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Alicia Johnson of Annapolis rubbed her eyes, unhappy with the craft beads she got for a Christmas present.

"What's the long face about?" asked Veta Covert, director of education and recreation for the Annapolis Housing Authority. "Don't you like your present?"

Johnson shook her head. "I'll get you another one," Covert said.

Johnson, a Newtowne 20 resident, opened the new present. Her face beamed when she found a Barbie doll inside.

Johnson was one of 70 kids whose lives were brightened Friday night at Anne Arundel Community College. The Black Student Union, faculty, staff and students at the college conducted a Christmas party for young residents of the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County housing authorities. The kids were 8 to 11 years old.

"I think it was a heck of an idea," said Harold Greene, executive director of the Annapolis Housing Authority. "It gave the kids a chance to get together in the setting of the community college. A lot of these kids have probably never been in a college before."

The party was the idea of the 60-member Black Student Union and its adviser, Cordelia Lawson. For union president Celitta Jackson and members Tania Snowden and Evette Brown, the party was a chance to give something back to their native Annapolis.

"Each student association has to do some community service, and we thought it was a good idea," Brown said.

"We wanted to help our community," Snowden said. "I think any kind of contact is positive. I don't think kids at this age fully grasp what college is about, but hopefully we can make an impression."

The kids were entertained by Mandy Dalton, a clown from Annapolis. They feasted on a turkey and ham dinner. They received presents ranging from trucks, train sets and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle games for boys, to Barbie dolls, stuffed animals and doll houses for girls.

The party was the first of several holiday celebrations planned for kids in Annapolis' public housing, Covert said. All this week, each of the 10 public housing communities will have a party at the Obery Court recreation center on Clay Street. Covert said the housing agency even has a party planned for the senior citizens at the Glenwood high-rise.

On Wednesday, WANN-AM deejay Roger "Jack" Reed plans a celebration of Kwaanza, the seven-day celebration of African-American heritage that begins Dec. 26.

But she said the kids are learning there's more to Christmas than receiving gifts. Kids in four Housing Authority communities made cookies to send to U.S. troops stationed in the Persian Gulf. "They understand the spirit of giving and they want to be a part of it," she said.

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