TimeBank Volunteers Build Savings That Reward Service

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The ArchCare TimeBank is not a bank, at least not in the traditional sense of the word. Instead, it’s a place where you store time—and the more time you give, the more you get in return.
The TimeBank employs a simple system. For each hour a volunteer gives to the program, an hour of service is earned. With more than 1,000 volunteer members in the archdiocese, that adds up to quite a lot of service hours—more than 17,000 since 2014.
“The TimeBank is a resource for assistance with day-to-day activities, but it also enhances the richness and the quality of life for the people involved,” said Mashi Blech, director of the ArchCare TimeBank, in an interview with Catholic New York last month.
The TimeBank is a neighborhood-based program that operates in Washington Heights, the Lower East Side and Battery Park City, all in Manhattan, and in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. It runs under the auspices of ArchCare, the archdiocese’s continuing care system. ArchCare provides home care, short-term rehabilitation, nursing home and end of life care as well as specialized care.
“Since ArchCare is always looking for innovative ways for keeping people healthy and active, it’s a wonderful fit,” Ms. Blech said.
The TimeBank services that people provide are as varied as the program’s participants. People can offer classes in calligraphy, English, cooking or even lead trips to museums if that is their passion. They can volunteer to do light housekeeping, friendly visiting with shut-ins or even change light bulbs for those who can’t.
Others help to transport wheelchair-bound patients in ArchCare medical facilities to Sunday Mass.
“It doesn’t matter how old you are, how much you earn or what language you speak. Everyone is valued and has something to offer,” Ms. Blech said.
The age group with the highest rate of participation is 60 to 69 years old. Yet, there are members who are under 12 years old.
“People can give what they want, when they want. For every hour they contribute, they earn an hour. They can redeem that for an hour of service,” Ms. Blech said. The only requirement that people need is passion and a basic knowledge of the subject matter. In most cases, the schedule is flexible.”
Before ArchCare took over the TimeBank, it was operated by the Visiting Nurse Service of New York and had been at imminent risk of closure.
Two volunteers with the ArchCare TimeBank, Jane Hidalgo of the Bronx and Marlyn Alvarez of Manhattan, have both been longtime members.
Ms. Hidalgo has recorded 250 hours of service and has received 117 hours of service.
Ms. Alvarez has served 410 hours and received 150 hours in return. When Ms. Hidalgo had spinal surgery five months ago and transferred to Schervier Nursing Home in the Bronx after being released from the hospital, Ms. Alvarez visited her each morning.
“I’m thankful I was able to be with her when she had surgery,” Ms. Alvarez said. “I have known many people who have been in the hospital.
“Early in the morning, it’s very important to have someone to help you with breakfast, to comb your hair and help you brush your teeth,” she added.
“It’s so important to have that support,” she said. “You need individual care to come in and see to all these little things.”
Ms. Hidalgo said, “Without the TimeBank, I couldn’t be where I am now. My family is very small. The people from the TimeBank helped me during the difficult times in my life.”
She and Ms. Alvarez eventually became good friends.
“She was there, taking me to the appointments before the surgery, and visited early in the morning every day after my surgery,” Ms. Hidalgo said. “She was there every day to see me at the nursing home for two weeks.”
Forever grateful to the TimeBank, she said the people there have become like a second family to her.
“I learn a lot from the workshops and the people. I will always be there. I feel fantastic sharing with the members,” Ms. Hidalgo said.
Ms. Alvarez is repaying her friend by teaching Ms. Hidalgo how to use a computer.
“For me, the TimeBank is a way of keeping busy. I’m retired. It’s a wonderful program to be involved with because there is so much to choose from,” Ms. Hidalgo said.
“Helping others in little ways is what we are put on this earth for,” she said. “It’s life. It’s part of life to give back. I give and I get back.”

The TimeBank welcomes members from all New York City neighborhoods, with a focus on Washington Heights, Inwood, Lower East Side, Chinatown and Battery Park City in Manhattan, and Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Members must attend an enrollment session. Information: (844) 880-4480 or email archcaretimebank@archcare.org.

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