Mazal Tov, Anthony Franklin, on your new title as Ramah Darom’s Director of Campus Operations!
CRDAA Committee Member Bobby Jacobs recently sat down with our Uncle Anthony to get the download on what makes him one of Ramah Darom’s most beloved tzevetot of all time…
Twenty-four years ago, I stepped out of a van and walked a short distance into a small mobile trailer turned business office in a place that felt strange and frankly, scary. But, almost instantly upon entering the “business office”, I was greeted by a phrase that reverberates through the mountains of North Georgia to this day, “Shalom Y’all.” I remember quickly looking at my dad, wondering who this strange welcome was coming from, and before I knew it, with an outstretched hand, I was introduced to Anthony Franklin, or should I say, “Uncle Anthony”.
Today, this same interaction plays out routinely, albeit in a much different setting than the old “business office”, as Anthony welcomes people to a place that he has called home now for over 25 years. Anthony is known to many as Uncle Anthony, and there could be no more fitting of a name for someone that truly makes you feel like family. Since that first day meeting Uncle Anthony, he has made an impact on my life like few others. He was a stalwart presence through my years as a camper, a mentor to me as a staff member, and a friend during all the ups and downs that life has thrown my way. Not only do I consider Anthony a part of my family, but I feel as though I am a part of his. From working with his children Dustin, Cole, Drew, and Carrie at various retreats and events, to sitting around the dinner table with him and his wife Debra, it is impossible to think of my time at Camp Ramah Darom without thinking about Uncle Anthony.
The incredible thing is that my experience with Anthony is not unique. Everyone that has had the privilege of walking down 70 Darom Lane can say the same thing. Uncle Anthony is everything that Camp Ramah Darom stands for, and Camp Ramah Darom is better because of Anthony. I had the privilege recently to sit down and ask Anthony some questions about his time at Camp Ramah Darom and as expected, the answers are truly memorable.
How did you find your way to Camp Ramah Darom?
So, this is a long story, as those that know me would expect. I went to work with Charles Palmer who was Shane’s dad. Shane and I met when we were in the 10th grade and have been friends ever since. Shane and I got out of high school and life happened. We both went to work for Winn Dixie but in different towns. We both got married and I moved to West Georgia. Shane and I lost touch for many years as adults. I went through a divorce and my two sons and I moved back to Demorest. I had been working in the construction business for around 3 – 4 years at the time and had a small business that I started in 1995. That is when Shane and I got reacquainted. In October of 1996, Shane called me and told me that he was probably going to be getting a job working at a summer camp and was tired of the grocery business. I had a lot of work to do, and we decided that he should come work with me in the meantime. He did and in February of 1997, while unloading an entire semi-truck of sheetrock, that we had contracted to hang together, Shane got the call that his job was available. We came to the (Camp Ramah Darom) property in December or January to look around and it was nothing like Ramah is today. I was working on hanging that semi-truck of sheetrock when Shane called me and said that his new leadership team wanted to meet me. So, I agreed and went to Atlanta with him to meet the well-known Rabbi Loren Sykes, a lady that I think a lot of, Jan Blumenfeld, Linda Walker who I love dearly, Eric Singer, my hero, and others. After a couple of weeks of talking with Jan, we came to an agreement, and I came to Ramah on May 4th, 1997.
What has been your happiest moment/greatest achievement at Ramah Darom?
WOW! That is a hard question, there have been so many happy moments. I would have to say that seeing humans from all over the world come to this special place and build relationships that they will have for a lifetime is simply the best feeling knowing that I may have been a small part of that life-changing time. Just imagine a young man meeting a young lady and then being blessed to see them marry one another after helping raise them! I can tell you that it will make your heart feel good. It is all the relationship building, nothing else is as important.
What inspires you on a daily basis?
Some say that the happiest place in the world is in Orlando, Florida. I would argue that just a little bit. When you can stand back and see humans of all ages get off a bus and fall into the arms of a friend that they have not seen in months, maybe years. Well, those moments are not possible unless we show up every day. Yes, there are those days that you ask yourself the hard questions, but then you remember the look in those eyes, and their smiles, and all the negativity goes away.
How has Ramah Darom changed you during your time here?
Challenged! Ramah, the family of Ramah, has given me the courage, the strength, and challenged me to make my life better. Certifications, college, and more college are just a few of the ways that Ramah has changed my life. I am so grateful.
You have given your life to Ramah Darom for over 25 years. What is something that Ramah Darom has given you?
Memories!! Memories are one of those things that only your own mind can take away. Ramah has not only given me a mind full, but if you were to ask my wife and my children, they too would be telling you for days of the fun things and great memories they have of this wonderful place. Of course, Ramah has given me an opportunity that most will never have the chance to experience.
Speaking of your family, what does Ramah Darom mean to you and your family?
Ramah Darom is my family. I was raised to believe and teach it now: you do not have to have the same blood to be family. My sons and daughter will tell you, as will my wife, that we all have grown our family by being a part of Ramah Darom. It is home, Aunt Debra and I now live on the Tumbling Waters property, and we love being here!
You have the unique opportunity to see all the different aspects of Ramah Darom from retreats to summer camp, and more. What is your favorite event that happens on campus?
Retreat? Passover. Special Events? Camp Yofi. Events? Weddings of people that I have been friends with for years. Second to weddings are the Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. Seeing young adults becoming the next generation is an awesome thing.
You have had the opportunity to work with, interact with, learn from, and teach some amazing people in your career. Who stands out to you as someone that you would not have been able to meet outside of Ramah Darom?
This is hard due to there being so many. Just for an example, all three of the men that the campus is named for were, and still are three very special men. In each one of their own ways, they made a positive impact on my life. I do not want to make anyone mad, but there are just too many to list. My family is HUGE!
You are known as Uncle Anthony to thousands of campers, staff members, and families around the world. How does that make you feel?
Sorry… let me wipe my eyes and get my voice stabilized. Okay, wow! It is an awesome feeling to have such a large family. It is about treating everyone like it could be your last time ever spending time with them. Not to sound morbid, but it is true. I have lost some Ramah friends that I would give anything to have one last laugh with them.
What else should we know about your relationship with Ramah Darom?
I would have to say again that Ramah has been the catalyst of changing the trajectory of not only my life, but the lives of my children and wife in such a positive way. I have spent almost half my life at Ramah Darom, so yes, it is so much more than just a job.
What does the future have in store for Uncle Anthony at Ramah Darom?
Uncle Anthony hopes to be around in some capacity for a very long time. I love what I do, and I love being a small part of such a special place. I would love to see the third and fourth generation of campers before my mind leaves me.
From all of your nieces and nephews around the world, thank you. Uncle Anthony, Ramah Darom would not be the place that it is without your dedication, your love, and your heart. We all cannot wait to walk into the Welcome Center again and hear a familiar “Shalom Ya’ll.”
Anthony Franklin lives on the Ramah Darom campus with his wife, Debra, and holds the title of Ramah Darom’s Director of Campus Operations. He is the proud father of 4 Ramah Darom Alumni. His five grandkids call him Pawpa, but he will always be Uncle Anthony to us! Anthony has literally changed the landscape of Ramah Darom for the better, and we are all the better for being blessed with his presence in the Ramah Darom Family.
About the Author
Bobby Jacobs was a camper from Halutzim 1997 through Gesher 2003. He was on staff starting in 2004 as a member of Tzevet Mayim for many years. Bobby has attended many Ramah Darom Retreats including Passover and Winter Break Family Camp. Bobby met his wife Alana at Camp and they married at Darom in 2012. Bobby, Alana, and their daughter Samara live in Wildwood, MO (just outside of St. Louis). Bobby works as the Equine Innovation Manager for Purina where he conducts equine nutrition research and develops new horse feeds and supplements.