Martha Miller Edwards has had only about 20 birthdays, but she is going on 80.

Yep, she is a leapling, born Feb. 29, like 187,000 in the country whose birthday come every four years.

On Saturday, the Ravenel resident held a dinner party at her home for 50 family members and friends.

Asked about her plans for Wednesday, she said "the funniest thing, I have a doctor's appointment."

Coordinator for the Head Start program at C.C. Blaney Elementary, Edwards is recuperating from knee surgery.

She was relaxing Monday, getting ready for Wednesday's dinner "out on the town."

Five million leaplings

According to The Honor Society of Leap Year Day Babies, an online club of 9,000 members, about 5 million people worldwide have leap-day birthdays.

Celebrations vary. Many celebrate every year; some only every four years. Some love it; some don't.

Edwards, known for her sense of humor, does not have a problem with it. "It just means I am special."

On off years, she celebrates twice -- Feb. 28 and March 1. Do you get two gifts? "I try."

She celebrated her last official birthday in 2008 in Oakland, Calif., with her twin sister, Mary Tolin.

The party was in a ballroom with about 150 guests. Family members and friends flew in from New York.

Sadly, Tolin died three years ago, a year after their 76th.

Edwards said her sister loved to throw parties. "We were very close; similar and different. She was tall, I am short; she left for New York right after high school; I stayed home. She was smart; well, me too."

The twins celebrated four birthdays in California. All three sisters are gone now. Two brothers remain. Edwards is the baby. Does that mean you are spoiled? "Yes, I am spoiled. I tell them what to do and they let me."

Helping others

An S.C. State College graduate, Edwards organized the first child-development center at St. Luke AME Church in Hollywood in 1963. In 1966, the center became one of the first to be selected as a federal Head Start program to promote self- esteem, self-help and literacy for low-income preschool children.

Edwards has been with the program for 49 years and has seen the difference it has made. There are ministers, lawyers, registered nurses, teachers, guidance counselors -- who went through the program.

She offers a small scholarship through First Citizens Bank in Hollywood for top high school graduates who attended the program.

The mother of two -- Gwendolyn Whitsell and Kenneth Edwards -- and 15 grands and great-grands, Edwards has served on the District 23 Constituent School Board.

As for another leap year birthday: "I feel younger because I have only had 20 birthdays. People don't believe I am almost 80."

Reach City Editor Shirley A. Greene at 937-5555 or sgreene@postandcourier.com.