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A citizen's view: La Conner residents will benefit from a time bank

In 2010 Christchurch, New Zealand was devastated by two magnitude 7 earthquakes only days apart. Buildings were shaken to the ground; roadbeds overturned; water pipes snapped, etc. Nearby, the hamlet of Littleton, a town somewhat larger but like La Conner, was similarly shaken. But Littleton had a secret: a neighborly system of sharing services hour for hour they called a “time bank.” When Littleton’s 300 time bankers heard about an elderly couple being left homeless by the quake, the time bankers found the couple a temporary home and tapped their available services bank to set about reclaiming the couple’s original home. Earthquake recovery organizations, both private and governmental, used the time bank’s organizational tools to distribute their aid and keep people informed.

Though the challenges were considerable, the town of Littleton did recover – faster and cheaper than surrounding communities – and everyone seems to credit the time bank for that achievement.

Even without the subducting “big one” that news media is preoccupied with, La Conner sits closer to earthquake faults that have historically released magnitude 7 earthquakes. A shake of that magnitude would very likely sever the town’s water supply and not play nice with our electricity and gas lines. Our older buildings of non­ reinforced masonry or wood framed but not fastened to their foundations could suffer major damage. Food and medical sources would likely be interrupted.

We would have to turn to one another. Why wait? Let’s form a La Conner Time Bank. Maybe the disaster will never come. Great! We’ll still have a dandy, coordinated way for neighbors to lend each other a hand and get to know one another better.

See for yourself: Go to Google; type in” Littleton time bank.” You will be connected to a TED talk by an American researcher who was studying Littleton’s time bank when the earthquakes happened.

If this notion intrigues you send a note with contact information to La Conner Time Bank, PO Box 2102, La Conner, WA 98257.

Jerry George serves as a member of La Conner’s Emergency Management Commission.


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