The Washington Area Animal Rescue League wants a paper shredder to make kennel bedding. Baseball gloves and hats are needed at the Center for Youth Services. A $2,500 blacktop parking lot for the Hospice of Northern Virginia would be nice. And the Population Institute, which addresses the problem of too many people on Earth, needs "storage space."

For people whose closest contact with charitable causes is to whip out their checkbook and keep the receipt for their 1040s, perusing the items and services that 200 community-based nonprofit organizations in the metropolitan area listed in "The Community Wish Book" has sort of a voyeuristic appeal. It's like catching glimpses from outside a window of something intriguing going on inside.

Crib sheets and mattresses, stuffed animals and toys, office supplies -- most of the requests are for ordinary items needed to survive day after day. For those who struggle to keep these budget-tight local agencies operating, especially now as public resources for humanitarian and cultural support dwindle, the blue-jacketed, 61-page booklet published in May by the Junior League of Washington and the Community Foundation of Washington is itself like a wish already granted.

The adage, "Be careful what you wish for because you might get it," doesn't make much sense to Ruth Rucker, whose list includes four strollers, sewing machines, knitting and crocheting yarn and needles. As executive director of the Edward C. Mazique Parent Child Center Inc., in the District, Rucker oversees developmental activities for more than 400 handicapped and low-income children and their families. Public and private donations bankroll the center, but the money never covers the necessities -- much less the incidentals that make doing good deeds possible.

"You never get the funds that you need to operate this kind of program," Rucker says, not so much complaining as simply stating a nonprofit fact of life.

Take the office space recently donated to the center to open new programs on East Capitol Street SE and on 14th Street NW. Rucker was delighted, but the rooms remained unused. She couldn't furnish them and had no money in the budget to buy furniture. Her listing in "The Community Wish Book" caught the attention of administrators at the Federal National Mortgage Association who were replacing some furnishings. They sent over a desk and chairs, a computer table, storage cabinets and other tables. "The furniture really came in handy," says Rucker. "Without programs like {this}, it would be very difficult for us to exist."

Other groups also have benefited from the Wish Book already. The Frost School and Counseling Center, a Rockville school for emotionally troubled teens, got a computer. Bright Beginnings, a developmental day-care center for homeless children opening this fall, received 11,000 square feet of carpet from Allied Carpet.

"This book stands as a vivid illustration that many nonprofits face dire needs and some lack the ability to advocate for even the most basics," says Martha Kettmer, the immediate past president of the Junior League who directed the Wish Book project. "... We have made it easier for the business community and individuals to 'do good' through their direct donations," she says.

Now in its second printing, the Wish Book's 200 groups represent only a fifth (those who returned their lists by the deadline) of the nonprofit agencies contacted. Still, the response was enthusiastic. One nonprofit commended the project as "visionary." An official at the Washington Project for the Arts apologized for the "large and expensive items" on its list but, she explained, "These are the items that we most desperately need and cannot afford to buy." One corporate resource director whose job is to flush out needy and deserving charities and make donations thanked Kettmer for doing her job for her.

The wishes themselves, however, make the most compelling reading. What do low-budget nonprofits require to fulfill their missions?

One conclusion: These agencies are struggling to tag along with the communications revolution. Almost half of the groups list one or more computers among their wishes -- more than any other single item. The Ethiopian Community Development Council Inc., an Arlington group that assists immigrants, typifies the not-for-profit leap to high-tech: ECDC lists "camcorder, VCR, TV, fax machine, laser printer, computers, copier." Of the 200 organizations, 73 request computer printers, 58 ask for VCRs, 37 need fax machines, 34 want copying machines, 32 list televisions and 22 include camcorders.

Besides electronics, wish-list items varied widely, from lawn mowers to downtown parking spaces, from paintings to spruce up shelters to airline tickets for Central American refugees. Among other things, the American Adoption Agency asks for hearing aids for children in South America and India; the Audubon Naturalist Society wants mounted birds and animals for environmental classes; the Calvary Shelter, an 8th Street NW facility that provides overnight accommodations to women in need, needs $250 in bus tokens and a 50-gallon coffee urn, and the National Congress of American Indians requests subscriptions to the Federal Register and Congressional Record.

A few groups took the opportunity to post high-ticket items that they otherwise could only dream of getting. Rainbow Christian Services, a Gainesville, Va., center that provides "residential and foster-home care for abused, neglected and troubled children," thinks big. A new child-care residence for 15 children (estimated cost for construction and furnishings -- $400,000) is at the top of its list. Vans are in demand at more than a dozen organizations: The Meridian House International, which promotes intercultural understanding, lists one estimated at $25,000. The Washington Ballet is looking for someone to pick up "orchestra costs for a season" at $100,000; or to underwrite a new ballet at $30,000 to $50,000. But, then, nothing comes cheap in ballet -- the troupe also requests "one new tutu" at $900.

On the other hand, some of these wishes could be lifted from leftovers at a Saturday garage sale. The Center for Youth Services, a District nonprofit that gives guidance to youngsters, wants encyclopedias and math and reading workbooks. Edgemeade, a residential treatment center for emotionally disturbed boys in Upper Marlboro, could use lumber and small tools. The District of Columbia Special Olympics request "all types" of sports equipment. Board games, puzzles, a volleyball set and jump ropes are on the list of For Love of Children, a 14th Street NW group that helps endangered children and their families. The Opera Theatre of Northern Virginia is hoping for four swords.

Several groups need people's time and skills instead of material donations. The National Capital Chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society lists: "Adopt a House -- help with minor repair, cleaning, etc." Want to volunteer to cook special holiday meals for clients without families or serve as weekend leisure companion? Contact the Alexandria Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Service. The Historical Society of Washington, D.C., needs "free window-washing services."

The longest list in the book? The Friends of Frederick Douglass and Other Caring Americans, a District group devoted to perpetuating human rights and "building bridges of understanding." Currently trying to renovate Frederick Douglass's first D.C. home into a museum, the group lists needs from new windows for the house to paintings and sculptures of the early spokesman for human rights, from kitchen flooring and exterior paint to place settings of china and sterling flatware, even a canopy for the entrance.

The shortest lists? Rachael's Women's Center, in the District, wants an electric can opener for tall cans and a current set of encyclopedias. Senior Employment Resources, an Annandale organization that helps find jobs for older citizens, lists one item -- a fax machine.

Many of the wishes are poignantly telling of the nature of nonprofit work. The Family Place, which lends support to low-income pregnant women and parents of young children, lists $5-$7 thermometers and baby carriers. The Hospital for Sick Children, on Bunker Hill Road NE, needs an electronic communications board called ALLTALK that's used to customize vocabulary for nonverbal children ($5,000) and an Electrolarynx that enables vibrations for the vocal cords to be translated into sounds ($500).

The Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area request "eviction prevention packages" for rent and utilities ($500 each). The National Park Service at Glen Echo Park: "restoration of 48 carousel animals on its 1921 Dentzel carousel" at $3,000 each. And The Washington Area Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse's top item probably reflects the best strategy to prevent addictive self-destruction: "books for elementary-school youngsters concerning history, values and stories."

"The hope here is there will be massive dissemination of the book within companies as a resource, and that people will look for their favorite charities," says Kettmer. "There's an awful lot in it that an individual may want to follow up on."

For a copy of the "Wish Book," call the Junior League of Washington at (202) 337-2001.