Have you heard of SEEC? — Their name is an acronym that sums up their mission: Seeking Equality, Empowerment, and Community for People with Developmental Disabilities.
This summer, Brandon Davis, Phillip Chen, and Freddie Fantleroy, people SEEC serves, earned hours through the Silver Spring Timebank by helping Tina Slater, a Timebank member, finish a home project in need of assistance. It was great for Tina and an empowering experience for Brandon, Phillip and Freddie.
SEEC is the newest organizational member of the local nonprofit, the Silver Spring Timebank. You can read more about how the Timebank works here, but the group’s mission is to build strong support networks by members exchanging services and time instead of money.
“There was a warm-hug feel to the whole exchange,” says Tina Slater.
“It was medium hard, and it felt good,” says Brandon Davis.
“This partnership can be an avenue of discovery for many people,” says Melissa Ezelle, employee of SEEC.
“I have a set of six little stackable stools from IKEA,” Tina explains. “They have many uses, from outdoor tables to impromptu seating, but they were looking shabby. The wood had lost its finish and the metal legs were rusty. A neighbor had four similar stackable stools to give away, in worse shape than mine. So I had 10 stacking stools – a lot!
On July 10, Brandon, Phillip and Freddie arrived right on time with their assistant, Bobby. Once they checked out the tasks, they were off like a plane on a runway!
We had agreed on two hours, which I thought might be enough time to get started—probably the prep work on the metal legs. The team used steel wool and brillo pads, wearing latex gloves, and rubbed until those legs were gleaming metal. They finished this way sooner than I anticipated, so I ran to get the 10 wooden seat tops for them to refinish. Bobby did the spray painting of the legs outside and the rest of the work was done indoors, in a studio area I had covered with drop cloths.
The team took sanding pads and more steel wool and used stain to make those tops look new again. All three men were friendly, earnest, and focused. Their intense focus made the work fly. I had put out water, juice, and iced tea and they took some while they worked. But even with those breaks, it was only an hour and 20 minutes from their arrival to the final picture we took to celebrate. We exchanged hugs and high fives, and they were gone!
I was totally amazed. I had imagined they’d get through half the job in two hours, but they got the whole job done in less. Now I’m looking for other jobs they could do. Maybe next up: washing windows and vacuuming screens.”
SEEC was founded in 1987 by Karen Lee, who is still its executive director. Dignity, choice, authority, and responsibility are its keynotes. It serves more than 200 Montgomery County adults with developmental disabilities. The Community Employment Network (CEN), a program of SEEC, has 75 people overall and 35 in Silver Spring.
“Putting employment first is simply the most just approach,” Melissa says. “But matching clients with employment opportunities is a process that takes time and skill.”
“The clients need to learn about the community, meet people, and discover their own strengths. We are thrilled with this Silver Spring Timebank partnership because we learn more about the people we support and they make great friends in the community. Before Brandon, Fred, and Phillip went out to do this job, no one knew Brandon really likes to paint, or that Phillip knows about working in the direction of the grain.
Timebank leaders have been eager & welcoming. We’re finding out how interested, willing, & giving our neighbors are too. It’s discovery!”
Asked how this job compares to others the clients have done, Melissa said that it felt “very specific, very homegrown and personal.”Melissa continued, “I had never heard of timebanking until I went to the orientation a few weeks ago. This is a pilot program and we encourage timebank members to keep their eyes open for suitable tasks. Some of the women and men we work with may eventually seek individual memberships. We want them to get the benefit of the community’s goodwill.”
Brandon, Phillip, and Freddie are still deciding how to spend the hours they earned. Brandon and Freddie both love to eat. (Favorite food? “Anything!” Fred answered, with a smile that lit up the White Oak Community Center.) They’d like to take some cooking or baking lessons from a Timebank member. Other engagement opportunities for people who work with SEEC could include crafting, hiking, walking, photography—anything that involves meeting new people and learning new skills.
This article was written by SSTB member Mary Liepold.
Learn more about the Silver Spring Timebank.