Del. Ken Plum: Civic Engagement

Del. Ken Plum/File photoThis is an opinion column by Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

This coming Saturday, May 12, I will be sponsoring a Civic Engagement Fair at South Lakes High School from 9:00 a.m. to noon. It will be very similar to the event I sponsored last year that attracted several hundred people. About two dozen representatives of organizations who use volunteers to improve the quality of life in our community will be present to provide information and answer questions. These organizations include political, civic, and human services groups.

There will be no formal program; you visit the booths of the groups about which you hope to learn more and network with the representatives who themselves are mostly volunteers. Come anytime between nine and noon and spend as much time as you would like getting to know the organizations and their missions. Many of the organizations are active not only in our immediate community but in the region, state and national levels as well. The experience of last year was that most attendees found ways in which they wanted to become involved in the civic life of our community. The organizations were pleased as well because they signed up many volunteers.

There is no question that the direction of our national government spurred many people into action. My scheduling of another civic engagement fair this year came about because I continue to hear from individuals in the community that they want to do more to protect the rights and quality of life of all people in our area. Last year many people who showed up had never been engaged as a volunteer on political or civic or human rights issues but were determined to become involved. They left with more information on how to make their own decision on what they would do to help make a difference. The event is open to everyone regardless of political party affiliation and also to those who want to get involved without being engaged in partisan politics.

Satisfaction from being involved to the extent to which persons decide for themselves their involvement can lead to a high level of satisfaction. You can learn this from people you talk to at the Civic Engagement Fair or by talking to others who had previously decided to get more involved in the community. The experience will help to answer the nagging question of “what can I do?” About a quarter to a third of adults throughout the country are involved in some form of volunteer activity.

An article in Harvard Health suggests that many good health benefits come from helping others by volunteering. An article in Forbes last year concluded that “volunteering is the right thing to do for so many reasons: for your community, for your health, for your leadership development…In spite of the stress of life and the lack of time–or maybe because of it–get out there and volunteer. Do good, feel happier, build relationships, learn new skills and have an impact on something important to you.” Hope to see you on Saturday anytime between nine and noon. Look forward to our working together.

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