Say what you will about the U.S. Postal Service--and thousands say it under their breaths every day--the mail folk still get the job done very well most of the time.

This is the week when we hope that "most of the time" becomes "all of the time."

We are within four days of the final curtain for our 1999-2000 fund-raising campaign on behalf of Children's Hospital. We are within a few thousand dollars of our goal. We'll surpass it if enough people find enough dollars in their checking accounts and enough motivation in their hearts.

But motivation won't count for much if the motivated don't mail in their checks. As solidly as the Postal Service usually performs, you'd better get your gift in the mail by the end of today to assure that I receive it by Friday. Of course, I welcome gifts I receive after that date, but those dollars are applied to the next campaign.

This year's drive has had a whiff of success about it since the beginning. Wouldn't it be a shame to fall short? To those mailboxes, gang--for the kids.

"I am a queen of procrastination!" writes Kitty Shepley. But she didn't need some graybeard to bug her in the direction of the mailbox. She busted loose from procrastination all by herself, even though she has a great excuse--she's a college student.

As Kitty says, "there always seems to be more money around at the beginning of the semester than at the end." So she sent $25 to help our drive, before she starts drowning in term papers and other collegiate joys once more.

Kitty is only 20, but she "gets it" in a way that her elders might well envy. She says she was attracted to our Children's Hospital fund-raising drive because it's "something that helps so many people." She closes with these ringingly youthful words: "God bless and rock on!"

It's a lot easier to rock on when a scribbler has friends like you, Kitty. Keep tearing up James Madison University, and thanks.

In case any of you think that the Children's spirit isn't contagious . . .

Cecilia Op de Beke, of Falls Church, says that years ago, she worked with a woman who had recently arrived in this area from Central America. The woman had a child who suddenly developed an eye infection.

"She was desperate and didn't know where to turn," Cecilia says. Don't even bother asking if the woman had health insurance or money to pay her child's bills.

"So she took her child along the nearest busy street and hailed a taxi," Cecilia says. "She didn't know enough English to say more than, 'Doctor,' but the taxi driver understood and drove her from a very southern point in Alexandria, Virginia, to Children's Hospital."

Double happy ending: The cabbie refused to accept payment, and Children's saved the child's sight.

Wonderful all around--and the reason we run our drive every year. Every cent you contribute goes to pay the bills of children (and mothers) like this one.

Yes, more groups. These have made gifts in recent days:

Nautilus Communications Inc. ($100 in lieu of gifts to clients and colleagues).

Financial Management Division, Environmental Protection Agency ($225 in American money and perhaps $80 more in foreign coins, with special thanks to chief tub-thumper Kathy Edwards).

The Hogettes ($100 from these relentlessly piggy Redskins fans, with special thanks to the one and only "Mikey T" Torbert).

Parts Automotive Inc., Bethesda ($1,250).

Oakcrest Towers Funsters Senior Citizens Club, Annapolis ($55).

The Gordon L. Smith Co., Northwest Washington ($50).

Friends and colleagues of Ed Lazarowitz ($75 in lieu of liquid holiday refreshment).

Sirkka's Kitchen, College Park ($60).

Central office staff, Falls Church public schools ($100).

Little Guy Retirees ($35).

Customers, Little Italy Restaurant, Annandale ($370).

Kenney's Stump Grinding Service ($100).

Speakers Worldwide Inc., Bethesda ($500).

Members, board and staff, Federal Credit Union, Department of the Interior ($169.28).

Herschel & Goldene Blumberg Family Foundation, Chevy Chase ($500).

Staff, Herndon branch, F&M Bank ($170 with thanks to manager Patsy I. Rust).

Miss Fujisaki's and Senora Bates's third-grade classes, Henderson Elementary School, Dumfries ($430.40).

Employees, the CNA Corp., Alexandria ($354.65).

Employees, Agricultural Marketing Service, Fruit and Vegetable Programs, U.S. Department of Agriculture ($208).

Congregation and Secret Sisters, Bradburn Memorial Bible Church, District Heights ($501.10, with special thanks to the young people in the congregation and to Wanda L. Brooke).

Saint Mary's Catholic School, Landover Hills ($100).

Division of Pulmonary and Allergy Drug Products, Food and Drug Administration ($20 by recycling aluminum cans, bumped to $60 via matching gifts from Vibhakar Shah and Cathie Shumaker).

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, Rockville ($1,058).

Thank you so much.

Our goal by Jan. 21: $650,000.

In hand as of Jan. 14: $570,300.49.


Make a check or money order payable to Children's Hospital and mail it to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C. 20071.


Call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 on a touch-tone phone. Then punch in K-I-D-S, or 5437, and follow instructions.