Tammy Artola had not anticipated needing the American Red Cross’ assistance when she headed up to Truckee with her family for some time away. She was with her daughter and grandson while her daughter’s boyfriend had stayed home to work.
At 2 a.m. she got a call that the mobile home on their 15 acres was on fire and that the flames were heading toward their home.
She remembers two members of the Red Cross Disaster Action Team (DAT) who were called in to help. They comforted the family and helped with what was needed in alleviating the stress of all that was going on.
In the weeks that followed, they sorted through losing the mobile home, a workshop and many valuables. Tammy’s daughter and her family struggled to figure out where to go and how to process it all and ended up moving to Alabama in order to be near her boyfriend’s family. Their departure was incredibly hard on Tammy and she struggled with not being near her family.
Tammy was depressed for several weeks after her family left, and realized that she needed to add something to her life. She wanted to give back to those who might be in need and decided to call one of the DAT responders who had helped them through their ordeal.
Tammy has been a Red Cross Volunteer for a year now. She has received training in sheltering and is now a member of her local DAT team. In addition, she has gotten involved with Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces and has taken on a lead role in her local Sound the Alarm campaign.
One of the hardest parts of volunteering for Tammy is that she struggles with letting go after helping a client. She says she wants to follow up and provide as much care as possible, often wondering about the people she’s helped long after assistance is provided.
She experienced this on her first DAT call after helping a gentleman who experienced a fire at his mobile home. She recalled that it was a bit unsettling a first, not being sure of what to expect as she traveled into the park on a single access road. The gentleman was waiting for her team at the home of his landlord.
Tammy spent much of the time listening to him talk and providing a needed distraction from all that was going on. They were able to call a nurse to help with the man’s needs and found transportation to get him started on the next steps.
Tammy stated that she wished they could have done more and still wonders how he is doing from time to time.
Through the process of volunteering, Tammy feels that she has learned better listening skills, how to be prepared, and has gleaned so much from the volunteers around her.
Tammy says she enjoys volunteering for the Red Cross because it makes her feel good helping others and it reminds her of how lucky she is. She would encourage those who are thinking about volunteering to attend a local meeting to meet other volunteers and ask questions.
Even though a lot of training is involved, Tammy advised new volunteers to stick it out because it is so worth it.
Story by Americorps member Lauren Crutchfield