Neighbors Helping Neighbors: A Time Exchange Creates a Community

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photo of Lauren Kilcoyne with signs about the Lynn Time ExchangeAs a child, I remember when the road in front of my house needed to be repaved; my father, along with the neighborhood men would get together and pave it. That was how things got done back then.

This month, I was reminded of that same community spirit when I interviewed Lauren Kilcoyne, Coordinator for the Time Exchange of the North Shore.
Here in Lynn, that sense of community lives on.

A community is born

The Time Exchange began in 1996 when a group of parents of children with developmental disabilities came together to offer each other babysitting and help with chores; simple but basic supports that made a difference.

As more people joined, they formalized the group into the Lynn Time Bank and received funding from the Department of Developmental Disabilities (DDS). For every hour of service given, a person would bank an hour of service to be used when needed

Over the years, they realized the time bank should include everyone, not just people with disabilities and their families. Lauren  describes the transition from the initial time bank into a larger community.

“We’ve reorganized in the last couple of years and have expanded from families within the DDS system to all populations, even expanding from Lynn to encompass the North Shore. We also include every ethnic group in our community since the area is so diverse.”

The organization’s new name, The Time Exchange of the North Shore, represents the wider community now being represented.

Everyone has something to offer

Lauren explains the reasons why people join the time exchange today.

“The sense of community is strong within the time bank membership. Meeting each other in the time exchange and putting faces to services makes it easier for people to request help”.scale and hour-glass

Presently there are 175 members of the Time Exchange of the North Shore that all give in a different way. There are tradesmen such as carpenters and electricians, along with others offering grocery shopping, companionship, childcare, and yard work.

Regardless of age, education or disability the idea of a time exchange is that everyone has something to offer their community; everyone.

And like the old days, neighbors are helping neighbors again and things get done.

Sound like a good idea?

Building a Community through Time Exchanges

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Balance scale containing money on one side and time on anotherEveryone needs support in their life to be successful.

It may begin with physical support, someone to take care of us as a child and later, depending on needs, as an adult. We also have a basic need to know that someone cares, for it is this basic caring and respect for one another that will truly make a difference in our lives.

A sense of community is lost

There was a time when our local communities provided this support, with each member contributing regardless of age or disability.

Yet as society and government grew, we began to pay people to provide support and our sense of community was lost in the process. This was never the intent, as social services were supposed to create additional support not replace our communities.
But the truth is most of us don’t even know our neighbors anymore, never mind other people in our town to help us out when needed. Simple tasks such as shoveling the driveway, raking leaves or maybe buying groceries can be overwhelming if you have to pay someone because you can no longer do it yourself.

Time exchanges build community

The good news is  there are groups known as time exchanges that are bringing our communities back. Their approach is to bring people together committed to supporting one another and building a community based on mutual respect. Every member, regardless of age or disability, has something to offer based on their strengths and interests while in exchange, they receive donated services as needed.
This month we will introduce The Time Exchange of the North Shore (TENS), a successful program in our local area. Through interviews with their director, Lynn Kilcoyne and one of their members, Michael Doherty, you will be reminded of a simpler time when people went out of their way for one another simply because they cared about the people in their community.
As you read about the Time Exchange, think about your own community and how it provides support to you or someone you know with a disability . . . and if not, is it time to think about creating a time exchange in your community?

Ten Great Websites to Keep You Informed

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Ready to get involved?

The following  6 website links will keep you educated on bills, community issues and state government throughout the year.

1. Where To Vote & to Locate Your Legislators will identify your elected officials and voting location.

2. Massachusetts Legislative Bills & Laws offers information on existing bills and laws in Massachusetts.

3. Massachusetts on Ballotpedia provides nonpartisan information on Massachusetts ballot news.

4. Congress.org provides information on public policy issues of the day and tips on effective advocacy. Sign up to get their weekly newsletter and an email of your representative’s vote on recent bills.

5. OpenCongress.org lets you know what’s happening in Congress by providing  official government data and news coverage.

6. League of Women Voters/Mass is a well respected citizens’ organization that encourages community involvement and hosts political forums in various communities.

For Disability Issues, these links are all helpful.

1. arcmass.org Take advantage of what Arc has to offer  to stay informed.

Sign up on their listserv and the Action E-List on Massachusetts Arc Legislative Action Center to be notified when you can make a critical difference on important state issues.

2. Impacted by Recent Cuts to Disability Services? Know Your Rights is a handy resourceful guide provided by Arc MASS

3. Mass Families Organizing for Change sponsors conferences, workshops and forums to educate individuals and community members about advocacy, services and local, state and federal resources.

4. Disability Policy Consortium members have access to advocacy training, lobbying leadership, legislative email alert service, and information on issues of importance. Check out their weekly updates on website.

Be sure to share your favorites with us.

Becoming a Leader in Your Community

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Last week we were inspired by John, this week it continues with Andrea.

Andrea Kelly is a civic leader in Newton who has been actively involved with the League of Women Voters since the mid 80’s. Andrea is making a difference.

Getting Started

We discussed how she first became involved.

“I was home on maternity leave and was looking for something to do. A friend of mine told me about the League of Women Voters, so I signed up for their monthly newsletter to learn what was happening in Newton,” at that time a bedroom community to Andrea.

The newsletter presented many local issues and ways of being involved, one being observing the Aldermanic Land Use committee. It got her attention, an easy commitment of only two monthly meetings.

So she joined, and began her path to becoming educated.

Educated and involved

As we discussed the League and the role it has played in her life, Andrea described it with passion.

“The League is the only multi-issue, non-partisan, volunteer advocacy group in the community that educates people on an array of  issues.”

For Andrea, that comprehensive education provided opportunities to become involved well beyond land use.

“I became interested in affordable housing and joined the Newton Housing Partnership. As I became connected locally, I was appointed to the Design Review Committee that reviews all projects in the city.” child care and education also became dominant topics during the years her children were in those age groups.

We discussed other ways to become educated and involved.

“Some of the most active civic organizations in our community include churches and synagogues. They address social issues locally, but also on a national and international basis. ”

A leader emerges

In listening to Andrea, I began to realize that she had truly become a leader, respected not only because of her intelligence, but because she was passionate and obviously capable of getting things done.

“When I became an affordable housing advocate, I saw NIMBY (not in my backyard) from people in my own community. While it was frustrating, I quickly understood I had to take a deep breath and realize this was an opportunity for education, rather than becoming oppositional.”

That’s what can happen when you get involved. You learn patience, because change isn’t easy. You learn communication because you really need to listen to both sides. . . And in the process you may find you’ve become a respected leader.

So get involved; the community needs you.

Choosing to Stay Involved in Your Community

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This week I introduce John Anton, a self-advocate who is an inspiration to others as he works hard to make a difference in his local and statewide community.

I sent the following questions to John about his role as a civic activist; he and his support advisor, Fran Hogan sent the answers.

John, please tell us about yourself.

“I am a Legislative Intern for State Representative Tom Sannicandro and a Legislative Advocate and Mentor at The Arc of Greater Haverhill/Newburyport. I am also on the Disability Law Center Board, a member of the Haverhill Trails Committee and am active in my church.”

How did you first become interested in issues in your community?

“When I graduated from high school I went to a sheltered workshop. We didn’t have enough work to do and it was very boring. I got jobs at fast food places and Market Basket, but I didn’t fit into any of these jobs either. Employment for me and other people with disabilities became one of my first issues. Transportation was also important because it was difficult for all of us.”

Tell us about your role as a legislative intern at the state house.

“I go to hearings, read bills and research what will affect individuals and families when budget cuts are made. Then I share this information with other self-advocates who follow up with phone calls, emails and visits to legislators when needed.”

How do you choose the issues you want to be involved in?

“It’s hard because they are all important. What helps is studying the state budget and seeing where funding cuts will affect services.
When I was chairperson for Mass Advocates Standing Strong (a statewide self-advocacy group), the issues of transportation, employment, closing institutions, guardianship, and self-determination all became important to me and they still are.”

Why should people be involved?

“You should want to be involved because your voice and your vote count (link to video in new window with John and others talking about importance of voting). Tax cuts affect everyone, especially people with disabilities and their families. If services are cut, individuals may have to stay home and family members will need to quit their jobs to take care of them. If you understand what is happening, you can do something about it.”

What are the best ways for people to be involved?

“Join a self-advocacy group or state-wide committee, attend conferences, volunteer in your community, and research things you are interested in on the Internet. It is also important that your legislators and local officials know who you are.
With the elections over, I will be organizing other advocates to join me in contacting the new legislators and educating them on what is important to individuals with disabilities. We also need to ask them how to work together in the future to make positive changes for everyone.”

Inspired yet?

So the Elections are over, now what?

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It’s November 3rd, elections are over and you voted. You should feel proud, but have you thought about how you plan to stay active as a civic member of your community?

At this point, you may be thinking that your vote was enough. After all, elections are a lesson in patience and we are all thrilled to see the end of automated phone calls during dinner and negative ads when we were just trying to watch Glee.

But if you really want to be part of your community, you have to do more than just vote. Being an active citizen means paying constant attention to issues that affect all of us. This includes issues for people with disabilities, but it also includes issues that affect the broader community you live in.

Choosing issues that matter to you

There are basically two types of issues you may want to be aware of in your town and state.

First, there are issues specifically affecting the disability community. A reduction in state taxes for example will cut services, which is an important issue that requires your attention.

At the same time, you want to remember that you are also a member of a broader community with additional issues.
Planning on getting older? A proposed senior center may be something you hope to use someday.
Do you have a dog? You may be concerned about having more dog parks.
Can’t afford housing in the town you want to live in? Groups committed to affordable housing may be something to join.

Committed members of your community

This month, we will hear from John Anton an active civic member of his community. John understands the need to pay attention to issues affecting the disability community and the broader community because he is committed to both.

We will also hear from Andrea Kelly about the League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan organization committed to educating people on important community issues that matter well beyond the elections. In addition, Andrea shares her thoughts about a number of ways you can get involved in your community.

lone goldfish jumping into tank with other goldfishIt’s November 3rd and you should be proud if you voted. But let’s take some time this month to also think about how you can be an active member of your community in the year ahead. .. and more importantly, why you may want to.

How to Find Holiday Assistance in Massachusetts

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Two hands shaking with random computer designs projected on them

After reading stories about holiday assistance, now you are asking yourself, “How do I find local organizations willing to help me and my family or the families we serve?”

Programs and people that will be there for you

To help you start and finish your holiday assistance search or to find an organizations that accepts donations, here are six of the best statewide resources we found.

1. Food Source Hotline (800)645-8333
Project Bread’s Food Source Hotline has a friendly and helpful staff that will be able to locate emergency food programs and pantries near you. Call the local food pantry to inquire about holiday basket availability and requirements to receive food.

2. Mass 2-1-1
This is a fabulous, comprehensive website for locating local resources for holiday assistance.
If calling 211, dial 6 to ask for assistance.

3. Sharingweb.org
Check out this unique website which focuses on food, shelter, and crisis resources in Massachusetts. Click on “resources,” then “holiday assistance” to locate resources.

4. Salvation Army
Salvation Army is one of America’s favorite charities by reputation. The seasonal red kettle donations help provide winter coats, clothing, gifts and holiday assistance to needy families and the homeless. Enter your zip code on the above link to locate a Salvation Army in your area.

5. Catholic Charities
This is a great resource for low income families needing help year round. The “Basic Needs Emergency Services” includes food, fuel, rental, utility assistance as well as holiday assistance. Available funding varies from city to city.

6. Holiday Assistance Fact Sheet
Our favorite resource is our own MNIP fact sheet on holiday assistance programs in Massachusetts listed by region (statewide, area, and town). The information is current and will save you time and energy in hunting for assistance.

Please let us know of any special organizations or experiences that you want to share.

Happy holidays to all.

A Holiday Assistance Program that Makes a Difference

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Agency Spotlight

What do organizations need to think about if they are going to offer assistance during the holidays?

According to Caroline Wenck, Executive Director of SCAN 360, you may want to begin by really thinking about the people you serve and the simple gifts that would make a difference in their lives.

Thoughtful givingThe SCAN 360 bldg entrance

“The Springfield community is very generous, so when all the gifts come in, every inch of these tables is covered,” Caroline stated with a smile.

“But rather than inundating people with gifts, we take a day, invite all the staff and decide which families would benefit the most from each gift. We make it personal so that every donation will mean something. ”

She went on to explain that they only give a few gifts to each person and keep the rest to be distributed during the year.
That just makes sense. As Angela stated last week, you don’t need a lot during the holidays, you just want to know that someone cares.

Giving beyond the holidays

“Another thing we learned during the holidays is that people in the community are willing to give during the year, but you have to ask them.”

When students from Bay Path College made holiday donations to SCAN 360 last year, Caroline accepted their generosity but asked if they would be interested in forming a relationship beyond the holidays. She went on to explain how many families could benefit from food, clothing and even birthday gifts for children during the year.

The students responded by placing a collection bin on every floor of their dormitory where they donate year round.

“It can be more work for the program to take donations throughout the year, but we find it makes a big difference,” Caroline shared.

When you think about it, the lesson learned from SCAN 360 is people want to know that someone cares, not just during the holidays, but throughout the year…and that is the best gift of all.

A Gift for the Holiday, a Goal for the New Year

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A Gift for the Holiday, a Goal for the New Year

“After you feed people for Thanksgiving and Christmas, what do they do for the other 363 days a year?  They still need food, shelter and people they can rely on to help figure out how to put food on the table and pay the rent,” Angela stated.

This week, I introduce Angela, a young woman with two children living in the city of Springfield. I had the pleasure of interviewing Angela about her experience with SCAN 360, a community based program located in the heart of Springfield that provides holiday assistance as well as services and support throughout the year.

Knowing the people you serveAngela from Scan 360

“The problem is that some people and programs only show up during the holidays. SCAN 360 helps me during the whole year, so by the time Christmas comes they don’t have to ask me to write a list. They know what we need, because they know me and my family.”

For some people, support during the holidays means a small gift or a meal; enough to make the holiday season special.

For others like Angela and her family, there were bigger challenges in her life that she wanted to address. SCAN 360 knew the difference and built a relationship that provided support beyond the holiday season.

Setting goals can make a difference

“I had gone to other programs in the past and they made me feel like a number. At SCAN 360, they really care about me and my family, not just during the holidays, but all year. Some bigger groups just let people take the gifts and not work on any goals that will make their lives better. I needed to do more.”

If your organization provides assistance during the holidays, be sure you are aware of people like Angela who are ready to set goals that can change their lives. Offer the turkey, but also be ready to talk about making a budget for the coming year.

It may be a bigger task, but after listening to Angela, I think it is worth it.

What do you think?

Empowerment: The Ultimate Gift for the Holidays

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Colorful Holiday Gifts

As the holidays approach, we are all faced with the challenge of how to spread joy without overwhelming people with a multitude of donations.

After all, giving is part of the holiday experience, right? And giving to people in need of assistance is especially rewarding as we envision them opening their gifts during the holidays and realizing that people truly care.

Yet as we look at holiday assistance programs, we want you to think about how you can use the generosity of the holidays to really make a difference in a person’s life long after the season ends.

Think about it.

Giving someone a meal during the holidays is a good thing, but if we don’t follow up with a budget plan and perhaps a food stamp application, that same individual may go hungry during the winter.

The importance of giving people control

birch in winter

We will begin next week by presenting an interview with Angela, a woman who shares her personal experience with a holiday assistance program that didn’t end in December. In fact, they assisted her in setting personal goals that have truly made an impact on her life and the lives of her children.

Listen to her words and think about all the people you know who may receive holiday assistance this year and what they would say if asked the same questions.

I think most people would tell you they appreciate the gifts and goodwill, but they would really appreciate it if you could help them take control of their own life.

So maybe next year they could be donating a gift to someone else.

Make sense?

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