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
Unless you’ve been under a rock, dear reader, then you know about the pandemic—Covid-19—and how it’s changed daily life. For reliable info, members of the Tampa Bay Timebank turn to recommendations from leading national public health institutes, namely the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And if you might be feeling “plague dread,” as coined by The Atlantic, you can find some tips here for staying sane.
But remember too, there’s still room for gratitude amidst the bewilderment of life gone topsy-turvy. (Think: “Hey, I may still be able to get food delivered to my door,” “I can take a walk,” [for those of us this may apply to], and “I can listen to a groovy podcast.”) About that last one, check out the Good News Network’s “Inspiring Corona Virus Kindness Updates” to blow some much-needed fresh air up your trousers.
Or for a quick pick-me-up, call a TBT friend or a neighbor to let them know they’re on your mind and in your heart. Because after all, we’re in this together. Even if (to varying degrees) we can’t be in the same room right now. And in the spirit of community and living life one day at a time, here’s to hygienic hand-washing and common sense for all of us.
By Grace Maselli
Check this out from the History Channel: “While some believe that Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine’s death or burial—which probably occurred around A.D. 270—others claim that the Christian church may have decided to place St. Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February in an effort to ‘Christianize’ the pagan celebration of Lupercalia. Celebrated at the ides of February, or February 15, Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.”
So, in honor of paganalia and crop production, they’re’ll be a TBT Valentine’s Potluck on Sunday, February 16 from 3 to 6 PM. Wear your heart on your sleeve or on a special V-Day T-shirt! Bring your So-Easy Coq au Vin to share or other Vintage Valentine’s Day classics: Salmon Mousse Canapes, Baked Oysters with Tasso Cream (whatever Tasso Cream is), Crown Roast with Apricot Dressing, or luscious Fudge Tort. Or if it’s easier, bring Mac ‘n Cheese and black olives on all of your fingers and thumbs. They’ll go well with the paper plates and plasticware.
And while it’s true that the potluckaroo is five weeks and five days away from this writing, time flies. So mark your calendar for some conviviality and the making of a holiday in your image of what it means! Bring your favorite love poem or ballad to read aloud. Bring a haiku or an ode. A quatrain or free verse. We’re open to Roman gods, creative expression, and food.
|Date||Sunday, February 16, 2019|
|Time||3 to 6 PM|
|Address||2128 Park Crescent Drive
Land O Lakes, FL 34639
|Questions?||Contact Grace at (215) 834.4567 and reference the Valentine’s Potluck
By Grace Maselli
Timebanking and Dr. Chris Gray are two peas in a simpatico pod. On September 15 our affiliated Florida timebanks got a big, happy boost when more than 30 people came together in Pinellas County to participate in Dr. Gray’s interactive workshop titled, Gathering with a Purpose. A 20-year advocate and Timebanks USA Board Member advancing the “sharing economy”—the neighbor-helping-neighbor defining the ethos and driving the event, Dr. Gray traveled from the Washington, D.C. home she shares with spouse and timebanks founder, Dr. Edgar Cahn.
In a nutshell, Dr. Gray explained timebanking as a service exchange system that uses time as its currency. Instead of greenbacks, timebank members exchange “person hours” doing stuff they love to do: From re-potting someone’s plants to giving her a ride to the doctor, it’s all part of people coming together to help and connect and exchange “services.” Professionals can participate too through their organizations or as individuals to offer exchanges in the form of legal advice, tax prep, medical appointments, dental care, and more. People exchange service credit hours and record them in an online system to keep track.
Born in the U.K. and educated at UCLA, Dr. Gray’s Meeting Map took us from these timebanking basics through to action steps—the proverbial “how-to” of hosting a Gathering with a Purpose event in your own neighborhood. Everything from organizing materials and distributing fliers ahead of time to room set-up and tech support. With equal sincerity and verve she dove into the issues of community sustenance and “relational needs,” otherwise known as the good feeling vibes that come from being a human helping another human, and sometimes even the spiritual buzz that such connections may bring. She discussed the vital interplay between giving and receiving. “When we can allow ourselves to receive as well as give, we do our part to keep the channels of abundance open for ourselves and others,” according to the work of author Madisyn Taylor shared by Dr. Gray at the event. Dr. Gray’s own doctoral thesis was written on the subject of Native Americans, Tribal Matters: The Journey of American Indian Tribes in American Political Development.
To learn even more, check out a conversation between thought leaders Dr. Chris and hubby Edgar and the Timebanks USA “chief focus,” which is “to seek out and work with individuals, associations, and organizations…to achieve more just, more sustainable communities.” Explore Gathering with a Purpose by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org or call 608.335.2382.
In his book No More Throw-Away People, Edgar Cahn listed four values that stand at the heart of successful timebanking and have stood the test of time. Later, he added a fifth.
Asset?– Every one of us has something of value to share with someone else.
Redefining Work – There are some forms of work that money will not easily pay for, like building strong families, revitalizing neighborhoods, making democracy work, advancing social justice. Time credits were designed to reward, recognize and honor that work.
Reciprocity – The question: “How can I help you?” needs to change so we ask: “Will you help someone too?” Paying it forward ensures that, together, we help each other build the world we all will live in.
Community/Social Networks – Helping each other, we reweave communities of support, strength & trust. Community is built by sinking roots, building trust, creating networks.
Respect – The heart and soul of democracy lies in respect for others. We strive to respect where people are in the moment, not where we hope they will be at some future point.