"Who's coming?" Maitzie Pinckney asked her class of 14 preschoolers.

"President Carter's wife!" chorused the 4-year-olds gathered at a large, round table making place mats for Thanksgiving.

And suddenly she was there, sitting on a tot-sized chair learning to make place mats with helpers Eureka Battle on her lap and Sarah Crespo maneuvering the paste.

"Do we make them any way we want to?" asked a wide-eyed Mrs. Carter, gazing up at Pinckney and her assistants Crystal Dean and Meta Thompson.

Assured that they could, Mrs. Carter warmed to the task and began chatting away with the children while stamping pasted cut-outs into place.

"You're going to have to come and see me sometime," Mrs. Carter told her coworkers. They accepted the invitation. And when her place mat was finished, the First Lady wrote "Happy Thanksgiving, Rosalynn Carter" at the bottom, and stapled a plastic wrap over it.

"That makes a nice place mat," she announced, surveying the fruits of her labor.

It was all part of the First Lady's tour of Friendship House, the 74-year old community center at 619 D St. SE. Mrs. Carter was accompanied by Giant Foods chairman Joseph B. Danzansky, United Black Fund president Calvin W. Rolark and other officials of the United Way, which contributes to Friendship House's funding.

Pete Ward, executive director of the United Way, led the First Lady and her party on their tour of the 181-year-old building.

"Do people donate these things?" asked Mrs. Carter, fingering a suit from the clothing center. "How do you offer the food (from the food co-op)? Social workers, fidgeting and smiling, answered all her questions with enthusiasm.

"I enjoyed it," she said later of the visit. "I've been interested in the community and I came here because this is one of the United Way projects that's helping, and I was very interested in what they were doing."