Where the rubber meets the road: Commuter cash helping needy

National

Tim Miranda, a software company manager currently working from home during the coronavirus outbreak, sits in his vehicle outside his Chelmsford, Mass. home, Thursday, April 2, 2020. Miranda, who usually works about 30 miles away in Cambridge, Mass., is donating his weekly $100 out of pocket commuting expenses to local charities that help provide meals and assistance to youth. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

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BOSTON (AP) — Imagine paradoxically finding yourself with more — not less — in the middle of a global crisis. Would you keep it to yourself or share it?

The answer came easily to Tim Miranda.

He typically spends $100 a week driving from his home in Chelmsford, northwest of Boston, to his job as a software company manager in Cambridge. With the coronavirus pandemic forcing him to work from home, the 43-year-old married father of three felt compelled to make good use of that extra cash to help those who aren’t as fortunate.

He’s been donating what he would have spent on gas and lunch to two local charities: a program providing weekend meals to children dependent on weekday school lunches for nutrition, and an initiative working to end gun violence among troubled youths.

Nationwide, socially conscious commuters with unexpected wiggle room in their budgets are redirecting it to lend a hand, even though they’re not sure what awaits them down the road. Their contributions come as charities overall are taking a hit and the economic fallout hammers millions who’ve been laid off.

A similar trend is playing out in Britain, where people who suddenly aren’t making expensive commutes into London are being asked to donate the difference to the National Health Service; a campaign that provides menstrual pads to women who are homeless, refugees or struggling financially; and a nonprofit that helps victims of domestic violence.

The phenomenon is powering a hashtag on social media: #DonateYourCommute.

“The community is rallying around us. People are really supportive to make sure we have what we need,” said Andrea Connelly, who helps coordinate End 68 Hours of Hunger in Dracut, Massachusetts — one of the charities Miranda has been spending his gas money on.

For Rachel Brenke, a Washington, D.C.-based business consultant and intellectual property lawyer, it’s meant using the $200 to $500 she’d typically spend traveling for work to help her employees.

Brenke said she hopes a fund she created will be “enough to help offset costs of childcare for my employees and/or provide bonuses.”

Kelly Johnson, now working from home for Acrisure, an insurance brokerage company in Grand Rapids, Michigan, realized she wasn’t just saving on commuting expenses but entertainment and gym workouts.

Her response: “Use it to bless others.”

“At first it was like, ‘Oh, this is great — I have all this extra money in my budget,’” said Johnson, 29. “But then I had three friends within 24 hours who got laid off. I thought, how can I support the people around me?”

Jonathan Levitt, sales manager for Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Segterra’s InsideTracker personalized health analytics platform, is funneling his commuter savings — and money he’d otherwise be spending on airfare for personal trips — to local businesses that are struggling to survive the shutdown.

“Those of us who have the privilege to be able to do it should,” said Levitt, 29. “It’s sort of like ‘pay it forward’ — literally.”

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While nonstop global news about the effects of the coronavirus have become commonplace, so, too, are the stories about the kindness of strangers and individuals who have sacrificed for others. “One Good Thing” is an AP continuing series reflecting these acts of kindness.

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Follow Bill Kole on Twitter at http://twitter.com/billkole

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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