The American Red Cross prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.
One Red Cross volunteer you can almost always find at the chapter offices is Tamika Chairse. She is often in the reception area offering cheerful words as people come and go. Other times Tamika, a Disaster Action Team member, can be found out on a fire call, assisting people who have lost their homes, or she might be tucked away in an office, completing and reviewing stacks of client-casework files.
“Tamika can do whatever we ask her to do in the office. She’s here as a volunteer almost every day from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and is a great communicator with our other volunteers,” said Rosemary Cook, Recovery Specialist for the Mid-South Red Cross. “When I’m away, I know she can handle everything here very well.”
“I love what I do. I don’t have to stay in one spot. Instead, I get to interact with everyone,” said Tamika.
Tamika has vivid memories of her first fire call. It was scary. “At first the people who had lost their home were very emotional; the kids were crying; they did not know what they were going to do,” Tamika recalled. In her mind, she put herself in their place and wondered what she would do in a similar situation. She recalls the good feeling she experienced when the Red Cross was able to relieve some of their anxiety.
Tamika has been volunteering with the Mid-South Red Cross since October of 2012. She started volunteering because of a suggestion by her aunt, with whom she lives. “Get onboard, you would enjoy it,” she recalls her aunt saying. “I did and now look what I have accomplished, ” said Tamika.
Helena, Arkansas, was Tamika’s home until age 14, when she came to Memphis to live with her aunt. “My aunt is all the family I have left. My mom, dad, and grandmother are all dead,” she shared. She helps out her aunt by taking care of her two nephews when school is cancelled due to weather, and that responsibility keeps her away from the chapter offices on those days.
A graduate of Central High School, Class of 2004, Tamika spent some time in the military and Job Corps. She became a Certified Nursing Assistant and has worked in a nursing home.
“The Red Cross is a real comfort spot for me…I like what I’m doing, and I want to go further. I’m curious about deploying [on a national disaster] and would like to give it a try one day,” Tamika concluded.
Photo and story credit: Robert W. Wallace/American Red Cross