The Barbie dolls lined the girl's room. A Princess of Power Castle, neatly packed in its decorative box, was placed under a Christmas tree along with an "A-Team" game, trucks and cars and a pile of coats, dresses, gloves and boots. Best of all, the kitchen cabinets were filled with food.

And there was electricity, too, making the packed refrigerator hum while the television cackled with cartoons.

It was Saturday morning at the Robinson household in Southeast, the weekend after Christmas, and what a holiday it had been.

Indeed, a lot of people talk about this being one of the best Christmases ever, including department store salespeople, but mostly people who have survived what has been, by and large, a year of terror and disaster.

The Robinsons, who had been without food or electricity for much of the year, count themselves among the survivors, and this is in no small way due to an unprecedented philanthropic outpouring by Washington area residents.

It seems that every time people in this community heard about somebody in need, they went all out to help them.

The focus of the Robinson family holiday was daughter Beverly, age 9, who is testament to the fact that if people try to help themselves, others will offer help, too.

Beverly hadn't really asked for help. But members of the Church of the Living God, where she attends services, knew about her plight and arranged to deliver a Thanksgiving Day basket of food to her home.

Then others learned more about Beverly. For instance, that she cares for her two younger brothers, cooks and cleans house and yet manages to do very well in school.

She had said that the donated food made her happy, but not being able to afford a Barbie Doll made her sad.

Well, she is not sad today. In fact, she received so many Barbie dolls that she was able to give some to other neighborhood children in need. The family received so much food that they were able to feed other families, and there is still more food to go around.

"The response has been tremendous -- from rich and poor alike," said the Rev. Charles Hood, pastor of the Church of the Living God. "One lady gave us a whole van filled with food and toys."

"This has been a very uplifting experience for me," said Dorothy Stanton, a member of the church that collected and delivered the food baskets. "It's also been encouraging for the family, especially the mother [Elaine Smith]. Every time I visit the family, she's either cooking or cleaning. The gas is back on, the electricity is back on . . . . "

Smith was asleep early yesterday and Beverly had spent the night with friends and was spending the entire day in church.

Curtiss Robinson was trying to help two of the boys, Donell, 5, and Curtiss Jr., 6, find their gloves and boots so they could go outside to play.

"I worked every day this week, even Christmas, cleaning out buildings at night so I could buy them something, too," Robinson said. "I bought Elaine a coat, a dress, some boots and lingerie," he said proudly. "I bought the kids some toys."

Recently, Robinson learned that each of his children was diagnosed as having bronchitis and asthma. He figures that this is because their basement apartment gets too damp, especially when pipes from other apartments freeze and burst.

Robinson said it didn't sit right with him for people to have to buy things for his family, but he is deeply grateful because now he has more time to worry about finding a larger apartment.

"So many people did so much . . . it was almost a shame," said Robinson, recounting the steady stream of gift bearers who visited the family's apartment last week.

"I started feeling bad, but then I started thinking about the kids and how when you need help, it sure is nice to get it.