Del Ken Plum: A Sense of Community

Del. Ken Plum/File photoAs you may know, I grew up in a very rural part of Virginia — in Page County near the little town of Shenandoah in the Page Valley that is part of the grander Shenandoah Valley.

At that time there were about 50 people living in nine houses in the less than 10 miles on Crooked Run Road between Comertown Road and River Road. Except for activities around the schools and holiday parades and carnivals in the Town of Shenandoah, there was little or no sense of community as I have come to understand the word.

My parents had limited formal education, and we had very few reading materials in our home. We did subscribe to Southern Planter and Progressive Farmer magazines that I read from cover to cover, even though my interest in many of the articles was not great.

Progressive Farmer was most interesting to me for its continuing theme of needing to develop a sense of community in rural areas throughout the South.

The topic fascinated me, and I sent in the 50 cents required to get a copy of The Community Handbook (Progressive Farmer Company: 1948). I recently acquired another copy from a used book shop to help me recall why I was so enthralled by it and read it dozens of times. It had information on community organization, parliamentary procedure and social and recreational activities. It provided my first lessons in community leadership.

Along with other experiences I had, I developed an interest in government and public service that I have pursued throughout my adult life. Just as the voids in my early experiences gave me an appreciation of the importance of community, the richness of Reston reinforces for me the significance of community in helping to realize success and quality of life. There are few if any places in this country that have the abundance of community organizations and civic and social activities that are found here.

We are a community of great diversity that adds to our richness. I have the great honor and privilege as an elected official to take part in the Fairfax and Greater Reston Chambers of Commerce but also in the Asian American and the Hispanic American Chambers of Commerce as well as the ecumenical church I attend regularly, the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) Center, the local synagogue, and other religious traditions.

I attend a multicultural fair each year, but I also attend the Pakistani American, Korean American, and other racial and ethnic groups’ activities, along with events sponsored by the LGBT community. I apologize in advance to any groups I may have inadvertently left out.

In those early years when I was trying to gain a sense of community, I would never have dreamed that a place could embrace both a strong sense of oneness and at the same time such great diversity that is celebrated in so many ways. I have grown in my appreciation of the importance of community by being part of Reston.

Ken Plum represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates.

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