There's nothing like hearing from an old friend, especially during the holiday season. It's the time of year when families gather together, remembering all that's past, and thinking about the future. It's a time for dreams, and a time for action.

Last year as a neophyte fund-raiser for Children's Hospital, I passed along many holiday greetings generated by this column to my friend and predecessor, Bill Gold.I asked him if he really knew or remembered these many polite, generous people. He replied that, over time, one gets to know them all, and remembers many. So this year I have kept a special watch out for repeat visits from old friends, while trying to make new ones.

Yesterday an anonymous letter arrived that I was waiting for. It said simply, "As unual, in memory of my wife, who died eight years ago," and contained a check for $1,000. If only this gentleman's wife could know the meaningful, lasting gift with which he honors her memory -- though I'm sure in life she had plenty of evidence of her husband's concern for others.

Another letter took a different twist. Many parents write to me, expressing their deep appreciation for medical treatment provided to their youngsters at Children's Hospital, but I hadn't read about a reverse situation until this morning. Two young brothers wrote:

"When our Mother was a little girl, she was very sick at Children's Hospital. We feel we should now do something to show our gratitude for them making her well. We hope you can use this check to help some little boy or girl."

They sent $25.

Letters also arrived from several local organizations and employers, including some repeat contributors. Once again the Delta Alpha Sorority-Beta Chapter chipped in, sending $25. Another repeater, the Women's Social Club of Deale, Md., held a "fun thing auction," which raised $25.

The next letter recounted a loss for the tenants of the former Piney Branch Apartments in Silver Spring, and a gain for Children's Hospital. The enclosed $35 came from a collection made up to help "avoid condominiumization" of the apartments. The effort failed, so the remaining funds went to Children's.

Also sending $35, and best wishes, were members of the Potomac Heights Senior Citizen's Leisure Club in Indian Head, Md. Nicely done.

The Woman's Club of Lyon Village in Arlington sent $50, which represented "a portion of the proceeds of our club's annual Bazaar." Gracias!

Yet another social club, the Scarlet Ibis Women' Group, responded, sending $100 and holiday greetings to the patients at Children's.

The Closet Inc., a Herndon, Va. firm, sent no explanation, just $500. That's a nice boost. Thanks.

Taking the heavyweight title today in the organizational division is another repeat visitor, the Northern Virginia Dental Society. It's great to hear from them, because they first came onboard last year, coinciding with the start of "For the Love of Children." This year 48 professionals joined forces to collect $1,573 for Children's, "in lieu of Christmas cards circulated among our members."

The mail pipeline had a slow but powerful morning yesterday. Eight letters from anonymous individuals brought contributions totaling $1,145, and eight group contributions yielded $2,343. My cordless calculator shows a daily total of $3,488, which, when added to the $17,300.90 already in the shoebox, gives us a new combined year-to-date figure of $20,788.90.

From time to time I stress that, to have a more produtive drive this year than last year, we have to top last year's total of over $230,000 by 12 or 13 percent just to overcome the drain of inflation. Of course, inflation hurts everybody, but for some reason health care seems to be hit especially hard.

The folks in Our Town seem to be rising to the challenge though. Two weeks of this year's annual battle against the "built-in deficit" at Children's has elapsed. Last year in these same two weeks, we had collected just $17,266.74. This year's to-date total of $20,788.90 shows an increase of nearly 17 percent. I'm a little wary of making projections this early in the drive, but the trends thus far are encouraging.

So, let's keep it up. 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.