The last part of our trip, meeting the wonderful people who work at the St. Pete Timebank, turned out to be the most awe-inspiring moment yet.
Karin Stienemeier is described by her fellow time-bankers as a “super-human human,” so that should give you some sort of indication into the woman she is.
When you walk into her home, it immediately smells like Thanksgiving dinner is in the oven, and that’s for good reason: Stienemeier is cooking what seems like dozens of turkeys for the homeless.
She explained, while carving a turkey, how she was born in Brooklyn, New York, but spent 40 years living in Germany. When she was ready to come back stateside, she knew she wanted to help the homeless because there aren’t enough systems set up in America to help them.
Abroad, those safety nets exist, for example, in other parts of the world, such as Germany.
“ You live in a system where part of the taxes you pay go toward helping people in need, which isn’t the case here (in America),” said Stienemeier.
Stienemeier is in her mid-60s, recently retired and is full of life and ideas. She doesn’t just make it a point to help others occasionally, instead, it sounds like it’s now her purpose.
It’s like a full-time job at this point.
“I have a red nose on the front of my car, and so the homeless people know that it’s me. And when they need anything, they actually flag down my car,” Stienemeier said.
She carved off a piece of turkey and moved it into a new tin, then continued, “We give out about 20 to 30 meals a week. And blankets, socks, pillows, a pair of underpants -- some toothpaste if they have any teeth. Most people don’t have teeth that we take care of.”
She seemed authentic in every way. While so many of us oftentimes talk the talk, Stienemeier is the definition of walking the walk. She wants to help people, and create a connection.
“The thing I give them most is their dignity, you know. Touching their arm when I pass something out to them, giving them a hug, you know, things that people won’t do anymore,” Stienemeier said.
Stienemeier finished up her turkey. She stood back and smiled as she spoke about the St. Pete Timebank, saying that she moved to St. Petersburg two years ago and didn’t know anybody, but the community within the time bank gave her a tribe, a group of like-minded people.
That means the world to her, and you can tell the others who work at the time bank feel the same way.
When asked about what others can do if they want to get into the business of mutual aid and helping their community, Steinemeier said there are many ways to take part.
“Find something. Help kids, you know, to become a youth coach. Read to children. Hold babies. Be a foster parent. I mean, there are tons of things. You have to go out and do it. Don’t just talk about it. Do it.”