The rich fox-hunting country of Middleburg hides something from most visitors who browse in the area's fashionable shops and drive along impossibly long fences past its stone mansions. But Anna Beavers sees it.

She knows many of the people who work in the stores, the kitchens of pricey restaurants and the stables of million-dollar horse farms, living only a few paychecks from poverty.

Beavers, 68, calls them the everyday workers, and for 32 years she has taught many of their children to read, found the youngsters secondhand clothes and, when hunger loomed, bought them school lunches.

"They're good people. They're working hard, but their incomes don't meet the expenses. So I try to fill in," she said. "This Christmas, all of the children asked for warm bed clothing . . . . They told me their houses were so cold."

Finding poor children in the vast, rolling hills of America's fox-hunting capital seems unlikely. But at least 100 families between Gilberts Corner and Upperville, on either side of Middleburg, are on welfare, according to Ronald Eamich, assistant director of the Loudoun County Department of Social Services.

Beavers, who was a third-grade teacher at Middleburg Elementary School for 29 years, started working with the horse-country poor in 1959. Someone at a PTA meeting asked for a volunteer to help find clothing for poor children. She raised her hand.

For more than a decade, she had 26 children on her list of the needy each year. She bought them underwear and school supplies, washed them in a tub behind the school and taught all of them to read. She says it all helps their self-esteem.

She did it while bringing up her own three children and helping her husband farm. Beavers makes her motivation sound like nothing special. "I never could stand for a child to be in need of something that I could give him," she said. "It's just a part of my life. It comes naturally to me."

Beavers's urge to help seems as natural as her proclivity to laugh. She calls it God's work. The number of children she helps each year varies. This year, Beavers had 13 children on her list, including two she hasn't helped before. One parent works as an electrician. The others build fences, work in restaurants or do maintenance work, she said.

"I'm afraid, as time goes on, we're going to have more and more people who are going to need help," she said. "Oil is expensive. Gas is expensive. Food. Everything that people need is expensive."

One of Beavers's families is headed by Bette Brumm, who works in the kitchen of the Red Fox Inn. Brumm said Beavers has helped to clothe her two daughters, Bobbie Jo, 12, and Cathy Jo, 11. Both girls asked for and received "preppie" clothes for Christmas. They want to fit in at Middleburg School, they said.

"She's like the last of a vanishing breed," said Brumm, who lives about a mile east of town in a house without running water. "You can't really explain it. She's just good."

Beavers says she loves Loudoun County, particularly the well-tended farms and the spindly beauty of wooden fences. She has lived with her husband on Shadowbrook Farm in Unison since the 1940s.

But she has long noticed the contrast between the monied life of many of the area's residents and the struggle by others just to pay their bills. Of the 4,100 residents of the area, nearly 40 percent have incomes of $50,000 or more a year. Nationally, 25 percent of households have similar incomes.

"Middleburg is a beautiful town, and unique," she said of its bucolic landscape, its trees and historic buildings. "But {town residents} don't always notice the little ones. That's just not their thing."

She has become a celebrity among longtime residents, who know her in the post office, or at a gas station, or in the Coach Stop Restaurant, a place where much of the town sips coffee at one time or another. If she hasn't taught someone to read, it seems, she has asked them for hand-me-downs.

"That lady can sit anywhere she wants in Middleburg. When she comes to town, she's queen for a day," yelled Franklin Payne, a retired postmaster, when she walked into the Coach Stop. "She has kept her finger on the pulse of Middleburg, and knows where she can do some good, and does it."

Bob Bailey, a former student of Beavers's who helps run a service station, says her looks have not changed. She still wears square horn-rimmed glasses, smart suits and a sensible pair of loafers, he said.

Nancy Luck, a postal worker and lifelong Middleburg resident, recalls that Beavers once called her in search of a winter jacket, and Luck donated one. But aside from the donations of clothing, Luck said, Beavers buys most of the school supplies, lunches and underwear with money out of her own pocket.

"I don't think she'll ever stop," Luck said. "Most people are very selective about what they do and who they do it for. She's not."