.
- Field Trips and Travel Group
Plans trips and tours around town.
- Marketing Group
Handles TBT marketing and advertising.
- Membership Action Group
Keeps in regular contact with members.
- Monthly Program Gatherings Action Group
Designs monthly programs held at Tampa’s Life Enrichment Center. Support is always helpful. Participants arrange speakers, food, transportation, and communications.
- Orientation Group
A trained group of people to help new members get acquainted with the website and members.
- Social Adventures Action Group
Selects fun things to do for members and schedules open social events and tours, for example. It is a good way to get to know other members before making exchanges.
- Social Justice Action Group
Involvement in specific social justice action-oriented projects.
- Social Media Group
Manages the Facebook group and other social media activities and announcements.
- Speakers Group
Makes presentations to various organizations about timebanking.
- Spiritual Study Group
People interested in metaphysics and spirituality who attend various local study groups and events.
- Technology Group
Helps with all the TBT technical requirements, including computer repair, setting up equipment for events, finding necessary equipment and connections for various media purposes, providing software assistance, photography, film-making, and more.
- Trainers Action Group
Trained trainers who carry out various programs such as formal orientations, introductory workshops, Gathering with a Purpose workshops etc.
- Transportation Group
Helps people who cannot drive to attend TBT events and sometimes arranges for personal travel needs.
- Welcome New Members Action Group
As the name implies, members of this group welcome new members via phone calls and small get-togethers to help new members become oriented and connected with existing members. Group members also help to facilitate new exchanges.
Readers can also support our Florida timebanks by donating equipment and supplies and cash for needed items. Among our ongoing requirements: supplies for potlucks and events, (think, paper plates, utensils, napkins, paper towels, pens, paper, name tags, office supplies, color printing, and bottled water). You get the idea! If you have things lying around that you don’t need and that you think TBT could use, please let us know by contacting email@example.com. We’re eternally grateful!
By Grace Maselli
Ho ho ho’s, Festivals of Light, and Kwanzaa—Swahili for the “first” harvest’s premier fruits. At TBT, our hearts are open to all holiday traditions in their myriad and distinctive forms. To honor variety and community connection, please join us for this year’s Third Tuesday festive December gathering where we’ll come together to share food and make ornaments of all persuasions. Bring your favorite holiday dish to share—from pecan crusted green bean casseroles to turkey pot pies and everything in between—and toss any art supplies you’re comfortable gluing, taping, whittling, or whatnot in a bag and head to Tampa’s Life Enrichment Center. That’s where we’ll hang out, make stuff, and eat. And per our own time-honored tradition, we’ll expend some valuable energy talking about timebanking and the beauty of exchanges to enrich life across our subtropical landscapes. Make it merry, make it light, bring your friends and neighbors to celebrate and be bright with TBT!
|Date||Tuesday, December 17, 2019|
|Address||Life Enrichment Center
9704 North Boulevard, Tampa, FL 33612; phone: 813.932.0241
|Questions?||Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call (215) 834-4567 and reference our 2019 Holiday potluck at LEC|
By Grace Maselli
That’s right. It was a commotion. A happy fuss. A bit of an uproar complete with panpoolers, pantookers, and drums. Well, drums and symbols and sound effects, to be sure, from folks blowing into glass bottles and making rhythms with clackers and castanets. TBT’s Thanksgiving Friendsgiving celebration last night at Tampa’s Life Enrichment Center rattled the beautiful art on the walls just a tad when post-meal musical improv—complete with OM chanting and time for storytelling—made for lush community connection and singalong (sans the bonfire). The vibrations and reverberations, the cling clang and bing bong and laughs, stirred the soul with the energy to “bring about social change.” We were led by our fearless presenter and longstanding member, Karen Lowman, who got the notes flowing after she answered guests’ questions about timebanking, exchanges, and the ins and outs of how it all works. And of course there was food. Crock pots bubbled and veggies lay in wait to be snarfed. Bundtinis and pies, chocolate and treats, were shared by all.
Stay tuned for holiday festivities slated for our Third Tuesday in December on the 17th when we’ll make homemade ornaments at the Life Enrichment Center (Yippee Ki-Yay!) .
Of course, that physicality matters. (It’s easier to pull weeds or dust a timebanker’s ceiling fan in an exchange if that person lives in your proverbial backyard.) But community is also about something arguably even more intimate: identity. Longstanding TBT member Christina Bellamy’s personalized presentation at last month’s Third Tuesday gathering on October 15 opened a dialogue about all this and more. Using timebanking’s “Gathering with a Purpose” model, Christina stirred interactive conversation; she opened up a casual discourse with emphasis on the warmth and connection that characterizes timebanking’s priority, people and their collective and individual value as community members—or as writer Megan Garber wrote a couple of years ago in The Atlantic, “Community…is not merely something that one fits into; it is also something one chooses for oneself, through a process of self-discovery.”
Christina’s October 15 talk took a deeper dive—a spelunking exploration into what timebank vibe means to the whole and, to cite Megan Garber again, what it means as part of a journey toward self-discovery. There’s a wealth of motivation to explain why people get involved. Some reasons have are economic. Others have nothing to do with dollars and cents. Because in timebanking, “currency” is measured—earned and spent—in timebank hours. And for those on a budget, or with limited and fixed incomes, this can be an exceedingly helpful advantage because we can still get our needs met and also help others in the same way, even when we can’t afford it in greenbacks. For others, there’s motivation to widen the circle of good friends, enriching an experience of community along the way. And for others still, a non-material, spiritual (metaphysical, ineffable, sometimes sacred) energy compels involvement. Sometimes it’s all of the above: a desire to support others, be supported, and know intrinsically that timebanking’s ethos is real and can be felt when we all have a chance to feel valued and offer something in return.
By Grace Maselli
Hard to believe it’s Turkey Time again! Members and friends, join us at a shared, festive, pre-Thanksgiving potluck table where young and old alike (and everything in between) are whole-heartedly and timebank-style welcome. We’d love to see you in Tampa for this year’s “Friendsgiving” where we’ll be serving up goodies and gratitude. So bring a fun dish to share! Here’s the down-low on the not-so-skinny holiday:
|Date||Tuesday, November 19, 2019|
|Address||Life Enrichment Center
9704 North Boulevard, Tampa, FL 33612; phone: 813.932.0241
|Questions?||Contact email@example.com or call (215) 834-4567 and reference our Thanksgiving potluck at LEC|
It’s jewelry time. Bring yer stuff. Swap some rings, bracelets, necklaces, baubles. Brooches, gems, treasures, charms. Join us soon on Tuesday, June 18—our Third Tuesday of Every Month member-and-guest meeting and orientation. We hang out at Tampa’s Life Enrichment Center (LEC). Our Third Tuesdays are part of TBT’s revitalization initiative to dispatch our efforts further into the community.
And, sure, this Third Tuesday, we’ll be a little preoccupied with costume jewelry—and even take a crack at some jewelry repair with our needle-nosed pliers and tiny hammers and such. So bring what you have and pitch in. Swap some shiny trinkets. And for the menfolk (and women who are into it), bring your big old corn knife and hay cutter machete. Bring yer fruit scissors and pruning loppers and toss in some stories about how you lopped and carved and ate fruit. Or just bring some pliers to potentially trade. It’s all about connection and fun. And per our prime directive: This month, as always, we’re dedicated to education around our mission—exchanges, as explained here in our flyer!
|Date||Tuesday, June 18, 2019|
|Address||LEC: 9704 North Boulevard, Tampa, FL 33612; phone: 813.932.0241|
|Questions?||Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 608.335.2382