BENNINGTON -- What started out as five people thinking a time bank would be a neat idea has grown over the past year to boast 84 members who have exchanged 343 hours between each other.

Hour for Our Community

The Hour for Our Community time bank began about a year ago after it was suggested at one of the many meetings and public forums held by the Vermont Council on Rural Development. The connect is simple. After a person goes through an orientation they are given access to a website where they donate an hour of their time, which allows them to get an hour of someone else's.

Volunteer coordinator Rose-Marie Pelletier said every second Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to noon an orientation session is held at the Bennington Free Library on Silver Street. To join, one must donate two hours or $25 to the group, but if they signed up in the first year -- which runs to the end of June -- they can join for a second year for free.

People offer up a wide range of services from simple things such as giving rides, to pet-sitting, to more specialized skills such as Bonsai tree trimming, massages, or Reiki training. Garden work and bike repair are also in high demand. Pet sitting has become quite popular in the summer months as people are off on vacations, she said.

The program has also recently added a tool loan system where people can borrow ladders, garden equipment, or lawnmowers.

Most people involved are from Bennington, North Bennington, and Pownal, but a few hail from Shaftsbury and Arlington.

Anyone who wants specific information should send an email to the address: h4obenn@gmail.com.

Pelletier said the time bank now has the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Bennington as its fiscal partner, meaning it can apply for grants. She said her time as volunteer coordinator is scheduled for another half a year, and the group, run by a Board of Directors, may seek to hire a part-time coordinator.

Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at kwhitcomb@benningtonbanner.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.