It is not often that you speak to someone, a stranger nonetheless, and immediately feel at ease. Karen Giambelluca has this intonation in her voice that emanates an “everything will be OK” sensation, which is odd because the exact opposite has been true for her since August 29, 2005.
Prior to Hurricane Katrina, Karen had a job, a car and a home… a trio of possessions any person would be proud of. She had just gone back to school and gotten a degree in Computing Information. She was working full time at a law firm and had just refinanced her home. Unfortunately, Karen was divorced from her ex-husband, John Giambelluca, but it seems the two remained on peaceful terms. All in all, life was good for Karen.
Then on August 29, 2005, the winds picked up. The rains fell. Her neighborhood streets became the tributaries for displaced gulf water. Karen’s life was shaken like a Christmas snow globe and everything inside still hasn’t settled.
Her boyfriend at the time helped Karen and her parents evacuate to Gonzalez, LA. They would remain there for an extended period of time, but Karen just “wanted to come home”. Like so many others, Karen’s flood insurance money went straight to paying off her mortgage. She never saw a dime of the money. So now, Karen was the owner of an uninhabitable home and without a car, she was stuck in Gonzalez with no place to go.
Eventually, Karen was able to move in with her boyfriend, while her parents decided to stay in Gonzalez and start a new life. This arrangement worked out for awhile. She had a place to rest her head, but with her lack of transportation she was unable to return to her job at the law firm in the city. Luckily, Karen found employment at Stage, a popular clothing store in St. Bernard Parish.
However, as time moved on, Karen and her boyfriend’s relationship began to deteriorate and she needed to find a new place to stay. Additionally, her mother had recently developed kidney cancer and her step father had 3 heart attacks and was now operating with a pacemaker. With her parents’ health in shambles and no family left in St. Bernard Parish to help her, Karen was once again stuck, with no place to go.
Thankfully, Karen and her ex-husband remained in contact and John Giambelluca graciously helped her move into her current residence, a double on Buffon St. in Chalmette. She has been there for 6 months now, but it just doesn’t feel like home.
Finally, some help came. Karen’s former boss at Sears told her about the St. Bernard Project. Karen’s former boss is the daughter-in-law of the fun-loving, Frank White. She took her friends advice and came to us for assistance.
Now, with the help of St. Bernard Project and its many supporters and volunteers, everything will be OK for Karen Giambelluca.