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TRIAD members learn about Community Exchange

Kathy Perlow, coordinator of Community Exchange, was welcomed at the latest TRIAD meeting at Emeritus of Allentown, 1545 Greenleaf St., Allentown.

Community Exchange is a project of the Department of Community Health and Health Studies of Lehigh Valley Health Network.

The non-traditional form of volunteering is funded by The Dorothy Rider Pool Health Care Trust.

The program is run nationally, across 40 states, and is a volunteer based "time banking" system, where the participants put in one hour of time to receive an hour of credit to use from other members. Community Exchange is a way to get to know your neighbors, help out where you can and get to learn new things.

"Everything is hour for hour," Perlow said. "Members are valued equally. Time banking fits in most people's schedules."

Perlow uses some of her banked time to take Tai Chi classes.

Community Exchange is exactly what the name implies, exchanging time in the community as a service of volunteers. People who use the program may need things like teaching others a musical skill, help in their garden, walk a dog or even simply call someone for a friendly conversation.

"Isolation is a really horrible thing," Perlow said, where a phone call a day can make a grand difference in someone's life. "We need to start looking out for one another." The most requested service is transportation followed by companionship.

Getting to know your neighbors is a key part, creating a network of people within the community. So far this year, volunteers with Community Exchange have put in over 1,000 hours of rides.

Community Exchange is active throughout the entire Lehigh Valley, from Wind Gap, to Center Valley and Phillipsburg. To participate in the program, you will need to fill out an application, have two references and complete a background check. After an orientation, you can begin to use the database to offer your services or request services.

The program currently has over 650 members. Members stay in touch and connected with one another by having events such as game nights, lunch dates and seeing concerts at the Pennyslvania Sinfonia Orchestra.

"It's people helping people. We value everybody for what they have," Perlow said. Orientation takes place 2 to 4 p.m. every third Monday of the month at Center for Healthy Aging at Lehigh Valley Hospital, 17th St., Allentown. "There's going to be somebody who can use your help," Perlow said, who hopes to have a team of people for every zip code as they expand the service.

To become a member in the neighbor-to-neighbor Community Exchange call 610-402-CARE. "I've met so many people who I would have never talked to," Perlow said. "It breaks down barriers."