Normally in my blog I highlight the Green River Gorge's natural environment.  However, I ran across this segment called “Returning the Favor” hosted by Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs.  His segment is about remarkable people in communities all across America that go above and beyond to make the world a better place. 

In Black Diamond that person is Mama Ginger who started the Soup Ladies, a nonprofit that brings food (soup) to first responders working on disasters, fires, and prolonged events.  Mama Ginger was also the owner of Mama Passarelli's, a restaurant, located in Black Diamond. She recently closed the restaurant in order to pursue her passion of providing comfort and a hot bowl of soup to first responders full time.  As someone, that as a first responder (paramedic), I completely appreciate that invaluable support! A warm, home cooked meal, during a very taxing event, can be just what is needed to help get through those type of emergencies.

I loved Mama Passarelli's.  A local place with a touch of class where you went to sit down, take your time, and enjoy a fine meal.  Black Diamond is just north of the Green River Gorge. The current town is surrounded by forest.  Although that is quickly changing.  It is connected to the Green River Gorge via an old defunct railroad line that once brought miners out to the small town of Franklin just east of Black Diamond and hopefully one day will bring cyclists and walkers along the same route on a historic community trail.

Above.  Photos of Historic Black Diamond

Last spring, as part of my documentary project on the Green River Gorge, I gave a presentation to at the Black Diamond Historical society’s annual meeting.  It has been the highlight of my outreach.  Here was a gathering of people who had grown up with the Green River Gorge in their backyard and they had some great stories about the river gorge. Their are stories, like Howard Bott’s adventure painted a vivid picture of a different time.  Howard, as a kid,  with a group of his friends were scrambling around in the Gorge in late summer.  They found theirselves out after dark and ended up sleeping outside under an over hanging rock.  Another old timer,Clayton Mead, described fishing with his dad and catching fish “this big” gesturing with a wide open stretch of his arms.  Everyone had a story.  Newcomers learned about the Green River Gorge from my presentation but also from the rich history of locals who were born and raised in the area.

Clayton Mead's Family Photos

Clayton Mead's Family Photos

It is people like Mama Ginger and the old timers at Black Diamond Historical Society that are the glue that hold communities together.  They are the history and the stability that help us hold on to tradition while engaging change and, at times, adversity.  It is the part of rural America that I love and that is often left out of headlines.  People who will always rally around a neighbor in need.  Pitch in to build a new community center or man the local fire department.  People who have big hearts and surprise you with their generosity.
The stories along with the currents of the river can connect all our communities along the Green-Duwamish River together.  We need more mama Ginger’s that find value in volunteering. That cup of soup provided to first responders at a fire or natural disaster means more than just a warm meal.  It shows us that there people out there who care.  We are all like salmon swimming upstream against the currents of life and sometimes we just need a resting place to rebuild our strength with a hot bowl of soup and a big hug!

Thank you Mama Ginger for all you do and inspire in all of us!

Watch Returning the Favor Featuring Mama Ginger and the Soup Ladies.