Each day the letters arrive, sometimes from Africa, sometimes from Hyattsville, Hong Kong, Florida or a hundred places in between.

At this time of the year, most of the letters that reach my desk have checks in them for the hospital with the built-in deficit. Most are from people who live in the Washington area, but a surprising number are from people who have moved away.

Some retire and move to warmer climates. Some are in the military and move often. However long ago they were last stationed here, they remember Children's Hospital and the open door it maintains for children from needy families. Some write that they don't even get to see The Washington Post at their distant stations, "but I know from the calendar that you must now be trying to fill up another shoebox for the children, so please add my check to the others."

Then, too, there are the little covering notes from people who know the Children's Hospital story at first hand. As Damon Runyon used to say, "A story always goes with it." In today's mail I found these:

"I am sending the enclosed check for the hospital because they took such good care of my baby when she was there to have a syndactyl condition corrected. They took care of her left hand in October. She will have to return in February to have the right hand done."

"Last year I agreed to collect for Children's Hospital in our block. I was given two modest checks and a few dollars in change. It teed me off to have so little to show out of this affluent neighborhood."

"This check is given in thanks giving for the restoration of my daughter's vision."

"Next time you see that stupid beagle in the Peanuts comic strip, tell him that when he types "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog' instead of jumps over, there is no 's' in his test sentenge."

"Twenty-four years ago, Drs. Copeland and Davis saved my 13-month-old daughter after a 40-day battle. I am spending the holidays with her in Texas now, thanks to their skill and the help of the Lord."

As usual, gifts from groups are slow in arriving. There are only seven to report today.

Junior Girld Scout Troop 1090 (Hyattsville) chipped in $10 for the children, Beta Chapter of Dalta Alpha Sorority sent me a check for $25. The Thursday Night Duckpin Bowlers at Baileys Fair Lanes" rounded up $25.75.

Employees of the U.S. Army Equipment Authorizations Review Activity in Alexandria authorized $38.35 worth of help for the hospital. The Division of Technical Reports of the Interior Department's Bureau of Mines reported in with $65.

Fortunately for the children, two of today's group gifts were in the heavyweight class. Fifty-two members of the staff of the U.S. Army's Coastal Engineering Research Center (For Belvoir) got up a kitty of $520.93. And the biggest gift of the day was generated by the decision that no intramural holiday cards would be exchanged among personnel of the Interstate Commerce Commission's Bureau of Accounts.

Their no-card plan raised $700.

The abacus says these seven groups accounted for $1,385.03, and it further reveals that 55 anonymous individuals added $1,885 to bring today's contributions to $3,270.03. When we finished counting yesterday we had collected $26,365.97, so the shoebox new holds $29,636. If this were Dec. 10 and we had that kind of tally, I'd say we were doing all right. But, alas; this is Dec. 20, and we are not doing all right.

If you are new in this area and are wondering why so many people are contributing to this project, let me give you a quick fill-in.

Children's Hospital runs up a big deficit each year because it never turns away a child whose parents can't pay. It is a hospital whose deficit is built in because its charter pledges it to the service of needy children of every race and creed.

Our job, yours and mine, is to pay off the deficit at the end of each year so that as the new year begins the hospital can start running up a new deficit by continuing to serve the poor. And for more than 100 years, residents of this area have been doing just that.

If you would like to lend a hand, please make your check (it's tax deductible, of course) to the order of Children's Hospital and mail it to me. The mailing address is Bill Gold, c/o The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Thank you.