The Umpqua Valley Time Exchange

Montana / Aug. 7, 2012 / by The Team

In Roseburg, Oregon, a community has come together with an innovative way of encouraging people to volunteer their time to help others: by paying them in ‘time dollars.’ The Umpqua Valley Time Exchange repays its volunteers with a time dollar for every hour they spend volunteering their time. 

One of many ‘time banks’ across the country, the UVTE was set up to encourage volunteering and to reward those who do so. Peter Smith, a board member, says that “everyone’s time is valued equally. No matter what you do, no matter your profession, an hour of my time is worth an hour of your time.”

Using an online system, volunteers can log the hours they have spent helping others, keeping an accurate record of their growing account of time dollars. They also use that portal to advertise their own free time and find others who need their help. 

Smith explains that he “can go online and say ‘hey, I need my lawn mowed this month - if anyone can do that, that’d be great’ or I can go on and say ‘hey, I’m willing to clean someone’s gutters or I’m willing to fix someone’s car’ or whatever my abilities are, I can offer those.”

With approximately 350 members, UVTE is still growing but already provides a great resource for people who want to volunteer and for those who need help. Smith says that  UVTE is “an opportunity to start volunteering ... before, I would volunteer but not nearly as often as I have been with the Time Exchange. I think the opportunities are more apparent, they’re right there in front of you.” 

Smith himself began helping “an elderly lady who needed just some computer help” and from there he was able to help her with a whole list of other things that needed doing around the home.  

She “wasn’t able to do by herself and that took me five minutes to do,” says Smith. “It wasn’t a lot of effort on my part but on her part, she got a lot out of that.”

The time exchange system helps with people who feel afraid to ask for assistance from others. It “breaks down that barrier of people asking for help,” explains Smith. “It makes it a little easier for people that actually need that help to ask for that help.”

If someone has accumulated a large number of time dollars, then asking for several people to help with painting a house or moving no longer becomes an unreasonable or guilt-inducing request. 

“If you think about what you need done around the house right now, if you think ‘oh my roof needs repaired’, chances are there’s someone who’s a part of the Time Exchange who does roof repair. So if you have a few time dollars or if you spent that time to volunteer your time to earn a few time dollars, you can have that work done for you.”

“The Umpqua Valley Time Exchange has a wide range of volunteer opportunities. Basically, whatever people need, wherever there’s an unmet need, there’s an opportunity to volunteer.” The events they have range from people who need “yard work done, people needing mechanical work on their car” to a horse sanctuary and food bank that people can volunteer with.  

The UVTE also acts as a great resource for local non-profits who can use the time exchange as a way to find more volunteers to help them. Smith emphasizes that “whatever you can do, whatever you can offer, whatever your talents or abilities are, that’s something that you can offer to the Time Exchange.”

Far from being simply a volunteering service, the UVTE brings their community together, introducing people as they volunteer for each other, as well as with their ‘member mingle’ and potluck events. It creates a community around volunteering and emphasizes the social aspect to helping others. 

“As soon as someone finds out about the time exchange, a light bulb goes on, it makes sense to them so I think the more people that we can have find out about the Time Exchange, the more members we’ll have. And that just increases that pool of people that are helping each other, that people have access to,” says Smith. 

To learn more about the UVTE, visit their website, their page on the time banking website, and their Facebook page