Local group holds inaugural ShareFest event

YOUNGSTOWN – For people who think it is fair to get an hour back for every hour donated to one’s community, the Mahoning Valley ShareFest is for them.

Held on Saturday at First Presbyterian Church of Youngstown, the inaugural ShareFest was a chance for Time Bank Mahoning Watershed, the coordinators of the event, to put their core belief on display: Everyone has something to offer.

The concept behind the Time Bank Mahoning Watershed is that sharing one hour of time to help a member of the community should be rewarded with an hour of help from someone else.

They’re called “time credits,” and they are the cornerstone of what Time Bank CEO Tony Budak calls “the new sharing economy.”

“We are not a barter organization because we really believe in forming connections and ‘paying it forward’ more so than just exchanging services,” Budak said.

“We believe that every person is an asset, and every human being has something to contribute.”

Saturday’s event was one of many across the nation, and showcased local organizations and projects from across the region. Groups like the Niles Innovation Center, the Youngstown Warren Inventors Association and Youngstown Inner City Garden were all present to offer their services to current and interested future members of the time bank.

After retiring from Delphi Packard Automotive in 2004, the Mahoning Watershed became Budak’s pet project.

A local chapter of a nationwide pay-it-forward program that prefers a favor-based system to cash, time credits are earned by doing things like helping to fix someone’s car, watching someone’s children or planning a party. Those “credits” can then be spent on services from other members of the organization.

Budak said there are about 118 people registered in the time bank, offering services from mowing lawns and sewing clothing to more artistic feats like giving musical instrument lessons.

For the time bank to be more than a notion, Budak and his collaborators need participants to find what they have to offer.

“My mother used to say that we should ‘bloom where we’re planted’, which is to say that they should work with the things they’re good at,” Budak said. “We all have something we can contribute to the community, and community is built upon knowing each other, finding inspiration and building a sense of belonging.”