Disaster Averted

Along with several other Leesburg businesses, our shop was a victim of heavy snow on the roof. When the ceiling cracked under the weight of the snow and rain, the fire marshal's office shut us down as unsafe for occupancy.

We are a small antiques shop in the historic district, and having to shut down in an already fragile economy could have been the final straw.

What I am writing about is not new regarding these past few weeks, but what has not been mentioned in the several articles about affected businesses is a testimonial to the disaster recovery teams that have come in to evaluate the damages and get businesses open again as quickly as possible.

BELFOR USA of Sterling is the company that worked with Wal-Mart and Heritage Hunt Nursing Home.

The company also worked with our very small business with the same dispatch and urgency that was exhibited for the larger businesses.

BELFOR was responsive to our request and need for assistance. A BELFOR representative, along with a structural engineer, arrived immediately to assess and advise on our situation. Within hours, a carpenter arrived to shore up the ceiling so we could obtain authorization from the fire marshal's office to reopen.

Because of the expeditious and professional attention provided by BELFOR representatives, the fire marshal was able to approve our reopening three days after the order to shut down.

There is still work to be done, but we are open, and thanks to the incredible people at BELFOR, we are confident that the work will be accomplished in an efficient and timely fashion.

We are extremely grateful to a dedicated group of professionals during our time of need.

Connie and Tom Fletcher

Cobblestones Antiques

Leesburg

Eye-Opening Words

A recent letter to the editor in Loudoun Extra ["Clogging the Courts," Feb. 16] caught my eye. The author spoke out strongly against the litigious nature of the country in general and specifically about the recent spate of lawsuits against the county. When I finished reading the letter, I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw it was signed by an officer in a local group of the Sierra Club!

Is this the same Sierra Club that has filed hundreds of lawsuits across the country?

Is it the same Sierra Club that lists its litigation wins in the "Good News" section of its Web page?

Aren't most of the Sierra Club suits against government agencies? And who pays to defend the government against suits filed by the Sierra Club? The taxpayers?

Perhaps the author doesn't know the extent of the doings of the parent organization. Perhaps his local group really is anti-litigation. Or perhaps only some litigation is okay. Maybe the end justifies the means.

Can you say hypocrisy?

Richard Cook

Ashburn

Support Our Soldiers

Whatever our politics, and regardless of whether we are for or against use of force in Iraq, there is one issue in this debate that I feel most, if not all, of us agree on -- showing support for the 300,000 brave soldiers, sailors, airmen and women, Marines and other military forces on the front lines or poised to enter that dangerous area.

Many of these military personnel -- our family, friends and neighbors from communities across the country -- have been deployed for months, some aboard cramped ships, others in desolate desert areas.

In addition to the active-duty military service personnel, a substantial number are National Guard and reserve members called to active duty.

One positive way to show our support for these mostly very young service members is to send them care packages. While individual families are already sending cookies and other items, many of our troops are not getting such packages, and sometimes we don't know what they want.

I remember only too well my time in the Korean War more than 50 years ago when not only my wife and other family members sent me such packages but also my former employer. A used-car dealer in my hometown sent packages of books each month.

These thoughtful expressions created such goodwill and appreciation, especially when we shared our packages with our fellow Marines, that I have never forgotten those feelings of support.

Although the following is a list of requested items by Marines for Marines, you can be sure the other services' lists are quite similar. While some of their needs may appear basic and even humorous, they are their needs nonetheless.

In the main, these items don't cost a lot of money but can give our service men and women some physical comfort and, more importantly, show them they have our thoughtful support and appreciation:

Toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouthwash (small or trial size), antibacterial soap (solid, no liquid), laundry detergent tabs, foot powder (something strong), SPF 1000 sun block, unscented baby wipes (flushable), shower shoes (size 10 to 12 fit the majority), lined writing stationery, boxes of black pens and envelopes.

Also, assorted packs of birthday, anniversary and all-occasion greeting cards, dental floss, hard candy, peanuts, gum, towels, washcloths, disposable razors, shaving cream, tampons, facial cleanser or pads, hand sanitizer, AA and D batteries, playing cards and board games.

If you want to send someone such a package, it must go to an individual, not a unit. The Silver Diner at 11951 Killingsworth Ave. in Reston will accept donations and arrange to send packages to individual service members whose names are provided.

Anyone can give names and addresses of loved ones, friends, co-workers and neighbors serving in the Persian Gulf area. For more information or to donate goods or money to help defray mailing costs, contact Dean Smith at the Reston Silver Diner or e-mail him at reston@silverdiner.com.

I do not have any connection with this establishment other than as a customer who dines there frequently.

Let the debating continue. It's the American way. But meanwhile, let us not forget that our sons and daughters, neighbors and friends already in harm's way need to know that their country is behind them. This is one concrete way to show that support.

Gerald F. Merna (USMC ret.)

Potomac Falls

'Man of All Seasons'

It is a good thing that Scott K. York is running as an Independent. His long-standing affiliation with the county Republican organization is no longer, for the time being, appropriate.

Of late, the county Republican organization has become thoroughly radicalized. Its shock troops consist of an odd couple, libertarians and fundamentalists, but its control resides with developers, avaricious landowners and their lawyers. This leaves little or no room for York.

Always moderate, tolerant and courteous, never an ideologue, he has shed a label that presently does not fit.

Loudoun's premier problem has long been out-of-control growth. This has driven up our taxes, clogged our schools and roads and blighted our scenery.

The Commonwealth of Virginia has refused local governments any authority to control growth, other than through zoning. York stepped into the breach. As chairman of the Board of Supervisors, he initiated and led the crucial process of revising the Comprehensive Plan and the enforcing zoning ordinances. These were enacted after much public input in a timely manner.

They substantially moderate excessive growth and its consequences. They cap York's public career on the Planning Commission, the Board of Supervisors and the Virginia Coalition of High Growth Communities -- founded by York, its chairman, to advocate greater local control over growth.

In November, Loudoun voters will go to the polls to direct a collective thumb either up or down. If we don't wish to return to the bad old days of paving the county over, we should disregard party affiliation and vote for that man of all seasons, Scott York, the independent.

Anna Chamberlain

Ashburn