The holiday season already looked grim for the teenagers at Prince William County's Juvenile Detention Home. Then their teacher, Marie Sobers, told them what was happening to the local Toys for Tots campaign. At the time, contributions were down, partly because of the faltering economy.

"I said, 'Hey, this is the story of what's happening. What do you want to do about it?" Sobers said, explaining that she wanted the students to respond with a sense of responsibility to the community.

"A few just sat back and did nothing," Sobers said, "but the others, you could see the concern in their eyes."

The results of their reaction are being delivered today to the ACTS shelter for the homeless in Dumfries. The young inmates rallied for the sake of needy children, producing with their hands two quilts, several garland Christmas wreaths, six stuffed bears, a dozen transfer pictures and picture frames, several bead necklaces and two beanbag games.

Sarah Anderson, director of ACTS emergency services, said that there may be only a few children at their shelter next week but that any excess toys would be distributed to other countywide programs.

Apparently, other members of the community also have been spurred to action. On Tuesday, the local Toys for Tots campaign, which is based in Quantico, reported that the number of new toys donated had reached 9,000, which is above last year's contributions at this time. The Prince William Interfaith Caregivers Program also has directed local businesses, congregations, individuals and community organizations to 2,400 children in need.

Friday, about 25 teenagers at the detention home were putting the finishing touches on their efforts and " . . . When I was young, my mom didn't have it so good. She was on welfare. I'll put my two cents in for helping people."

-- 16-year-old in juvenile facility

sipping a hot winter punch. Their homeroom looked like any other pre-holiday classroom, but all the students were wearing their uniform blue pants and light blue shirts.

One young woman from the western end of the county was gluing festively colored wrapping paper on a cardboard box, preparing a food basket. She had obviously thought carefully about the project. "There are people that don't have what we have -- not here {in jail}, but at our homes," she said.

A 17-year-old from eastern Prince William, who bounced around the room from station to station, explained that the project really did mean something to him because, as an only child, he perhaps was overindulged by his parents.

"I'm spoiled, and I get everything I want. For me to help somebody else makes me feel better," he said, explaining that this would be his third Christmas at the detention home if he is not released before Tuesday.

But not all of the students were enthusiastic about the project.

"I'm not going to lie . . . . I'll prove myself when I get out. This is just a project," said one 16-year-old.

At one table, students who were gluing large red bows on the garland wreaths were still fumbling with ideas of what it means to be charitable. They agreed charity is best exemplified by people who share their wealth.

But another 16-year-old at the table said he knows what generosity (and a project such as the one they were working on) means to people because he and his family have been on the receiving end. The project "means a lot to me because when I was young, my mom didn't have it so good. She was on welfare," said the young man."I'll put my two cents in for helping people," he said.