North GA Forest Fire 2016 Offers Hidden Joys Within Pay It Forward

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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 -

Posted in the 2016 Third Annual Pay It Forward for November

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Beth Atalay
Cam Realty and Property Management - Clermont, FL
Cam Realty of Clermont FL

Good morning Lynn B. Friedman, what an awesome act of kindness, you and your husband are true inspirations.

Nov 29, 2016 06:05 AM #1
Michael Jacobs
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Pasadena, CA
Los Angeles Pasadena Area Real Estate 818.516.4393

Hi Lynn -- truly a Thanksgiving moment ---- thanks for sharing your story.  I love the comment from what I assume is an Oregon firefighter.   

Nov 29, 2016 09:45 AM #2
Belinda Spillman
Aspen Lane Real Estate Colorful Colorado - Aurora, CO
Colorado Living!

Oh wow.  You actually got in the trenches and made a huge difference.  Thanks so much for sharing your experience with us.

Nov 29, 2016 10:04 AM #3
Hannah Williams
Re/Max Eastern inc. - Philadelphia, PA
Expertise NE Philadelphia & Bucks 215-953-8818

Lynn B. Friedman  what an amazing story  and I am not surprised

Nov 29, 2016 10:06 AM #4
Brian England
Arizona Focus Realty - Gilbert, AZ
MBA, GRI, REALTOR® Real Estate in East Valley AZ

Knowing about the fires that get out of control in places really makes me sad.  I was just in Gatlinburg a month ago and now I hear that fires are out of control there, very sad and I hope they get it under control before too much damage is done.  I have a lot of respect for those that help out with such disasters in any capacity.

Nov 30, 2016 05:23 AM #5
Dick Greenberg
New Paradigm Partners LLC - Fort Collins, CO
Northern Colorado Residential Real Estate

Hi Lynn - Great pay it forward. When we had our wildfires here several years ago, we saw firsthand what hard work and sacrifice these heroes make to keep us safe - that they worked over Thanksgiving away from their families makes your kindness even more special.

Nov 30, 2016 11:09 AM #6
Bruce Hicks
Best Homes Hawaii - Honolulu, HI
Your Lifetime Friend/Helper!

That was fantastic Lynn B. Friedman you and Murray have a heart for others!  The blessings flood back to you folks.  There is a fire raging around Gatlinberg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. My cousin who is a paraplegic, went there to help how he could!

Nov 30, 2016 12:19 PM #7
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

Lynn- this is what paying it forward is all about. I'm sure that the firefighters while away from their families during the Thanksgiving holidays were warmed knowing that there were others giving of their time as well. 

Dec 03, 2016 11:54 AM #8
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224



                                   Thank you Lynn B. Friedman 

Dec 03, 2016 05:45 PM #9
Sandy Padula and Norm Padula, JD, GRI
Realty National - Carlsbad, CA
Presence, Persistence & Perseverance

An excellent tribute to not only Ramah Darom, but more importantly, the firefighters. It sounds like many, but not all benefited from this event.

Dec 04, 2016 04:43 AM #10
Gita Bantwal
RE/MAX Centre Realtors - Warwick, PA
REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel

You and your husband are doing a lot to pay it forward in your community.Thanks for the inspiration.

Dec 04, 2016 05:02 AM #11
Sheila Anderson
Referral Group Incorporated - East Brunswick, NJ
The Real Estate Whisperer Who Listens 732-715-1133

Good morning Lynn. I can't think of a better way to pay it forward. Well done.

Dec 04, 2016 05:51 AM #12
Nick & Trudy Vandekar, 610-203-4543
Long & Foster Real Estate Inc 610-225-7400 - Devon, PA
Tredyffrin Easttown Realtors, Philly Main Line

A wonderful example of service and helping others out. Well done. 

Dec 04, 2016 08:51 AM #13
Sam Shueh
(408) 425-1601 - San Jose, CA
mba, cdpe, reopro, pe

Some forest fire is actually good for forestation. Seedlerings start spraying seeds. What I think this is all part of global warming from CO2 and men made pollution.....

Dec 04, 2016 09:24 AM #14
Jeff Dowler, CRS
Solutions Real Estate - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude - Carlsbad

Hi Lynn

Such a wonderful story and way to help. I know we talked about your plans to do this the other night. It was a pleasure, and heartwarming, to read about it here!


Dec 04, 2016 05:41 PM #15
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