Tips and customers’ donations go into the Karma Jar at HWY 420 stores in Bremertona and Silverdale. At the end of the month, the proceeds are donated to a worthy organization or individual. (Terryl Asla/Kitsap News Group)

Staff and customers of HWY 420 pay it forward

BREMERTON — “It’s amazing that something so small can mean so much,” said Kira Cook, executive manager of the HWY 420 stores in Bremerton and Silverdale. “It shows people there’s some kind of humanity left in retail.”

She’s talking about the Karma Jar. At the two stores, employees put their tips, and customers put their spare change, into the Karma Jar. Then at the end of the month, the money — usually between $500 to $1,500 — is donated to a local organization or person(s) in need.

The idea of “paying it forward” started in 2015 with donations to the victims of the forest fires in Eastern Washington, said owner Annette Atkinson. Since then, the stores’ “Karma Dollars” have gone to help fund such causes as breast cancer research, the Kitsap Humane Society, Olympic College Students in Need, several veterans groups, and, most recently, members of the Careaga family.

The company is so generous that Dope Magazine gave HWY 420 the award for “Most Charitable Cannabis Business,” Atkinson said.

Atkinson said her goals are to change how people think about pot shops, to break the stereotypes.

And there’s the rub, because some organizations are leery about accepting money from pot shops.

That’s when Atkinson gets creative.

When one school district turned down good Karma Money, the stores donated it to a local neighborhood association which, in turn, used the money to buy school supplies.

And it’s not all about dollars. When John and Christale Careaga were murdered on Jan. 27, along with a son and stepson, the remaining children lost more than their parents, they lost their livelihood. HWY 420 employees and customers stepped up and in two weeks the Karma Jar was filled to overflowing with $1,800, Cook said.

And HWY 420 staff didn’t stop with cash. The Careagas’ 22-year-old son Jeremy was now the family breadwinner and determined to keep the remaining children together. He wanted to reopen the family business, Juanito’s Taco Shop, but there were documents and permits to file and he needed help.

“He needed help getting the documents in order and my assistant [Sarah Bibby] and I helped them get those documents rolling,” Atkinson said. “There was a the matter of creating a new LLC, getting certified by the health department, registering with the Department of Revenue … We helped them get their taxes and license and permits in line. Sarah did most of it, she’s just a great person.”

Atkinson added, “Our goal is to get the staff and customers involved in the community.”

Terryl Asla is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at tasla@soundpublishing.com

Owner Annette Atkinson helps a customer in the Silverdale HWY 420 store, which opened on April 1. (Terryl Asla/Kitsap News Group)

The store is working to develop ties with the Cannabis Nurses Association so it can bring in speakers from that organization. (Terryl Asla/Kitsap News Group)

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