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‘That’s called integrity’

A crowd that spanned generations of dedicated volunteers and supporters gathered Sunday afternoon in Buckingham County at the Glenmore Volunteer Fire Department (GVFD) to celebrate the department’s 50th anniversary.

To view more photos of the event, click here.

Those in attendance, which numbered around 120, included current and former elected officials at the state and local levels and members of the other volunteer fire departments in Buckingham County.

The Rev. Perry Clore, who serves as the chaplain of the GVFD, opened the event in prayer and led the Pledge of Allegiance.

Trevor Agee, a third-generation member of the department, offered a brief history of its existence.

It officially started in 1968, and five charter members were present for the event Sunday: Linwood Agee, Jack Ragland, Jimmie Ragland, Gordon Rush and Pete Agee, who is the current GVFD fire chief, a role he has served in for 46 years.

Dot Ragland introduced the guests on hand. There were five special speakers, including State Sen. Mark Peake, who gave the keynote address, GVFD President Tommy Joe Steger, Pete Agee, Thomas Jordan Miles III and Cassandra Stish.

“Fifty years — it’s quite an achievement,” Peake said during his address. “Fifty years ago, a group of dedicated, hardworking, civic-minded, community-oriented people got together right here in Glenmore — Glenmore started, I drove by the sign today, 1851 — and started this fire department.”

He reflected on some financial numbers mentioned earlier in the event which highlighted the fact that the department’s first fire truck cost about $1,000, and fire trucks today cost about $300,000.

“The equipment is so expensive,” Peake said. “(There’s) no telling how many dinners and dances and barbecues y’all have had over 50 years to gather the funds necessary to keep this organization going.”

“It’s not just the start that’s impressive, the people that got it together, the five of you who are here today who are a part of that, but over the next 50 years, the organization that y’all are a part of today and continue to be a part of, to keep that going, that takes a tremendous amount of dedication and perseverance,” Peake said.

He noted the ups and downs all towns, counties and communities have gone through, especially Virginia’s rural counties, many of which have fewer people moving in than moving out.

“Let’s face it, there’s a real drought in people willing to serve their communities these days,” he said. “Nelson County had their volunteer fire department shut down this past year. Altavista had theirs shut down, Lynchburg had theirs shut down.”

But Glenmore stands in contrast to this, and several of the department’s junior firefighters and young members were present Sunday.

“I’m so thrilled to look out here and see these young guys, all of the young people who are out here who are part of these organizations and willing to donate their time to continue this tradition that y’all started 50 years ago,” Peake said.

During his speech, Jordan Miles cited the significant connection his family has to the GVFD.

“My late grandfather and grandmother, L.L. “Dick” Miles and Hazel Ragland Miles, offered the land on which we stand today as a gift to the department in 1967 …” he said. “My grandfather through his advocacy supported hard work in helping found the department, and my grandmother’s service and stewardship sets the standard for me, personally, and for the rest of my family as to what giving back to my community truly meant.”

Miles referred in his speech to a conversation he had the day prior with his father, Thomas Jordan Miles II, who served as a volunteer and president of the GVFD years ago.

“Dad said that this place here where we stand today represented hard work, dedication and service to others and putting the needs of neighbors and complete strangers before one’s self,” Miles said. “He told me that ‘when you look at that firehouse, son, and the families who live on the road and the people who have given so much time to that fire department, that’s called integrity. You don’t have to look any further,’ he said, ‘for inspiration or character or service. It’s reality,’ he said. ‘It’s right here. All you have to do is look here.’”

Keith Agee and junior members of the GVFD presented awards that marked the many years firefighters of all ages have served in Glenmore.

Steger closed the celebration with a brief word, and Clore offered the blessing for the food prepared for those in attendance.