29,000 Start Class at GMU

Nearly 29,000 students began classes Monday at George Mason University, comprising what campus officials said is the most diverse student body in the United States.

A recent survey by the Princeton Review, which compiles information on colleges and universities, found that students from 127 countries are represented in the 28,874-member GMU student body this year. More than 35 percent of the 1,710 students from other countries are from India, China, South Korea or Saudi Arabia. Overall, almost 6 percent of the school's students come from overseas.

New aspects of campus life this year, according to a news release, include an on-campus residence program for students with disabilities such as cerebral palsy and Down syndrome, new course offerings on religious fundamentalism and entrepreneurship, and Damon's, a Columbus, Ohio-based rib restaurant chain that is building a sports-themed restaurant on the Fairfax campus.

Classes in Community

The fall South County Neighborhood College will begin Sept. 14 at the South County Government Center in the Alexandria section of Fairfax. The deadline for registration is Sept. 9.

Through panel discussions, hands-on activities and fieldwork, participants learn about how local government works. They also are taught about county services, the area's history and demographics, community resources, cross-cultural dynamics and more.

The classes, which are free, will be held from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Wednesday nights Sept. 14 through Nov. 2 and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1.

Organizers include the county Department of Systems Management for Human Services and the county Police Department's Mount Vernon station.

Light meals will be provided. The government center is at 8350 Richmond Hwy. (Route 1). For more information, call 703-704-6700 or e-mail maria.franco-nativi@fairfaxcounty.gov.

Meetinghouse Restored

The Frying Pan Spring Meeting House at Frying Pan Park in Herndon will be rededicated Sept. 18.

The 1 p.m. celebration will commemorate an 18-month restoration, stabilization and documentation project that recently was completed on the 214-year-old building.

Members of the county Board of Supervisors and Park Authority board will join residents at the event, for which reservations are required.

Park officials said in a news release that the meetinghouse has survived suburban growth and the Civil War to achieve designation as a Virginia Landmark and be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1984, the last surviving trustee of the meetinghouse deeded the property to the Park Authority.

The day's events will include choral music recalling the era when the meetinghouse was used as a place of worship for practitioners of the Primitive Baptist faith. There will also be historic readings, a presentation on the preservation process, refreshments and interpretive programs.

Frying Pan Meeting House is at 2621 Centreville Rd. To make a reservation or for more information, call 703-437-9101.

Nonprofit Group Honored

Higher Achievement, an academic program for low-income children in the District, has won the 2005 Washington Post award for excellence in nonprofit management.

The award, in its 11th year, recognizes outstanding achievement and innovative management strategies in a nonprofit organization.

Higher Achievement, founded in 1975, focuses on helping fifth- through eighth-grade students develop academic skills, behaviors and attitudes that will improve their grades and standardized test scores. It provides after-school and summer programs to about 300 children each year. Nearly all Higher Achievement graduates go on to college.

Honorable mentions went to four Northern Virginia groups: the Arlington Free Clinic; Coptic Orphans, a Merrifield group that helps orphans in Egypt; the Annandale-based Phillips Programs private special-education schools; and the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts in Vienna.

The first-place award carries a cash prize and scholarship valued at $7,500. A $2,500 cash prize goes to each of the honorable mentions.

Walk, Run for Charity

ECHO, which provides emergency food, clothing and money to those in need in the Springfield-Burke area, is sponsoring a five-mile walk and run Sept. 24 at Burke Lake Park. The event is open to runners and walkers for a donation of $50.

The proceeds will be used for expansion of the organization's facility in Springfield, which is used for management offices, family counseling, warehousing and storage, distribution and display of clothing and household items for clients. ECHO is an acronym for Ecumenical Community Helping Others.

Check-in for participants is at 8 a.m.; runners will start at 8:15 a.m. and walkers at 8:30.

Registration forms are available on ECHO's Web site, www.echo-inc.org. For more information, call 703-644-1689.

Seeking Old Cell Phones

Work At Home Moms is collecting used cell phones to benefit victims of domestic violence.

Some phones will be refurbished and given to victims. Others will be sold and the proceeds used to fund agencies that fight domestic violence.

According to its Web site, Work At Home Moms helps mothers fulfill a goal of staying home with their families while still earning an income by connecting them with business resources and opportunities to work at home or have flexible schedules. The organization also helps promote mother-owned businesses through exhibitions, online promotion and networking.

For more information, call 703-766-0294 or send an e-mail to execdir@wahmfest.org.

Voices of Experience

The Fairfax County Public Library is offering free, 30-minute presentations by experts to civic organizations, community groups, associations, government agencies and private businesses through a service called Expert Express.

Groups may choose from the following topics: how to raise an enthusiastic reader, designing business brochures that work, genealogy and local history resources, surviving volunteer boards, homework help, seven hot books coming out soon, preserving your family's papers, technology for aging eyes and ears, using books to help children through troubled times, leaving a literary legacy through the Library Foundation and how to publicize your group's activities.

For more information, call 703-324-8319 or visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/library.

Indian Festival Next Week

The annual Virginia Indian Festival will be held Sept. 10 at Riverbend Park in Great Falls.

The festival includes the reenactment of village life by members of the Mattaponi Tribe, traditional dances by members of the Rappahannock Tribe, Native American pottery, crafts, spear throwing and building dugout canoes.

The county Park Authority, the Friends of Riverbend and the Fairfax County History Commission are among the sponsors.

Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $5; children 2 and under are free. For more information, call 703-759-9018 or visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/virginiaindianfest.htm.

Free Movies for Seniors

The Reston Community Center at Hunters Woods is offering free movies and breakfast on Monday mornings for senior citizens.

Light refreshments will be served beginning at 9:15 a.m. followed by a movie from 10 a.m. to noon.

Alfred Hitchcock's thriller "North by Northwest" will be shown Sept. 19. "Shane" will be shown Oct. 24 and "Roman Holiday" Nov. 21.

The community center is at 2310 Colts Neck Rd. For more information, call 703-476-4500 or visit www.restoncommunitycenter.com.

Meurlin Serves in Ohio

Keith W. Meurlin, who recently retired as manager of Dulles International Airport, was called to active duty in the Air Force in July. He lives in the Franklin Farm subdivision in Oak Hill.

Meurlin, 55, is one of only 25 major generals in the Air Force Reserve, its highest rank. He was called to duty July 11 as acting vice commander of Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base outside Dayton, Ohio, one of the largest Air Force bases in the United States. He returned home Monday.

He was responsible for the maintenance and repair of, among other things, F-15 and F-16 fighter aircraft, B-1 bombers, tankers and satellite systems. "We sustain, keep them flying, all the tankers, B-1s," Meurlin said.

Meurlin was assigned to the job after the previous commander retired and while the military sought a replacement. Meurlin retired from his post at Dulles on March 31 after 28 years at the airport. During his tenure, he oversaw the addition of passenger terminals, the expansion of cargo facilities and the installation of the airport's ramp control tower, where airline controllers coordinate arrivals and departures as planes taxi to and from gates.

A Second Bay Bridge?

Fairfax beachgoers may be interested to know that a Maryland task force is looking for ways to alleviate the notorious traffic that clogs the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in a study that could lead to the construction of another bay crossing.

A new bridge, which would be a massive, expensive and controversial project, is only an idea and wouldn't come to fruition for many years, officials said. But as traffic worsens, it may be inevitable, said O. James Lighthizer, co-chairman of the 23-member task force appointed by Maryland Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan.

Two possible locations for a new bridge would link Calvert County and the Eastern Shore.

"Something has to be done to enhance the capacity of traffic crossing the Chesapeake Bay," said Lighthizer, a former Maryland transportation secretary. "The question is what it is. To do nothing, which is an option, will not be a politically acceptable alternative over a period of time."

The original bridge was built in 1952, and in 1973 a second bridge was built next to it. Those spans cannot be expanded to handle more vehicles, transportation officials said.

The current average weekday bridge traffic is 61,000 vehicles, according to the Maryland Transportation Authority. That is expected to grow 41 percent, to 86,000 vehicles, by 2025. On Saturdays, average traffic volume on the bridge is expected to jump 42 percent, from 95,000 vehicles to 135,000.

On heavy days, traffic delays on the bridge last up to six hours. In 20 years, delays could double, according to the authority.

"Finding a solution to the growing traffic congestion and needs at the Bay Bridge is essential if we are to continue to thrive as a state," Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) said in a statement.

Trade In Your Jeans

Macy's and Goodwill of Greater Washington are offering another bluejeans trade-in promotion tied to the start of the school year.

Until Sept. 6, customers who donate clean, lightly used jeans at participating Macy's stores will receive a discount toward the purchase of a new pair and will support Goodwill Industries' career services to help people with disadvantages and disabilities find good jobs.

According to a news release, customers can visit the gift-wrap department at any participating Macy's location and, for each pair of jeans donated, receive a $10 coupon toward the purchase of a new pair of regularly priced jeans in select departments and styles. The donated jeans will go to area retail stores run by Goodwill of Greater Washington.

Participating Macy's stores include the ones at Fair Oaks Mall, Tysons Galleria and Springfield Mall in Fairfax County, and the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City in Arlington.

Algonkian Closes Pool

The main swimming pool at Algonkian Regional Park in Sterling will be closed for the rest of the season because of a broken filtration line under the pool deck and concession area.

The Downpour Water Park area of the facility was unaffected and will remain open through Labor Day weekend. Admission to Downpour will be reduced to $4 and will include a round of miniature golf.


Marking History in Lorton

The Fairfax County History Commission and the Franconia Museum will dedicate a historical marker in the Newington area at 10 a.m. Sept. 17 at Dupell Park in Lorton. The marker will commemorate the spot where a railroad spur was built in 1918 to Camp Humphreys, now called Fort Belvoir, for transporting troops during World War I. The park is at 6812 Newington Rd.