Today's column was supposed to be about the Navy's gifts to Children's Hospital. But it won't be.

Several units have asked me to hold up the Navy report until, as one put it, "we finish getting our act together."

Why? Because some people were sick or on annual leave when money was being collected for the hospital, and some were on assignment elsewhere. By coincidence, the first contribution on today's tally sheet is a $20 check from an employee of the Postal Rate Commission who wasn't in the office when the others sent me their group gift.

A $20 check has also arrived from the New Carrollton Senior Citizens Club. It was given in memory of a 96-year-old member who died recently. Eight little girls from Mount Vernon Manor went caroling for Children's Hospital and raised $23.

Food and Drug's Bureau of Radiological Health sent me $24.75 that was left after the Division of Training and Medical Application Christmas party. Thirty dollars arrived with a cryptic note that said, "Girl Scout Hiking Group."

A note with a check for $30.35 said, "Again this year, the Mount Vernon Twisters, a duckpin bowling league in Alexandria, decided to give to Children's Hospital instead of exchanging gifts." The Credit and Collection Department's at Hechingers gave the children $35 that wasn't used for an intra-office exchange of Christmas cards. No card exchange among eight members of the Dimensional Metrology Section of the National Bureau of Standards declined to exchange $44 worth of cards. Any schoolboy can tell you that metrology is the science of weights and measures -- especially after he looks in a dictionary.

The Housewives Bowling League of the Falls Church Recreation Department spent their $50 on medical help for a needy child instead of a gift exchange among themselves. Another $50 sweetened the pot from the Office of Project Management Headquarters, U.S. Army Materiel Development and Readiness Command. A collection taken up in the Data Input Section of Giant Food came to $65, and I would like to emphasize to my colleagues in the print and broadcast media that it is indeed Giant Food , not Foods .

From Paktron in Vienna, a division of Illinois Tool Works, came $91 and the explanation that "the women and men" there had not engaged in a card exchange. It was about time somebody shook up the batting order.

We enter three-digit country with three $100 contributions. The Management Systems Department of the Association of American Railroads raised their $100 by not exchanging cards. Greenbelt Lodge 32 of the Fraternal Order of Police took theirs out of their treasury. Employees of General Electronics Inc. (on Wisconsin Avenue, across from Sears), collected their Cnote by "paying" for the coffee their company furnishes free.

Interior's Office of Territorial Affairs chipped in $130 for the children. The Georgetown Christmas Carolers did their caroling in Georgetown on Dec. 22 and took in a whopping $171. Checks totaling $175 came from the American Podiatry Association together with a footnote that said employees there had decided not to engage in an intramural card exchange.

No card exchange produced $190 at MILPERCEN, or if you prefer the unabridged version, Officer Systems Branch, HQ DA Military Systems Division, U.S. Army Personnel Information Systems Directorate. The Reproduction Department of the Vitro Laboratories Division of Automation Industries didn't swap $279 worth of inhouse cards this year -- their eighth straight no-cards year.

United Airlines personnel have always done well by the children, but this year's total is easily their best ever -- a smashing $2,245.20. It was put together by the Washington Flight Office, Maintenance Base, Dispatch Office and Flight Attendants plus five units stationed at Dulles: the Flight Dispatch Office, Maintenance and Ramp Services, Load Planning & ESP Fund, Ticket Counter & Sales, and Flight Attendants. The Flight Attendants, incidentally, contributed the profit made by their Arts and Crafts Show. Two energetic UA people who won Awards of Merit put those checks into the kitty, too. People are nicer than anybody.

Number of groups, 21. Dollar value of their gifts, $3,973.30. Number of gifts from individuals, 44. Dollar value, $1,148. Today's total, $5,121.30. Previously reported, $119,784.13. Now in shoebox, $124,905.43.