Kathryn and Kristin Matteson of Oakton recently received volunteer service awards from Volunteer Fairfax. The sisters, who are eighth-graders at Our Lady of Good Counsel, were honored for their participation in an annual drive to collect and distribute winter coats for needy families.

Responding to a public service message on the radio soliciting donations of "coats for kids and adults who really need them," Kathryn and Kristin produced more than 350 flyers, which they delivered to houses in their community, and put up signs asking for help. At the girls' request, the church served as a collection point for the coats.

In all, the Matteson sisters delivered 235 coats to radio station WMZQ, the largest donation the station received during the three-week campaign.

A new parking garage that opened last year at the Fairfax County courthouse complex has been named project of the year by the regional chapter of the American Public Works Association.

The 2,100-space, seven-level lot off Page Avenue was recognized as having an environmentally sensitive design and for having been completed ahead of schedule in a category for construction projects costing more than $10 million.

The association praised the structure's brick work, which blends with the surrounding historic buildings; a half-acre rain garden that absorbs storm water runoff; and a new park on the garage's east side to provide a buffer between the county's public safety complex in the Massey Building and the downtown area of Fairfax City.

Staff Sgt. Erick Ritterby, of Soldiers Radio and Television, and Richard M. Arndt, the editor of the Belvoir Eagle, have been named journalists of the year by the Army and the Department of Defense.

Both won the Army's Maj. Gen. Keith L. Ware Journalism Award -- Ritterby for his work at SRTV in Alexandria, which broadcasts to Army installations in the United States and overseas, and Arndt for his print work on the Eagle, a civilian publication that reports news stories at Fort Belvoir and the surrounding community.

Ritterby and Arndt bested journalists in all divisions of the U.S. armed forces in their respective categories. They also were first in the Department of Defense's Thomas Jefferson Awards competition.

Ritterby's article, "Bracelets of Love," about a 12-year-old Minnesota girl who made thousands of bracelets to be worn by the loved ones of soldiers stationed in Iraq, won a separate first-place Thomas Jefferson award for television feature reporting.

Student teams from Fairfax County took the top five spots in middle and high school divisions in the recent Virginia State Science Olympiad.

Fairfax High School placed first among high schools, followed by Langley High School, Madison High School, Lake Braddock Secondary School and Lee High School.

In the middle school competition, Carson Middle School won first place, followed by Sandburg Middle School and Rocky Run Middle School. Two teams from Frost Middle School took fourth and fifth place.

School officials describe the tournaments as rigorous academic interscholastic competitions consisting of individual and team events in biology, earth science, chemistry, physics, computers and technology. More than 600 students participated in the state competition, including 16 high school teams and 18 middle school teams.

Steve Smith, a science teacher at Jackson Middle School in Falls Church, has been named a 2004 teacher of the year by the Challenger Center for Space Science Education in Alexandria.

Smith was honored by the center for his enthusiasm and commitment to teaching science. Laura Larson, manager of the Challenger Learning Center of Greater Washington, nominated Smith in part for his efforts to secure corporate sponsorship from ExxonMobil Corp. to continue seventh-grade school trips for county students to the center.

Janice and James Narel of Fairfax Station were recently recognized as outstanding foster parents at the annual Foster Parent Appreciation Gala in Northwest Washington. The event is sponsored by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and the Freddie Mac Foundation.

The Narels have three biological children and seven adopted children. Five children, including two foster children, live at their home. The couple has worked closely with birth families and provided support in times of crisis. They are members of the Fairfax County Foster Parent Association and also participate as adoption volunteers, responding to telephone inquiries from the public.

For more than four years, the Narels have been regular speakers at the county's monthly information meetings for prospective foster and adoptive parents, where they share their experiences.

"In the darkest hours, when you really wonder if what you are doing is going to have any payoff, good things are happening," said James Narel on finding out that his foster daughter wrote an appreciative essay for school about him and his wife. "Staying the course and having faith that your efforts are worthwhile is advice I would give to any other foster parents who are going through some dark hours."

-- Compiled by

C. WOODROW IRVIN

and DIANE MATTINGLY

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