For a few fleeting moments yesterday, 75-year-old Louise Tomich again was a young woman singing in her church choir in Pittsburgh.
The diminutive Mrs. Tomich, a resident of Knollwood Manor Convalescent Center in Millersville, couldn't contain her excitement as she sang along with about 90 students from Arundel High School.
The students, members of Linda J. Green's three-dimensional design classes, jammed into the center's activities room to sing and distribute handmade ceramic Christmas ornaments. The group had made the colorful clay and hand-painted decorations as part of a class project.
"Bear with us, we're not singers," Ms. Green warned the 40 residents.
But that didn't matter. Mrs. Tomich and her friends listened attentively as the group sang "Jingle Bells," "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Deck the Halls."
Mrs. Tomich was so eager to sing that she finished two verses of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" before the group even started.
"It's lovely," Mrs. Tomich said after the students finished their repertoire.
Added Charlotte Reynolds, the center's activities director: "It's kind of hard to believe that a ceramics class comes in and sings. I'm glad they make the effort."
But the holiday songs were just a warm-up for the main course: distributing the colorful clay ornaments.
The students quickly endeared themselves to the residents further, handing out neatly wrapped gifts and wishing them a happy holiday season.
Three students -- including 17-year-old Melissa Wilkerson, a senior from Odenton -- picked Mrs. Tomich, handing her a green Christmas tree and gold star clay ornament. Mrs. Tomich was delighted.
"I'm going to hang it from my Christmas tree in my room," she promised.
Melissa watched as Mrs. Tomich then rewrapped the gift, carefully replacing the green bow around the white tissue paper.
"I really enjoy doing this," Melissa said. "I did this kind of work with a church youth group when I was living in Fort Lauderdale, Fla."
The visit mixed charity with art. The students worked in groups of three or four for three weeks, learning how to design, plan and make clay ornaments.
Then they donated their creations to people who don't receive many Christmas gifts.
The program actually began three years ago, when students made and sold ceramic jewelry and candle holders.
But Ms. Green wanted to do something for the community, so she contacted three local nursing centers last year, Woods Adult Day Care in Millersville, the Crofton Convalescent Center in Crofton and Knollwood Manor. They agreed to her idea, and the students made a whirlwind tour of the centers.
It was such a success that Ms. Green decided to make a repeat performance this year, adding to her list the Fairfield Nursing Home in Crownsville. Students this year, however, tailored their gifts to the residents' needs, making small ornaments rather than large mobiles.
Ms. Reynolds, the activities director, certainly was impressed with the creations.
"Look at this," she said, pointing to a carefully painted ornament of a stocking with a teddy bear poking from the top. "That person is very talented."