Karen has always been a go-getter. She started her first business — a pet store called Karen’s Kritters — when she was just 18 years old. She juggled entrepreneurship and restaurant work for years before being promoted to her biggest job yet: motherhood.
Never one to do things halfway, Karen poured everything into being an excellent mother to her daughter, Brooke. Brooke’s father passed away from a heart attack when she was only six years old. As she and Karen navigated their loss, their bond as mother and daughter grew stronger.
Karen started noticing something strange not long after. Suddenly, the fire that fueled so many of her endeavors was fading out. Her once abundant energy was so depleted that she couldn’t walk across the room without having to catch her breath. Her brain became foggy, her eyes jaundiced, and her body was fragile. She was diagnosed with liver failure. “My mom had liver failure in 2011. We found out it was hereditary,” Karen explained.
Soon after, Karen became too sick to continue working in restaurants and was served an eviction notice. At the same time, her mother arrived in Colorado with a single suitcase full of clothes after fleeing an abusive relationship. Together, Karen, Brooke, and Sue suddenly became homeless. “I felt the weight of the world then,” Karen said through tears. She felt a tremendous responsibility to do right by Brooke, and together with her mom, they slept in churches and hotel rooms until they eventually got an affordable housing unit in Boulder.
Once Karen was put on the liver transplant list, she only had to wait 20 days for the procedure — a testament to how dire her circumstances were. Within hours, she could feel her body begin to heal itself. With her health heading in a new direction, she was ready to return to work. But with her savings depleted, she turned to Community Food Share for help with groceries. “It’s a great way to save money,” Karen noted. “There are a ton of good options out there.” Karen and Brooke have settled into a new home in North Boulder, and her mom has her own affordable housing unit in Nederland.
Back to her old self, Karen is working four jobs, including launching a tourism business called Karen’s Tour Company and starting an Amazon store. She still shops at Community Food Share when she needs a little extra help. Reflecting on her experience, Karen shared, “A lot of people struggle, and you never know their story.”
This story originally appeared in our Fall 2022 Newsletter.