Laurie DiDonato: Wendell Ambassador -- and So Much More!

by Sharon Wachsler

I recently had a chance to talk to Laurie DiDonato, a dynamic community member. She is bringing a great deal to the town of Wendell, wearing many "hats," and bringing these activities together with her role as Time Bank Ambassador for Wendell.

How did you first hear about the Time Bank? What interested you about it?

I first heard about it in passing during one of the Wendell Sustainable meetings, which is a group of people that got together last year with the hope of preparing for a possible economic crash by making Wendell more sustainable. Then, I learned more details [about the Time Bank] when Amber [Ortiz] made a presentation at a Swift River School PTCA (Parent Teacher Community Association) meeting.

I signed up immediately after that meeting. I am very interested in keeping things local, for sustainability, community-building, and increased independence from corporate controlled systems and fossil fuels, and this seemed like one way to accomplish [these goal]. I had already been interested in the Common Good Bank project, which hopes to promote local trade and give communities economic independence. The Time Bank is doing the same thing, so I was excited to participate.

I'm curious about the time trade you did with Betsy [Ames, NQTB Co-coordinator] helping her identify the plants around our home. Do you have a background in botany? What interested you in this trade?

For many years I have been interested in edible and medicinal plants as a means to wilderness survival, and I have studied them both in guide books and through plant-identification walks. I also have a background in biology, and although I never specialized in plants, I think my attention to detail is also a strength in plant identification.

I was very excited to be able to do this trade, because I think this type of information is valuable to share with people, and I’ve always thought of leading walks myself, but never have. I hope next spring I can lead Time Bank edible plant walks with those interested in learning this type of information. I also very much enjoyed interacting with Betsy (and you!), and getting to know you both better. This is one of the other pluses of the Time Bank, getting to know your neighbors, who you otherwise might never meet.

What other time trades have you done?

I did some typing for Amber [Ortiz, NQTB Co-Coordinator]. I work on the computer at home, so it was easy for me to type up some poetry for her.

I’ve also had some sewing done by Deborah Manning, who mended some ripped pants that my children hadn’t grown out of yet. She was very quick, and used knee patches with fun patterns that the kids loved. I've also done another sewing trade recently, this time with Amy Simmons, who altered a pair of mittens. They came out perfectly, and she is doing another pair for me now.

I’ve also received babysitting services for my two small children and a healing massage, both from my neighbor, and provided the same neighbor pet care services by letting her dog out when she was away from home during the day.

Wow! It's great that you and your neighbors have really made use of the Time Bank! I know you're also on the Wendell Energy Task Force, which is an organizational member of NQTB. What does the Task Force do?

The Task Force [grew out of] the Wendell Sustainable initiative that I mentioned earlier. We started as a subcommittee focused on energy, and after a year of meetings and some accomplishments (we coordinated a carpooling initiative with, a website that connects people who want to share rides), we realized we might be more effective as a town-supported committee. The town voted to create the Task Force at a special town meeting this summer. Our main objective is to determine how the town can reduce its energy use through conservation.

What do you hope to give or receive as an organizational member of the Time Bank?

One of our first ideas has been to educate people on how to save energy. To accomplish this, we plan to put up informative signs and banners in the town center. We have a Time Bank ad up for people interested in helping to make a banner for this purpose. (Ed. Note: See "Banner Making" in "Crafts" under the "Arts, Crafts, & Music" section, or once you're logged in to the NQTB site, click here.) Our first message we hope to use will be about getting a free Home Energy Audit from MasSAVE.

We hope to provide educational events and/or workshops for the community as well. We have two things in the works right now. The first is a movie we're sponsoring to be shown at the Wendell Library, called What a Way to Go; Life at the End of Empire. You can read more about the movie here.

The other is a Winsert workshop. Winserts are framed window inserts that help better insulate your house and save money on heating costs. Participants will make Winserts for the Wendell Town Hall, while learning how to make these for their own homes, too. The workshop will be on February 20th at 2pm, and Time Bank members can participate and earn time bank hours.To learn more about Winserts visit

You have an exciting role as NQTB's first town ambassador! What do you do as ambassador?

I hold office hours at the Wendell library so people interested in the Time Bank can find out more, and those signed up can get oriented, or get help if they are having problems. I can also help people find trades.

How's it going so far?

So far I’ve had a refresher of the orientation process with Betsy, and had one office hour with no one needing help. It’s only been a few weeks, so I imagine things will pick up.

When are your office hours?

We're looking at a regular schedule of the second Wednesday and the fourth Saturday of each month. We’ll see how it goes. I’m also happy to find additional times if someone can’t make these hours and needs an orientation or help with the Time Bank.

Thank you so much for your time and all your hard work for the community! I'm sure I'm not the only one who enjoys your energy and enthusiasm, and learns from your great ideas!
To arrange a time to talk or meet with Laurie, send her an email.