Edgar S. Cahn, an advocate for the poor, has spent more than four decades creating blueprints to solve social problems. Dr. Cahn and his wife are credited with establishing the National Legal Services Program, which was part of President Johnson's War on Poverty campaign. Later, they were also involved in creating the Legal Services Corporation.
In 1972, Dr. Cahn co-founded the Antioch School of Law in Washington, D.C., which served students from racial, ethnic and other under-represented backgrounds who were interested in becoming public interest lawyers. Antioch School of Law served as the precursor to the University of the District of Columbia School of Law.
Ten years ago, Dr. Cahn created a community service movement, Time Dollar, which now works in communities in more than 30 states. Time Dollar, established to redefine work and value contributions, is a new, tax-exempt currency that empowers people to convert their personal time into purchasing power by helping others and by rebuilding family, neighborhood and community. When a person volunteers, a "deposit" of a number of credits is placed in a Time Dollar bank. For every hour volunteered, a Time Dollar credit equal to one hour of work is saved which can be later redeemed for goods and services. Through this program, people have access to legal services, food and medical assistance.
In the District of Columbia's Shaw neighborhood, Time Dollar has created a reciprocal relationship between the community, a community development corporation, MANNA and a law firm, Holland and Knight. For every hour of pro bono work done by Holland and Knight, the community will equal that by tutoring students, cleaning up playgrounds and working to remove drugs and gangs from the area. More than 400 Time Dollars have been earned to pay from more than $67,000 of legal work.
In 1996, Dr. Cahn established another arm of Time Dollar — Time Dollar Youth Court. Young people from different neighborhoods in Washington D.C., who volunteer as jurors in the court system, are authorized to impose community service and other measures for youthful first-time offenders. This unique approach utilizes volunteerism as a method to engage first time offenders back into the community. Young people serving on the jury and former offenders earn Time Dollars from the hours they volunteer. With their Time Dollars, the young people are able to buy donated, recycled computers.
To learn more about Time Dollar visit http://www.timedollar.org