Interleaving II: Doing Charity the Easy Way

Last time I talked about interleaving, it was in relation to exercise. We all would do better helping others if done within our limited time, finances, and resources, right? Here’s some ideas I’ve tried. I’d love to hear yours.

P1000666First: the beauty about charity is that everyone’s passions are different. So if we can individually come up with the time or money, we can cover every need out there. One person would build bridges in Honduras, another a well in Haiti. One would work in a health clinic in Cambodia, another a soup kitchen in Los Angeles. One would fill a backpack for an intercity student, another would edit resumes for the unemployed. One would organize a bake sale for a sports equipment, while another would sell raffle tickets for the arts. One would forgo Starbucks for a week to help in animal rescue, another would run a marathon for cancer research. One would tutor the illiterate, another would donate to his university, a third would teach ESL classes. And so it goes …

Second: how to fund your passion? Interleaving, of course. It’s easy! Pick the method you’d prefer or try all three discussed below.


But who has the time? Here are ways to interleave supporting your favorite charity with things you’re already doing.

You’ve carved out time for exercise but have no time for charity work? Do both. Train for and run a 5K, 10K, or half marathon to fight hunger, AIDS, or Alzheimers. You brag about exercising to family and friends anyway, right? Ask them to support you for pennies per mile while you’re at it. I know those who run 5Ks and 10Ks weekly.

You have an hour for lunch? Use a lunch hour to help sort clothes or package food at a nearby homeless shelter. Take a handicapped person grocery shopping. Read a book at a senior center. Drop off a plant or flowers from your garden and visit someone in a hospital or nursing home. Instead of playing solitaire on the computer and hitting the candy machine, you can make a difference.

Instead of taking your kids to the zoo or the movies or Disneyland, join others in picking up trash at the beaches or lakes, serve a meal at a homeless shelter, or walk dogs at an animal shelter. You’ll save money, help a needy cause, and everyone will have fun.

USO HATSThe biggest vat of time begging for interleaving is listening to a podcast, audiobook or the radio, or watching tv. I knit caps for the USO while watching eps of West Wing and Firefly. Others knit hats of premature babies or those undergoing chemotherapy. Some stuff envelopes for their favorite candidate, sort gently used clothes for a thrift shop, or box books for veterans hospitals.

Interleaving charitable acts on your vacation can be an adventure. My cat sitter volunteered for a day at a donkey sanctuary during her week of Arizona camping. My neighbor spent a few hours helping at a horse rescue while vacationing in the desert. One friend counted puffins at a bird sanctuary in Hawaii and another visited AIDS patients in Southeast Asia.  Those few hours may be the highlight of your trip!


Fifteen minutes of decluttering every home would yield a wealth of resources. Tools found in the garage could be used in the maintenance departments for youth programs, local schools, the YMCA, and the Elks Club. Clothes, sheets, blankets, coats, and shoes can be used at group homes, drug treatment facilities, shelters, and half way houses. I knew someone who collected towels from her writing group for pelican rescue.

foodforpoorHow about non-perishable food? A $6 sack of food from the 99 cent store or Dollar Tree, looks like this:

  • A box of raisin bran cereal: four servings
  • A bag of white rice: 20 servings
  • A bag of dried pinto beans: 12 servings
  • A can of green beans: 3.5 servings
  • A can of tuna
  • A box of cheesy broccoli pasta: six servings

That’s about twenty-two meals. Every week, I take $6 from my food budget, interleave my own shopping with buying for others, and drop the food off at a collection center, community pantry, or soup kitchen. If I’ve blown my budget before I shop? No problem. It certainly doesn’t hurt me to have a few meals of a tuna casserole or rice & beans.


Interleaving tasks in limited time is doable. I talked about that in the previous blog. Finances can be interleaved too. If the best support you can provide is money, let’s find some.

Put your castoffs online. Use that money to save a life. Not to mention giving your junk a good home. Don’t eat desserts for a week. Use the money saved to fund a program. Don’t eat out for a month and donate that money to charity. Drink only water t restaurants and send that money to a worthy cause. Grow a vegetable garden and donate the money you save at the grocery store.

Imagine a world if everyone picked one of these things and did it. My oh my.

What fun thing do you do to help your favorite charity?

Happy giving!

About mlknowlden

In 2011, I left engineering to write full-time. Between the years 1992 and 2011, I’ve published 14 stories with Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine that have featured the hypochondriac detective Micky Cardex and two stories that did not. The 1998 story “No, Thank You, John” was nominated for a Shamus award. Many of these stories have been included in anthologies and translated in multiple languages. With Neal Shusterman, I’ve also published a science fiction story for the More Amazing Stories anthology (Tor) published in 1998 and co-authored with Neal Shusterman an X-Files Young Adult novel (DARK MATTER) for HarperCollins in 1999 under the name Easton Royce. For Simon & Schuster in July 2012, we published an e-novella UNSTRUNG in Neal's UNWIND world. I have graduate degrees in English and Electrical Engineering.
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4 Responses to Interleaving II: Doing Charity the Easy Way

  1. I was raised in an older era. Charity wasn’t talked about much. But helping one’s neighbor was expected. I often went with the church youth group into the city and helped people clean up apartments, town houses and the like. We did painting, a bit of carpentry, hauled heavy fridges up three flights of stairs and so forth. But never once was the word charity ever mentioned. If the family needed help putting in a fence or repairing a roof you did what you could. A man was accepting help, not charity. Over the years i have done things like that. Mow a widow’s lawn every weekend because it needed to be done, not because it made me feel especially good inside.

    But I understand your approach. Today’s thinking is about reward for good deeds. I can live with that. It gets things done and that is the point. Of course repairing someone’s car is a bit different from the shade tree mechanic days. But I still change flat tires on occasion. And if I call it anything I call it a kindness. I wish you well with your efforts and thank you for a different way of seeing.

    By the way, to be published by Alfred Hitchcock’s Magazine is quite an accomplishment. Short story writing requires a different mindset when it comes to fiction.

    • mlknowlden says:

      Thank you for your perspective, William. Charity comes in many guises as does kindness and a helping hand. I like that charity is also translated as love. I think that should compel us.

      Most people wish they had more time or money to help. I hope my ideas and yours will help.

      Thank you for your kind words about my stories in AHMM!

  2. jbadoud says:

    Guilty on all charges.

    I’m not familiar with the term interleaving.

    I guess I’ve been operating under the old saying that ” charity begins at home.” I do a lot for the Foley family.

    But, I will make an effort to make hats for the USO.

    Great blog.

    Sent from my iPad


    • mlknowlden says:

      I may have made up that word! I bagged up some hats collecting dust and gave to a friend of a friend going through chemo. Reclaimed some shelf space and cheered up someone going through a difficult time. Sometimes opportunities come at unlikely times and places.

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