NORTH COUNTY — A simple favor offered seven years ago has snowballed into San Marcos’ newest nonprofit charity, Opportunity Cost Exchange, which debuted before City Council on Nov. 11.
In 2001, Vista resident Pamela Barkley was a single mother working 12 hour days. The “to do” list for her one day off was endless. The loser in all of this was Barkley’s 3-year-old son, whom she never got to spend time with.
One Sunday, as Barkley was working through her chores, a friend graciously brought by a week’s worth of groceries. Thanks to this simple gesture, Barkley suddenly had free time which she used to take her son to the beach.
Barkley reasoned that there were millions of hard-pressed single mothers like her who, if they could be relieved of even a single burden, could devote that newfound time to their families. This was the genesis of Opportunity Cost Exchange.
Unlike many charities, there are no volunteers involved, only monetary donations. These funds will be used to pay existing house cleaning, landscaping, handyman or laundry service businesses to perform these services in the homes of working low-income single parents. Another component of the charity is counseling. Mothers will be taught how to more efficiently budget their time.
The result, according to Barkley, will be happier families and a more productive community.
“When a parent sacrifices time with their child for more work there is a negative opportunity cost,” Barkley said. “That time we’re talking about is priceless. Absolutely priceless.”
“What if San Marcos as a community could be involved in stimulating its own economy?” Janel Keas, the charity’s manager, asked the council. “What if this city could influence its own future by redeeming time for the sake of its children?”
Barkley’s presentation at the televised council meeting was to the city as much as it was to the council. She asked for help constituting her board of directors, inviting single mothers with relevant experience. Barkley ended her presentation by soliciting referrals for honest businesses that might be inclined to participate.
“It is something that I believe will take some time and effort, and there’s a lot of people who can benefit from it,” potential board member Marian Strohmeyer said. “They are trying to promote a family environment that wards off things like teen pregnancy and runaways and gang involvement. Just trying to keep the family unit as healthy as possible.”
Opportunity Cost Exchange is already incorporated, and Barkley has a 10-year plan for the organization, beginning with a three to 12 month pilot program in North County. She would like to expand the service to help military families countywide, ultimately culminating in a statewide program.
“Everybody has good ideas and we all want to serve our community, but what Pam’s got is the professionalism behind it,” Strohmeyer said. “This is not a fly-by-night thing for her.”
More information on Opportunity Cost Exchange can be found at www.opportunitycostexchange.org or by contacting Pamela Barkley at (760) 468-3603.