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Story About Karma Kitchen

Karma Kitchen, a Bay Area human service program, offers a creative approach to helping the community by gifting meals in the hope that consumers will pass on the generosity.

“Typically we get 70 to 120 customers,” said Neil Patel, a returning volunteer.

The idea is that each customer who enjoys a meal receives their meal for free and can chose to ‘pay it forward’ by making a donation, thus paying for the meal of the next customer.

The philosophy of paying it forward, or doing a nice deed for a stranger, is the main focus of Karma Kitchen.  Hence the name Karma.

"I love that every Sunday morning, a group of strangers comes together,” said Jessica Eng, a student from UC Berkeley and a veteran volunteer of Karma Kitchen.  “Why can't the rest of the world work like Karma Kitchen?"

Karma Kitchen is different from other volunteer organizations. 

While most volunteer organizations operate by fundraising or attaining state money, Karma Kitchen runs solely on the generosity of the customers and their volunteer staff.

Open every Sunday from 11 to 2:30, Karma Kitchen offers a full gourmet menu of traditional Indian cuisine, provided by the Taste of Himalayas restaurant in Berkeley, at no cost to the community.

Taste of Himalayas owner Rajen Thappa is more than willing to donate his business for a few hours every Sunday for the good cause.

“My life has been gifted and by donating my restaurant,” said Thappa.  “I saw it as the best way to give something back.”

The restaurant staff cooks the meal and the volunteers plate and serve the food.

"The people are all laid back, ego-free, and willing to give their best effort,” said Jeremy Ideus, a first time volunteer. “You immediately see the results of your good deeds.”

Karma Kitchen first came to life back in March of 2007 and has since grown in popularity.  The kitchen is even holding strong against the dark cloud called the recession.

“The recession hasn’t hurt us too much,” said Tom Spellman, head of organizing the volunteers for the Sunday brunch.  “Our funding is self-contained. We accept offerings for the food we serve and it goes to pay for rent and ingredients for the following week.”

Karma Kitchen thrives and survives because of the people volunteering their time, skills, and energy each Sunday the kitchen’s open.

Berkely’s is one of two Karma Kitchens, the first located in Washington D.C.  The organization is currently anticipating the opening of its newest Kitchen, coming soon to Chicago.

--A volunteer on Jun 2, 2010

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