That will be one Groupee
Denver Mennonites start a system to encourage sharing labor and time.by Anna Groff
Do you need a babysitter for an hour? Someone to take your puppy on daily walks? A run to the airport? Help with an online resume?
For some Mennonites, these everyday tasks require only a Groupee or two. The Groupee, a small, wooden token, is exchangeable for the time, labor and materials of other members of a community. A Groupee is valued at one hour of physical work.
Jonathan Moyer and other Mennonites in Denver created the Groupee system and hope to expand it to other communities. As of September, five Groupee groups participate in the system in Denver, with several more forming in the Iowa City, Iowa, and Lancaster, Pa., areas.
Selecting the name Groupee was like naming a band. One day, Moyer’s small group sat around talking about the system when someone threw out the term Groupee, and it stuck, says Moyer.
Moyer hosts Groupee-making parties in his garage to create the wooden Groupees. The process involves wood-cutting and an official brand from bike spokes.
“The people who make the Groupees get Groupees,” says Moyer (pictured here).
The Groupee bylaws outline five ways in which the system remains rooted in Anabaptism: bread, baptism, binding and loosing, fullness of Christ and Rule of Paul.
Moyer says the Groupee system further propels the productivity that already exists in the community.
“It’s a radical expression of the community’s love for each other,” he says. “We’re already so ‘in the world and of the world’ that the Groupee system is really resonating with people.”
Moyer quickly adds that their intention is not for Groupees to “supplant giving and receiving.”
“If my friend is sick, I still visit him in the hospital; if he has a baby, I make him lasagna,” he says.
However, the structured system allows for Groupee users to meet people and form new connections as well as find reliable babysitters, petsitters, housesitters and more.
“I’ll vouch for it being a pretty cool system,” says Brad Miller of Denver. “We’re spending three Groupees tonight to have someone babysit Silas. I earned these three Groupees by helping a church member water her lawn, took another church member to the airport and babysat another church member’s kid.”
Jean Kilheffer Hess attended Moyer’s seminar on the system at Pittsburgh 2011 and is beginning a group at her church, East Chestnut Street Mennonite in Lancaster, Pa.
“I hope the Groupee system becomes a natural way for us to remember each other as ready-to-help-and-be-helped people,” she says. “I’m excited that Groupee offers a loosely organized way for us to extend mutual aid to each other.”
The Groupee website facilitates the request in a way other than face-to-face. For example, if a household needs a babysitter for an hour, they will post a request stating they will offer one Groupee. Others in the system will see this request and then the household will accept one offer. Then the website notifies others that the request is filled.
Arlen Hershberger of First Mennonite in Denver says the system works well, although people with desk jobs “naturally have a headstart on responding to requests. We’re working on ways to bring greater equity to the group in terms of earning power,” Hershberger says.
Moyer is a dissertation-level doctoral candidate at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. Moyer hopes this system engages more people across Mennonite Church USA. For more information, go to www.thegroupee.com or send an e-mail to Moyer at email@example.com.
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