When Dona White founded Velvet Creme Popcorn Inc. in 1937, she had two goals: to make quality popcorn cheaper than people can make it at home, and to create jobs for her children. Today, the White family ships more than 3,000 cans of popcorn daily during the Christmas season, their busiest. The popcorn, free of unpopped kernels, is packed by hand in sturdy metal 6.5-gallon cans with handles and tight-fitting lids that make them ideal as small trash container, high-tech wastebaskets or storage tins. The caramel corn line -- called "karmel" corn -- is turned out by family members who use a secret formula; other employees are allowed to work on the plain buttered and cheese-flavored popcorn. You can get single cans of one type of popcorn or any combination of two, but the best bet is the three-way selection for $12.50 (plus $3.46 shipping to the Washington area). Particularly nice for kids at camp, students or friends stationed overseas with APO or FPO addresses.

Velvet Creme Popcorn Inc., 4710 Belinder, Shawnee Mission, Kans. 66205. 913/236-7338, 913/236-7742, 913/236-7771. Plain buttered popcorn, $8. Three flavors, $12.50. All cheese, $13.50. Cheese and buttered, $11.50. All "karmel," $13.50. "Karmel" and buttered, $11.50. "Karmel" and cheese, $13.50. Add $2 for a decorated can, and 10 cents for an enclosure card. Shipping costs elsewhere vary.