Despite the somewhat amusing confusion about its name -- is it Ardmore-Ardwick or Ardwick-Ardmore? -- the neatly kept neighborhood in central Prince George's County is serious about the business of community.

It is the type of neighborhood where a resident dealing with a family death will receive a bouquet of flowers from the civic association. The local elementary school opens early and stays open late so the growing number of children of working mothers and fathers can have a safe place to study or play until their parents return home. And on Christmas Eve, the joyful songs of carolers resound deep into the night.

"We work as a team; we are a close-knit family," said Marie L. Brown, president of the Ardmore recreation council, who brags that the civic association has had a president and an active membership for each of the 30 or so years that the community has been together.

Ardmore-Ardwick, as the community is called (despite the name of the main road, Ardwick-Ardmore), has had fairly fluid borders as the town of Glenarden to its southwest has stretched and spread, annexing land along the way. But planners and residents generally agree that the community is bordered by Route 50 to the north, the Glenarden city limits to the south and west, and Bald Hill Branch creek on its east.

Brown, who moved to Ardmore-Ardwick 25 years ago, and other longtime residents are proud of the way their neighborhood takes care of its own. A number of retirees in the neighborhood are licensed day-care providers for the young families. The civic association hosts a number of social events throughout the year, including Halloween parties and the annual summer Ardmore day.

On Thanksgiving, community leaders deliver bags of food to the needy in neighboring communities and on Christmas Day, baskets of goodies for the children.

The community has annually given scholarships to deserving students, whether to the brightest of the neighborhood or those average students who might not receive aid anywhere else to go on to college or trade school. This year, Brown said she is organizing a group of parents to volunteer to tutor students at Ardmore Elementary School in math and reading.

Ardmore-Ardwick is a middle-class neighborhood of nearly 600 split-levels and colonials, where the range of prices for existing homes is below $150,000. Homes built in the new Woodmore Crossings and Springdale subdivisions start at $150,000 and average about $170,000, according to Philip Taylor, a researcher with the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

Ardmore-Ardwick's history reflects much of what has happened in the last 20 years in Prince George's, the region's most racially balanced county that has one of the largest populations of affluent blacks in the nation. The main difference is that Ardmore-Ardwick became a bastion for upwardly mobile blacks much sooner than other parts of the county.

In the 1950s, when Roland Brownlee's wife did housework there, the area, a scattered collection of houses, was all white. By the early 1960s, as the neighborhood jelled into a community, more and more black families began moving from neighboring Glenarden and the District in search of bigger houses that were still close in to the city.

Brownlee was one such person, moving to Ardmore-Ardwick in 1971 from his home in Glenarden only a few blocks away. He purchased his three-bedroom home for $24,000. "It was nicer here," he recalled.

By the early 1970s, the area was predominantly black and middle-class and organized into the community as asociations built around the elementary school, longtime residents and community workers said.

"It is a very strong black community," said Robert C. Estep, Ardmore Elementary School principal. "This was probably one of the first professional communities in the county where blacks could purchase homes."

Today, Ardmore-Ardwick is home to corporate executives, top-level government workers and educators. They largely were attracted to the community's proximity to the District and convenience of getting there.

Route 50, which is scheduled to become Interstate 595 in March, allows commuters such as Dexter Jennings to reach Capitol Hill in less than 20 minutes. The Capital Beltway runs through the community, and two Metro subway stations, New Carrollton and Landover, are within five minutes' driving distance.

The homes being built also are spacious and affordable by the region's standards, averaging about $170,000, but starting at about $150,000.

Dexter Jennings, 27, and his wife, Sonya, 26, purchased their new three-bedroom, 2 1/2-bath colonial house in Springdale a year ago.

"The location was perfect. You get the convenience of being near the city, but it's the suburbs," said Sonya Jennings, who manages a clothing store in Burtonsville.

She also said she was impressed by the price of the housing units. "We got a single-family {house} for what you'd pay in Northern Virginia for a condo."

Dexter Jennings, a systems administrator for the Senate budget director, said he was pleased that Ardmore Elementary is a magnet school, which receives additional county funds for increased programming in order to attract a racially mixed student body. He and his son, Stephen, also use the community park. Riding stables are blocks away.

"A lot of people talk {negatively} about Prince George's County," said Jennings, who has lived in the county practically all his life. "But the county services are great."