I guess some money does grow on trees.

The United States has reached a record number of people who have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In difficult times like this, it’s always heartwarming to see people coming together to help one another. Which is why the city of Tenino, Washington, is making us smile with its creative solution of using wood money to help those who need it the most.

Ted Warren/Associated Press

These wooden bills are being given out to citizens who are able to demonstrate they’re facing economic hardship. Each bill is worth $25, and those who need it can receive up to $300 a month in wooden dollars. As long as they’re residents of Tenino, meet the federal Monthy Household Poverty Guidelines, and prove that their need is related to the COVID-19 pandemic, they can submit their online application and receive their wooden dollars.

Wooden currency can be used to purchase a wide variety of goods and services from participating merchants. Food, auto parts, and even medicine can be purchased with wooden money. They cannot be used to buy alcoholic beverages, tobacco, or cannabis products, and no more than 99 cents in chance can be returned.

This alternative will allow citizens to overcome economic difficulties while also contributing to help local businesses stay afloat. In turn, store owners and merchants can redeem the cash value of the wooden bills at City Hall, or in some cases, sell it to collectors who are willing to pay a pretty, federally-minted, penny.

Chris Hamilton, store manager at Tenino Market Fresh, expressed his opinion in an interview for CNN. “With so many people having financial troubles right now and not being able to work, it definitely helps”, he said. “The currency is only good in Tenino, so it helps promote the small town and keep business local. It’s a two-fold win for people.”

Around $10,000 worth of wooden bills have been printed so far and a dozen people have qualified to be a part of this program. Not only will this bring a direct economic benefit, but it also provides a great sense of hope, according to Tenino’s Mayor Wayne Fournier.

It isn’t the first time, however, that wooden money has been used in times of need. During the Great Depression, Tenino faced a very rough period, similar to today’s. To address the crisis, the then-publisher of the Thurston County Independent newspaper, Don Major, presented an idea to the city council: issue Tenino citizens a temporary scrip to promote transactions in the city. What started as IOUs on paper slips eventually led to the creation of wooden currency, which boosted the city’s economy. 

Wooden dollars are still an icon in Tenino, and it has made its comeback now that people need it most. The current Tenino Wooden Dollars are even printed with the same newspaper press that was used back then. 

There’s no doubt that with unity and a true sense of community, there are no crises that cannot be overcome. Tenino has been a clear example of this and continues to be one today. We are witnessing how a small town’s actions can have a huge impact on the quality of life of its citizens.