If you're literal-minded, you probably believe that a rose is a rose is a rose, as the writer Gertrude Stein insisted.

You probably believe a car is a car is a car, too.

Nope. It's a potential gold mine for Children's Hospital.

Throughout the 22 years I've run a holiday season fundraising campaign for Children's in this corner of the comics, I've been on the lookout for new ways to capture dough to help sick kids.

We've urged people to give pennies (and still do). We've invited foreign money (and still do, from any country). We've urged grandparents to give in honor of their grandchildren and parents to give in honor of their children's teachers.

But nothing has as much win-win-win potential as our drive (bad pun!) for used cars.

If one of these sits in your driveway or garage, and you'd like to see the value of it go to a good cause, all you have to do is call 1-866-KIDS-411.

The car will be picked up promptly and will be sold at auction. Children's gets the bucks. You get a tax deduction for the fair market value of the vehicle (as long as you itemize deductions on your tax returns). Same process applies to vans, boats and mobile homes.

Why did I say this is a win-win-win?

Because Children's gets money it wouldn't otherwise get -- large helpings of it.

Because you'll get a break next April 15, a day when breaks are especially rare and especially appreciated.

Because you'll no longer have to look at that 1977 Plymouth with pastel orange fenders -- and neither will the neighbors.

We've set a very ambitious goal for our 2002-03 campaign. The car turn-in program is one way we hope to get there. But that can't happen without your clunker -- or your help.

Thanks in advance for taking advantage of this excellent program.

"I just made an electronic donation of $365 to Children's Hospital," wrote a mother from Northwest Washington. She wanted me to know the reason, so it might inspire other parents. I suspect it will.

The mom chose 365 because that's one dollar for every day her son has been "alive and healthy and happy." The little boy did have the usual colds during his first winter. One of them was so troublesome that the family doctor sent the boy to Children's for tests.

Fortunately, the boy did not have cystic fibrosis, as the doctor had feared. The parents are tremendously relieved, of course. But they also want to "pave the road" with their donation, so "Children's can continue to do its wonderful work."

I can't begin to count how many times I've gotten gifts from parents like this. They're blessed, they know they're blessed, and they want those blessings to be available to other families if the need arises.

Thanks to this mom on behalf of the other parents she'll inspire (please?).

Andy Scott may be far, far away, but he "gets it" as if he were right next door.

Andy is a native Washingtonian, but he has spent the past five months teaching English in Changsha, China. Thanks to washingtonpost.com, he reads Levey's brilliances every morning.

A recent column solved a problem for Andy. He wanted to get a Christmas gift for a friend in Fairfax County. But what? And how to ensure that she got it in time?

Bingo! Children's!

Andy made a gift in his friend's name. You can do the same, in any of the ways that appear immediately below.

Says Andy: "I might not get snow [on Dec. 25 in China], or have a tree, but the spirit of giving doesn't need such material trappings."

Thanks for getting it, kind sir.

Our goal by Jan. 24: $1,000,000.

In hand as of Dec. 16: $188,191.46.

TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE CAMPAIGN:

Make a check or money order payable to

Children's Hospital and mail it to

Bob Levey's Campaign for Children's,

P.O. Box 75528, Baltimore, Md. 21275-5528.

BY VISA OR MASTERCARD:

Call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 on a

touch-tone phone. Then punch in K-I-D-S,

or 5437, and follow instructions.

TO CONTRIBUTE ONLINE:

Go to

www.washingtonpost.com/childrenshospital

and follow instructions.

Speaking of Dec. 25 . . .

The D.C. Jewish Community Center is organizing its 16th annual community service day for 12/25/02. Volunteers of all ages and religious affiliations are welcome. The plan for the day: Serve meals to the homeless, entertain senior citizens and children, give blood and paint walls.

DCJCC also is looking for donations of toys, gloves, hats, scarves and socks. They'll be given to the needy on Dec. 25. Please drop off any such goods at DCJCC's headquarters, 1529 16th St. NW. Use the Q Street entrance around the corner.

If you're interested in being a volunteer on Dec. 25, please contact Emily Schwartz at 202-363-6902, 202-297-5412 or Emilyschwartzdc@hotmail.com or log on to www.dcjccdecember25.org.