By Grace Maselli
Virginia Rieck Warren says this about the time bank concept: “I think it’s a totally helpful thing.”
Time banking—an exchange system where the currency is time or the “person-hour,” spreads value equally across all tasks provided and received, whether that means an hour spent cleaning a garage, or 60 minutes devoted to poring over numbers, actuarial-style.
“I feel like you need balancing forces in the world,” says 30-year-old Virginia, a full-time Safety Harbor, FL. resident since April 2017, and a member of TBT since August 2017. Some of that balance can come in the form of the time bank’s quid pro quo time-and-task exchange. “There’s a lot of energy directed toward our capitalistic system, which is fine,” Virginia notes, but it’s also nice to have a counterweight, she believes. “Capitalism doesn’t always value all the important work people do. I believe time banks channel and honor this importance.”
It was Virginia’s education that first brought her into contact with time banks. In December 2017 she graduated with a Master of Public Health from the Colorado School of Public Health, a consortium of three schools: University of Colorado, Colorado State University, and the University of Northern Colorado, and located in “the heart of the Rocky Mountain West.” Virginia’s public health concentration was on leadership within the practice of public health as it could be applied in a county public health department or non-profit, let’s say. She also focused on disease awareness, management, and cessation of cigarette smoking and has been at work on developing an evidence-based computer and phone app to help change smokers’ behavior; the aim is to drive positive health outcomes funded by a grant to address the public health medical condition known now as, “Tobacco Use Disorder.”
“I learned about time banking for the first time in a class I took in my Master of Public Health program, as an intervention, and I was immediately compelled by it,” says Virginia. [“In addition to providing a platform for the exchange of different types of social support among individuals, time banks have a beneficial effect on a systemic level. In fact, there is published research indicating that time banks have the capacity to increase social capital: When people help one another, community connections are strengthened, and those community connections make towns and cities more resilient. From a public health standpoint, this is great. That’s why I wanted to join the TBT,” says Virginia, who’s been married to husband Michael Warren for nearly six years. She went to undergraduate school at Duke University in North Carolina where she majored in cultural anthropology, with minors in information science and education.
Virginia hails from a small town in Texas, Menard, about three hours west of San Antonio. But she’s no stranger to Florida. “I spent every summer of my life until age 18 with my family at my mother’s parents’ home in Daytona,” says Virginia, who’s in Safety Harbor now partly as an homage to her coveted days as a younger beach bum, and partly to escape the Rocky Mountain cold.
Virginia’s offerings to the TBT include in-home reading to the elderly, writing critiques for people age 16 and older, and health coaching—as a public health professional and certified personal trainer, helping people take positive steps toward healthier behaviors is of interest to her.
She’s also got a burgeoning side gig—a “personal history services” website Virginia built herself to serve people—families and friends—thinking about recording oral histories, conversations, as remembrances. “It would be so meaningful to share our grandparents’ and parents’ stories with new generations of people,” an idea that Virginia says was inspired in part by time banking with its emphasis on interchange and sharing and community. “People are wired for connection,” Virginia says.