North GA Forest Fires 2016 Offer
Hidden Joys Within "Pay It Forward"
Thanksgiving 2016 offered us an absolutely unique opportunity to be with our family for a delicious meal and then proceed to do service in the "Pay It Forward" manner.
The raging North Georgia Forest Fire of November 2016, called the ROCK MOUNTAIN FIRE, demanded extra Firefighters from outside of Georgia to combat the danger. These men and women left their families across the country and worked throughout the Thanksgiving Holiday to save lives and homes in Rabun County and in Towns County just North of the City of Clayton, GA.
Firefighters began arriving in early November. By Thanksgiving Day, the fire was being "managed" but already an area of 32 square miles of forest had been consumed. No lives were lost and no homes were lost but the spreading fire continued to be a serious threat to both lives and homes until the heavy rains that started at night on November 28th.
After our usual lovely Thanksgiving meal with some of our five grown children, my dear husband and I set off on a two hour drive to spend two and a half days in the mountains of North Georgia at Ramah Darom.
We went to help serve meals to the Firefighters who were staying at Ramah Darom. North of Clayton, Ramah Darom serves as a year-round Retreat Center and a Summer Camp. Accomodations include both Cabins conditioned for year-round use and very comfortable Hotel rooms. Best of all, Ramah Darom's full Kitchen is managed by an amazing talented Chef. Great food!
The General Manager of the facility and CEO of Ramah Darom simultaneously thought to offer housing to about half of the Firefighters who had arrived from many different states. They arranged for them to stay at Ramah Darom - about 250 people. They both worked 18 hour days to keep everything going smoothly.
The yellow arrow points to the general location of Ramah Darom.
Ramah Darom's Staff went into over-drive to keep the Firefighters comfortable. The Retreat Director came up to work on cooking the Thanksgiving Meal for the Firefighters. Atlanta office staff came up to help out. So did family and friends.
The Camp Director came up to assist with his wife and four children. One wonderful idea his fsamily had was making a map to record the home locations of the Firefighters.
Both men and women travelled from Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. As the replacement teams come in, probably additional states will be represented.
The Firefighters' schedules were more than grueling. The day shift ate Breakfast at 5:30 am - well before sunrise - and returned for Dinner after dark. They had never had the opportunity to see the facility in the daytime. The night shift would eat their "Dinner" at 7:00 am and then sleep until their 4:00pm "Breakfast" before heading out again.
So many interactions were very poignant - truly life-long memories. The Chef and Kitchen staff prepared the foods, we set the tables and circulated around after the Firefighters were seated. We offered to bring them more soup or food or additional beverages. We thanked them for their hard work that provided us with safety from the fire. We were fortunate to engage in conversation with quite a few people from several different states.
One comment that really touched my heart was "I come from a really close-knit family in Northern Oregon. I was not happy about being away from my family at Thanksgiving. Now, being here, I feel like I have a family in the South as well."
Paying It Forward always makes our lives more fulfilling and affords us the opportunity to broaden our understanding of other people's lives. We were fortunate to be able to serve the Firefighters who saved Ramah Darom and lives and homes in North Georgia.
All the best -