Dear Reader:

This special guide is intended to convey a sense of community for those living in Alexandria as well as provide practical what-to-do and where-to-go information. This directory of area organizations and services also includes a bit of local history.

The guide details how local government works and provides basic information on the school system, as well as details on recreation, parks and places of worship. Phone numbers to get more information about any service or issue are also offered.

The Gazette Packet would like to acknowledge the work of interns Barbara Fonseca and Mitchell West, who researched information, checked facts and collected data for this Newcomers & Community Guide.

In addition, we would like to thank the production staff and its interns for their graphic and design support, Joy Allen, Janice Chang, Emma Dixon, Laurence Foong, Paula Friedrich, John Heinly, Scott San Martin, Stu Moll, Tan Nguyen, Les Rosenberg, Wayne Shipp, John Smith, Abayomi Snowden and William W. Turner.

Contact the staff of the Gazette Packet: reporters Gale Curcio at 703-360-3550, Chuck Hagee at 703-549-1216 and Michael Lee Pope at 703-615-0960; sports editor Rich Sanders at 703-917-6439; assistant editor Meghan Williams at 703-917-6407 or mwilliams@connectionnewspapers.com; or editor Steven Mauren at 703-917-6451 or gazette@connectionnewspapers.com. The newsroom's fax number is 703-917-0991. Send mail to the Alexandria Gazette Packet, 7913 Westpark Drive, McLean, VA 22102 or e-mail to gazette@connectionnewspapers.com.

The Gazette Packet publishes local news, opinions and events each week. Send news about personal milestones, including a family engagement, wedding or birth announcement, letters to the editor and news and feature story ideas.

Steven Mauren,