My good friend and mentor, Bill Gold, mentioned the beginning of our annual charity drive for Children's Hospital in one of his columns early last week, reminding his readers of what we do and why we do it.

The "what," quite simply, is that we attempt to raise money to supplement the free care fund that is a legal part of Children's. The hospital is required by law to provide free or low-cost medical care to needy children of every race or creed. The "why" is that we believe the concept of free medical care for needy children is an idea worthy of our full support and attention.

Bill made a small gaffe in his appeal for funds, however, when he asked rhetorically if District Liners should expect the folks in New Mexico to lend a hand. Yesterday, Bill handed me a letter from a hurt New Mexican.

"Sorry to hear you bad mouth people who live in Albuquerque. At least you spelled it right. Enclosed find a check for Children's Hospital to prove you wrong, on one account anyway."

Well, we have a new record holder for this year's check of distant origin, but now that the challenge has been issued, I hope to hear from readers living even further away. Remember, Children's Hospital is for all children.

In the realm of unfinished business, another $30 arrived from the insurance firm of Harry J. Ginter, Associates. The Ginters, you may recall, threw a tremendously successful party for Children's Hospital that has netted $4,257 to date.

I also have a list of participating businesses from the Tantallon area that helped make the party such a success. Among those contributors were: H. J. Vetter Interiors of Hillcrest Heights ($10); Friendly Travel Inc. ($10), Boat Documentation Inc. ($10), South Potomac Family Pharmacy ($25), TS Infosystems Inc. ($100), and Haas & Alexander Professional Association ($150), all of Oxon Hill; Harley Davidson of Washington Inc. ($100); Mattera Litho Inc. of Cheverly ($100); Inland Materials Inc. of Clinton ($125); Silver Hill Concrete Corp. ($125) and the Silver Hill Sand and Gravel Co. ($125), both of Temple Hills; Brevard Brothers Inc. of Silver Hill ($125), and $50 from the National Tool, Die & Precision Machining Association.

Meanwhile, the mail pipeline has been working hard enough to keep me busy (but far from its capacity). Letters came in yesterday from 64 individual contributors, and from seven area organizations.

A check for $30 arrived from the Federal Home Loan Bank Board Lady Retirees. The group meets for lunch once a month, and collected the donation at their last midday feast. Thank you very much!

The employes of the Small Purchases Section at Goddard Space Flight Center raised $42 for the kids by raffling off a ceramic Christmas tree brought in by a coworker. Also working the Christmas angle were members of the Riverdale Hills Women's Club. They raised $50 by exchanging personal Christmas greetings instead of mailing cards to each other. The Francis J. Kane Charitable Trust moved us into triple digits with their generous contribution of $100.

Workers of the newly named Office of Acquisitions and Grants Management over at the Commerce Department collected $122 for the hospital on behalf of a departing colleague who refused a goodbye gift. Good show!

At the annual Makahiki, or Thanksgiving festival and party, of the Hawaii State Society of Washington, D.C., the traditional "calabash" was passed to collect funds for the free care fund at Children's. Once again, the sun-crazed island lovers outdid themselves, sending $160, and a warm "Aloha!"

Contributions from our 64 unnamed individuals totaled $2,162, and from our seven organizations an additional $534 made today's tally. At last report, the shoebox held $11,943.90, so our year-to-date total is now $14,639.90.

We're off to a great start, but the competition this year is fierce. I'm hoping to reach a figure near $250,000 before the mail pipeline shuts down, as always, on January 31. The best is still to come, I know, but I still tend to worry, despite my faith in the citizens of Our Town.

So, to help me achieve this goal, please send your tax-deductible check, made payable to Children's Hospital, to: Scott Chase, c/o The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.

I'm young -- I'll stay at the keyboard until every dollar is counted, reported, and delivered to the hospital. Try me!