Being a mom means a lot of different things. It means being a nurturer, a voice of empowerment, a crusader. For Charisse Gumbs, it means creating a path for your children to succeed no matter what life throws your way.
Back in 2005, Charisse moved from New York to Tennessee in search of a safer environment for her daughters to grow up. She lives in Johnson City, one of the six UNICEF’s Child-Friendly Cities, with her three daughters and two grandchildren. She says, “Being a mom changed my life a lot. Being a mom is challenging! I am proud to say that my girls graduated and are moving forward with their purpose that God has for them in their life. Being a mom is one of my pride and joys.”
Despite being a single mother, Charisse always makes a way for her family and her community. She says, “People think that crime is the only thing that is taking us as people but it’s not! The lack of different resources when it comes to health care, education, abuse, housing, food and the list goes on has had a negative impact on society and the way we live everyday life! I believe our elderly and our youth suffer the most without these resources! I say let’s get better on saving lives with proper health care in place to detect certain illnesses and find cures for all ages! Clean up our streets and give our homeless people safe and secure housing! Let’s do more wellness checkups on our elderly! Help our youth get the best education so that they can succeed in life and do great things to make their own mark in this world! Some of our youth as well as elderly are being abused mentally, physically and are going hungry! We need someone to stand up for them. If you enter a home that is experiencing this abuse, don’t turn a blind eye! Help by removing the victim! Let’s not take a chance on it getting better!”
Charisse came to the Tennessee Justice Center when TennCare refused to cover braces for her youngest daughter. Charisse was afraid if her daughter did not get this essential dental care, her oral health and thereafter mental health would be negatively impacted. Charisse wanted to prevent that from happening. She says, “Without a proper health system, people began to struggle. People cannot afford to go to the doctor. This means some children slip through the cracks and are not able to live a successful life.” After researching numerous dental resources and appealing to TennCare, Charisse decided to set up a payment plan and pay for braces herself. She did not do this because she had extra money to spare. Charisse paid for her daughter’s braces because her children come first. She is the type of mother who is willing to go without if it means her children are set.
Charisse does not just advocate for her children. She advocates for her community. Four years ago, she and her friends started a group called Righteous Movement. Their group’s mission is to help others in need and give back to their community. They do a multitude of things from community events for children to distributing food trays for the homeless population. For Thanksgiving, they served dinner to the local fire department, EMTs, and 911 emergency dispatchers. If they hear about a family in need, they raise money and share whatever resources they have with them.
Charisse believes, “Anyone can make a difference. I come from a background of strong single mothers (me, my sister, and my mom) and grew up in rough neighborhoods. Despite this, we have all been able to make a difference. My mom had a portrait put up in her neighborhood to recognize her as a pillar in the community. Struggling didn’t make us do bad things. It made us want to let others know that we understand the struggles of everyday life. We too have battled many storms of healthcare, education, homelessness etc. Yet we stand tall as humans and remember it takes a village to make a difference!”
TJC is excited to have Charisse as one of our 2022 Mothers of the Year! Her dedication to her family and community are unmatched.
Photographs by Cheryl Killman