Athenians Trade Time For Skills

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An 80-year-old seamstress prides herself in maintaining the practice of a trade not many younger generations master. She whips up curtains in exchange for computer help.

The Athens Time Exchange, or ATX, allows people to swap home-sewn curtains for hardware backups or legal advice for newly-crafted table legs.

The bartering system relies on an old tradition in which community members ditch the usual monetary system, and instead, exchange goods and services among one another.

“It’s building on the old tradition of neighbors helping neighbors, only now we can keep track of it on a website,” said Beth Clodfelter, ATX Coordinator. Clodfelter spoke at the Alden Library Winter Culture Showcase Series recently.

Time exchanges first sprouted with Edgar Cahn. In the late 1980s, Cahn began the Time Dollars projects after working with former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. The program promotes systems of self-help within communities.

A Time Dollar trades one hour of service for one credit. Time spent cooking, mowing lawns, buying food and other errands are the valuables traded in a time exchange.

Clodfelter calls these everyday tasks the things that make us human.

“What’s exciting to me is the number of exchanges keeps growing and growing and growing, as people get more comfortable,” Clodfelter said.

Angie Hawk Maiden, Appalachian Center for Economic Networks President and CEO, was eager to learn more about ATX, which formally kicked off in May.

ACEnet works at putting local food products on nearby Kroger shelves and restaurant menus, hoping to keep community profits closer to home.

“I’m excited to learn about what they [ATX] are doing,” said Maiden. “It’ll be interesting to see what they’re up to.”

Tax consultations, Quicken training, haircuts, clothes mending, bike repairs, and a little plumbing, also pad the lists.

Although Clodfelter joked, “We could really use a [professional] plumber.”

A self-declared cheesecake deliverer and computer repairman, fellow ATX Coordinator Adam Yulish said participants are not stuck in one set trade.

Members upload any two-hour service they wish, and it can be different each time, in exchange for any other two-hour service.

He said members tend to be more giving than greedy.

With a 95 percent success rate, locals often log more service hours than requests before seeking help.

“Those pair of pants sitting in the corner of the room that I haven’t been able to wear for a year because the pockets are blown out… Maybe I can reach out to someone and get that fixed,” Yulish said.

Rare requests range from translating a Russian letter from one woman’s grandfather, which surprised Yulish and Clodfelter by being answered within just a few hours, to a standing request for a protest choreographer.

“What’s common place for one person is rare for someone else,” said Yulish.

The Athens Time Exchange has an application and screening process for those interested in participating, as well as an orientation and yearly $5 fee once accepted into the program.