By the time you read these lines, the deadline for our current fund appeal for Children's Hospital will have passed.Mail postmarked Jan. 31 (Monday) will be credited to this year's drive; checks postmarked in February will produce the same beneficial results for needy children, but they just won't count in this year's totals.

Meantime a brisk mail flow over the weekend has narrowed the gap between what was collected last year and what is in the shoebox this year. I'm still not kidding myself into thinking we're going to reach $171,307.70 again, but at least we are getting close.

We can begin today's preview of the final figures by noting an addition to a previously reported gift: another $12.50 from the National Capital Club Managers Association. And another $30 from the friendly skies of United brings the United Air Lines contribution for this campaign to an all-time high of $1,520. For a better appreciation of how much $1,520 is, try raising that much in your shop.

Come a little closer so that I can whisper in your ear that $111 arrived from the Comptroller's Office of a cloak and dagger outfit sometimes referred to as the Child Imporvement Agency. The folks at the Ann Dean Insurance Agency chipped in $200, and employees of Foster Associates declined to send each other $220 worth of intramural Christmas cards. Incidentally, you might be interested to know that Foster Associates is 20 years old and this was the 20th time its employees took up a Christmas collection for charity.

Employees of the Carey Winston Co. also took up a collection for Children's Hospital at their annual party and were pleased to find that it came to a plump $329 total. Employees of the British Embassy, in an extraordinary show of concern for children in a "foreign" country, got up a pool of $350 for our needy youngsters.

At AMF Electrical Products Development Division, staffers refrained from sending each other Christmas cards and instead sent me $362 for the hospital with the built-in deficit. In raising $420, customers and employees of Spar Liquors on South Capitol Street more than doubled the kitty they got together last year.

The two biggest totals for today's report came, appropriately, from the Bell System and the United States Navy - the two organizations whose contributions have for years ranked first and second in these campaigns.

On Jan. 14, I reported to you that local Bell System offices had given me $23,302.82 forthe hospital. To that sum we can now add these late arrivals: $12 from Bethesda District, Maryland Plant Department; $22 from Washington Plant Department Construction District; $25 from Group Headquarters Operators Service; $25 from a telephone employee who was on leave when his office kitty was organized; $130 from the Berwyn Dial Center in College Park; and $424.61 from the Washington Programming Staff of AT&T Long Lines. As I add it, that's $636.61 in new money to be added to today's tally, and it moves the Bell System's total in this year's campaign to $23,941.43.

The Navy's previously reported total of $13,171.86 needs only two amendments: $146.40 from the people in the Systems support Department (Code 10) of the Naval Command Systems Support Activity; and (can you stand some good new?) a thumping $1,559.91 from the Naval Air Systems Command. This adds $1,706.31 in Navy money to today's figures and moves the Navy total for this year to a smashing $14,878.17.

The abacus says that today's group gifts add up to $4,370.42 and that 27 anonymous individuals have added $771 to bring today's receipts to $5,141.42. Inasmush as yesterday running tally was $159,839.23, the shoebox now holds an encouraging $164,980.65 - or $6,827.05 less than it did at the end of last year's campaign. To find out precisely how much this year's shortfall will be, let's wait a few days for the Postal Service to do tis stuff.