Karma in Cullman founder Rachel Fillmore is hoping the good karma — the good deeds — she and others have done over the past seven years comes back around in the form of a new home for the nonprofit.
The two buildings Karma in Cullman has been operating out of for the past six years recently sold, so Fillmore is looking for a new home for the organization, which operates on very little monetary donations.
Fillmore started the nonprofit in the living room of her home. She was going through a rough patch in her life, she said, and when she’s stressed, she cleans. After cleaning out closets and packing up items, she considered a yard sale but then decided there were probably people in Cullman who needed the items. Then she thought there may be others like her who had items to donate. She was right on both counts.
“We helped over 100 kids that Christmas,” she said. From there, it snowballed in to a food pantry, suicide awareness walks and community Thanksgivings.
Karma in Cullman grew to fill her living room, then carport and then storage units. Six years ago, a property owner donated two buildings on Highway 157 to Karma in Cullman.
One building holds items they gather year-round for their two big programs — Christmas for kids and back-to-school shopping — and clothes and other items given out regularly to those who need it. The other building contains the food pantry (Karma in Cullman receives food from the North Alabama Food Bank), medical supplies and furniture.
This week, Fillmore and volunteers have been preparing to move out of the two buildings, but she doesn’t yet know where they will go.
“It’s something we always known would happen,” said Fillmore. “But we just hoped when we got to that bridge it would be a nice paved one.”
She’s grateful for the six years they’ve had in the buildings and the owner who generously allowed the nonprofit to serve thousands of Cullman residents from the location. “It’s been a blessing. We understood going into it that it would not be permanent.”
Each month, Karma in Cullman does a $5 bag sale where families can fill a 13-gallon bag with clothing, shoes, toys and other items along with 10 nonperishable food items. The proceeds are used to purchase items for the Christmas or back-to-school events. They’ve also received donations from motorcycle club benefit rides and a car show. Last year, Karma in Cullman received $500 from United Way of Cullman County to assist people during the pandemic.
“That may not seem like a lot to other groups, but for us it’s huge,” said Fillmore.
She has looked at renting other property, but for an organization that does not hold fundraisers and receives few grants, the cost is prohibitive. Fillmore is hoping someone will, at the very least, donate storage units so they will be able to continue with the Christmas assistance project. The property owner is allowing them to complete the back-to-school assistance project from the current location.
“We’re kind of a hidden secret and a lot of people don’t know about us unless they’ve had to need us,” said Fillmore. “We’re not in it to be known, we’re in it to help people. If there’s anything we think we can do to make Cullman a better, happier safer community, that’s what we want to do.”
They’ve helped thousands of individuals and families each year. The Christmas assist program helps about 100 families and 200-300 children each year. The back-to-school project provides needed items to between 150-200 children. Each year, about 5,000 individuals visit Karma in Cullman for food, clothing and/or furniture.
With the future of the organization in limbo, Fillmore said it’s those people who are on her mind.
“It’s families that I worry about,” she said. “They do depend on us for these projects. It’s heart-wrenching.”
The woman who named her nonprofit Karma in Cullman because, “We see it as putting good out and good comes back” is hoping there is more good coming back. She is also seeking advice from a higher power.
“Whenever I’m feeling down, I talk to God and He says, ‘No, you’ve got to keep going,’” she said. “I talked to God this weekend and said, ‘God, please show me what you want me to do.’”
Karma in Cullman can be reached at 256-734-3942 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.