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Community Highlights: Meet Vishal Narayan of The Good Karma Los Angeles Org

Today we’d like to introduce you to Vishal Narayan.

Vishal, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
It all started at a very young age, as I would go to work with my dad. He owned a trucking company, and along his routes he would see the same familiar faces, the unhoused neighbors. Over some time, my dad started bringing food for these people to give out on his routes. My most vivid memory is from the day that I was riding with my dad in his big-rig and he asked me “Are you hungry right now? If not, we can give your food to this person here, he looks like he is hungry”. My dad is a giver, he’s always engrossed in doing something to benefit another person. Every night he would ask me “Have you done your good karma today?” It wasn’t until I got older that I grasped what he was truly asking me. The good karma for the day didn’t have to be anything big, it could be something as simple as opening the door for someone.

Basically, any good deed or act of kindness! My father had laid the foundation of this mentality and instilled the spirit of giving in me at a very young age. Around January last year, as I would drive home from the fire station, I would see the unhoused neighbors near my house, bringing back those memories I had as a kid. I wanted to change that, I wanted to help. Until this day, I still remember my dad’s advice, “If you want to do something good, of purpose, you have to do it yourself! You can’t rely on others”. So, with that advice, I bought a food truck and with a renewed vigor, my dad and I went around town to hand deliver home-cooked meals. We did this every night after I got home from working at the fire station. Eventually, this led to something bigger, the start of our nonprofit, The Good Karma Los Angeles Org.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
It was definitely not a smooth road! It’s been one step forward and two steps back. I didn’t know anything regarding starting a nonprofit. I wasn’t familiar with business, law, nor accounting. I only know fire science, so everything else, I had to learn on my own by doing research. The beginning stages of starting a nonprofit involve a lot of tasks. It’s been very difficult, and it still is difficult! There have been many struggles along the way. One constant struggle we are dealing with is our food truck, named “Karma”. When we purchased the truck, it was appealing to the eye but just as I had assumed it came with a lot of problems! Just to name a few of those, Karma needed new tires, windshield wipers replaced, side view mirrors, registration, a new engine, and most recently, needs a new transmission. Truthfully speaking, I know on social media we don’t post the struggles, but the reality is that there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes. Running a nonprofit is a lot of hard work! With that being said, it’s officially been six months and inclusive of all those struggles and accompanied by a tremendous amount of effort, we have managed to give out over 10,000 meals thus far!

Appreciate you sharing that. What should we know about The Good Karma Los Angeles Org?
The Good Karma Los Angeles Org is a non-profit organization that was formed last year during the COVID-19 Pandemic, where we host weekly food drives to feed the unhoused neighbors living in the Los Angeles area. The Good Karma Los Angeles Org also has a mobile food delivery service that focuses on delivering food on the streets at night when all of the Los Angeles food banks & shelters close. Karma, our food truck, will travel across the Los Angeles area feeding the unhoused where we can. We are a 100% non-profit dedicated to serving our community. So far, The Good Karma Los Angeles Org has served 10,100 warm meals, 10,500 water bottles, 3,350 bags of chips, 2,600 face masks, 1,600 socks, 1,600 hygiene kits, 1,000 blankets, 500 face shields, 200 beanies, 200 scarves, 200 gloves, 100 sanitizer bottles, 100 teddy bears, 100 T-shirts, 30 sweatshirts, eight walkers, and two wheelchairs in the span of 24 weeks. This past November we also held a special Thanksgiving Day distribution that included warm meals and winter essentials.

The long-term goals for The Good Karma Los Angeles Org are to have Karma, our food truck, be able to give out food for free to the unhoused, alongside first responders during wildfires. We will never sell food! I know this will take both time and funding to get us to this goal, but we will get there one day. My father and I do all this with no expectations. I have dedicated my whole heart, time, and finances into this, and I haven’t looked back once! This is what I want to do for the rest of my life, I want to keep building and doing my part. If there’s something I want to do in this life, it’s leaving something for others. The end goal is a community center that provides child mentorship and free meals, not just here in Los Angeles but in low-income areas throughout the world. This doesn’t stop here; this is just the beginning!

Where we are in life is often partly because of others. Who/what else deserves credit for how your story turned out?
First and foremost, my dad, he is the co-founder, because of him instilling the purpose of good karma at such an early age, I am able to be here today with this nonprofit. A special shoutout to Carlos Moran, a college professor at the University of Southern California (USC). “Good Karma” was originally a startup company class project where his students analyzed, researched, and pitched the company to me. Thank you to USC, Suzanne Dworak-Peck, School of Social Work. Lastly, the entire Good Karma Team! To each individual who plays a valuable role to keep us going, thank you for everything!

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