His name is Beauregard Jackson Pickett-Burnside (Beau to his fans), and he believes in karma – specifically, the Karma Box Project. The middle-aged pug, with his trademark dangling tongue, is companion to Brooke Lampert, a local chef, caterer and community food philanthropist. This winter, the pair has added filling Karma Boxes to their philanthropic mission.
Karma Boxes are a community initiative conceived by Grant Denton that allows people to give non-perishable food, hygiene products, toiletries, and other useful items to those in need. Lampert started filling Karma Boxes near her home when good friends moved out of the country and cleaned out their cupboards, leaving her with a load of shelf-stable food.
Lampert filled the Urban Roots Karma Box near her home a few times over the course of several days, noticing how quickly it emptied. Then she started picking up extra items at the grocery store intended for the Karma Box. She let Beau talk about what they were doing on Facebook – which he accomplished with impressive detail, and occasional judginess. Then donations started rolling in.
“When I first talked about the Karma Boxes on Facebook, it was really to celebrate how cool they were,” Lampert explains. “I never expected the donations.”
Spreading the Karmic Love
Around the holidays, a physician office donated their food-laden gift baskets to the cause, then returned with loads of groceries the office bought specifically for the Karma Boxes. Friends started dropping bags of groceries and prepared foods on her doorstep, and a former employer who lives in North Carolina sent her Karma “Kash” to buy things the boxes were missing.
As Brooke has continued to fill boxes, Beau has continued to supervise and report on their activities, as well as those of friends who have been filling boxes on their own.
After regularly visiting several box locations, Lampert has gotten to know some of the locals who use her donations. “It’s gotten to the point where as I pull up and people see my car, they come right out to the box,” Lamperts says. “They are incredibly grateful for all the donations.”
When people approach her, Lampert asks them what they need, then she and Beau ask her community to help meet those needs. And her community has responded. As the temperatures have dropped, warm gloves, socks and coats have been delivered. With little room in the Box for these bulkier items, Lampert got permission from Urban Roots (on whose property the Karma Box sits) to add a Karma Kabinet, a storage unit that could hold blankets, coats and other large items. There are now plans for more Karma Kabinets to accompany other Karm Box sites.
Philanthropy: A Key Ingredient in Her Recipe for Life
While the Karma Box was new to Lampert, she has been giving back to her community through her cooking for years. When she finds herself with leftovers from catering jobs, she often drops them off at Eddy House – a resource for houseless youth in Reno. In 2017, when she read about challenges faced by members of the Hug High School basketball team, she contacted the coach and offered to cook the team dinner during their season. She delivered those meals weekly for two seasons until COVID shut down high school sports. She volunteers on the board of On Common Ground, a non-profit dedicated to ending hunger and reducing food waste in Reno. This winter, she’s also hosted free food events with hot meals near homeless encampments.
For those who feel inspired to give, Lampert recommends “adopting” a box and filling it whenever you can. She is also happy to continue taking donations and distributing them to area boxes.
“I didn’t create the Karma Boxes, and it’s not my project,” Lampert points out. “I just love how accessible and easy they’ve made it to give back to those in need in our community. You can give a little, you can give a lot, you can give daily or one time. You decide.”
You can find current locations on the Karma Box Project website.
See a need somewhere and no box? Consider building one yourself — with the permission of the landowner, of course.