Whether you’re looking for folk dancing lessons, an oil change or a helper in the garden, look no further than the Lower Columbia Time Bank, a new community service organization on the North Coast.

The Lower Columbia Time Bank launched March 20, joining a nationwide network of organizations. The local bank is under the Titanic Lifeboat Academy’s nonprofit umbrella.

“So far we’ve had great response,” said Tallie Spiller, outreach coordinator for the Lower Columbia Time Bank to the Astoria City Council April 16. “The concept is simple. It’s intended to help strengthen the community and help people help each other out in a difficult economy.”

The way it works is that somebody comes and does you a favor, Spiller explained, so you put out a request on the Lower Columbia Time Bank website, www.locotimebank.org

“You say, ‘I need someone to help weed my garden,’ or paint your fence or walk your dog,” Spiller said. “They come over, they help you out for an hour and you have an online account. It’s similar to your online bank account. You, as a person who receives something, transfer one of your hours that you aquire to their account and now they have that hour. And they can spend that hour anywhere in the time bank.”

The time bank is free.

You get three hours free when you sign up. Then, you earn hours by doing things for others.

Jennifer Rasmussen, the Lower Columbia Time Bank secretary, explained that she had gotten a haircut and a piano lesson as a result of the time bank.

On Wednesday, she got her oil changed.

Joe LaPoint, who lives in Seaside, came to Rasmussen’s house at 10 a.m. to change her oil.

Rasmussen provided the oil and filter.

LaPoint did the rest.

He explained he worked at a mechanic’s shop for six months when he was 18 so he could learn to do maintenance on his vehicle that was in need of a lot of work. Now, he does it as a member of the Lower Columbia Time Bank.

“I’ve done a lot of volunteering and working at places to meet people, but I haven’t done strict time bank things,” he said. “I’m looking forward to finding someone on there who knows about wild plants. I know there’s a lot of indigenous ones that are eatable around here. So I’d like to find someone so I can sign up for that.”

Rasmussen has also given her time. She’s spent two hours babysitting.

“I’ve been pretty active so far in the time bank,” she said. “It’s been pretty practical for me so far and people are pretty enthusiastic with offers and requests posted.”

Spiller added, “It’s the kind of thing where the more people who are a part of it, the more useful it is for everyone.”

Spiller got her hair cut by Shannon Rasmussen April 18.

Rasmussen is a graduate of the former Astoria Beauty College. She previously worked in a salon.

She had done four hair cuts so far through the time bank. She does them, she says, in exchange for babysitting for her children.

The time bank is not a one-on-one exchange, Spiller said, like other sites that offer a barter system. You can use your hour with anyone, not only the person who did something for you.

Bartering systems – for example, mowing someone’s yard in exchange for homemade jam – exchange goods and services, and are therefore taxable and could potentially become an issue with the internal revenue service.

The time bank, however, is strictly service trades.

And self-employed time bank users are encouraged not to trade the service that they are self-employed with. That prevents confusion with the IRS and the possibility of an audit.

“We believe that everyone has something to offer the community, whether you’re someone who is older – you have knowledge and skills that maybe aren’t being used in the monetary economy. Maybe you are out of work or underemployed,” Spiller said. “The time bank works off of the philosophy of equality. Every hour is treated equally. It’s voluntary. They give only what they want to give and receive what they need. So everyone saves a little money.”

Bread and Liberty will host a community square dance Saturday to raise funds for the time bank. The event begins with optional lessons at 7 p.m., followed by the dance at 7:30. It will be hosted at the Astoria Arts and Movement Center in the First Presbyterian Church fellowship hall.