Around town for Children's Hospital . . . .
They had just announced the grand total, and the auditorium at Moten Middle School was still buzzing. But above the noise, the voice of principal Valerie Green boomed through the loudspeaker to summarize what it all meant.
"You can't tell me that Moten doesn't know about giving and sharing, loving and caring, for those who are ill and less fortunate than ourselves," she said.
You sure can't. In one of the most impressive displays of schoolwide fund-raising I've ever seen, the Moten community raised $1,238.35 for Children's since the start of the school year.
Last Wednesday was Add-It-All-Up Day in the brick building at 16th Street and Morris Road SE, and the results continued to follow a steady upward curve. Four years ago, when the school first undertook a Children's drive, about $75 was collected. The next year, a couple of hundred dollars. Last year, about $650. This year, a bonanza.
How did they do it? "The kids did everything you could think of," said Nola Roy, a sixth grade teacher who has spearheaded the Moten effort since it began. "Bake sales, flea markets, collecting in the neighborhood. It's really been beautiful."
As beautiful as anything else was the way the entire school community participated. "We hit up everybody," said Valerie Green. That included the custodial staff, office staff, parents, even the school's Officer Friendly, Metropolitan Police officer C. E. Earle (he gave a friendly two bucks).
To break into four figures is nothing short of amazing, considering the age of Moten's students and the part of town where they live.
Moten's 600 students are in the fourth through seventh grades. That's too young to hold after-school jobs, so the kids don't have a source of income except allowances.
Meanwhile, the Congress Heights neighborhood that surrounds the school is the city's poorest. There isn't much of a business community to support such a fund-raising effort, and there is next to no spare money in most households.
But all it takes is the will. Moten found the way. Sincere congratulations to a terrific bunch.
It's Christmas Eve in Washington
And our joyous wish to you
Is for peace, love and laughter
To last the whole year through . . . .
A minute later, country-blues singer Maura Sullivan would joke that she "didn't know this was really part of the clock. When you sing for a living, this part of the day doesn't exist."
But 7:55 a.m. certainly existed last Wednesday, and a 29-year-old McLean vocalist gave that hour much more zip than usual. From the atrium of Children's Hospital, Sullivan was performing her hit song, "Christmas Eve in Washington," live over country music radio station WMZQ.
Sullivan and WMZQ morning drive personality Jim London wrote the song last year. They sold 1,000 tape cassettes at $3 each and gave the proceeds to Children's. This year, WMZQ is selling 45 RPM recordings of the song at $4 apiece. Again, the take goes to the hospital.
"I can't think of a better place to help," said Sullivan. "Neither can I," said London. In the sleepy morning crowd of nurses, parents, doctors and passersby, there was no argument.
(To order "Christmas Eve in Washington," call WMZQ at 362-8330).
Some things never change.
The escalator still doesn't move.
So reports my compadre, Michelle Hall, who journeyed to the Pentagon last Wednesday to accept the annual Children's donation from the gang at the Defense Printing Service.
I did the honors last year, and found it rollickingly funny that the best way to reach DPS' basement offices was by walking down an escalator that's frozen in place. In that five-sided monument to The Right Way To Do Things, here was a pathway that had been improvised, deliciously.
Just as delicious was the record-breaking generosity that lurks at the foot of it.
DPS Director James Joyner handed over an $800 check this year, $300 better than in 1983-84. Great job by a great committee, which raised the $$$$ through bake sales and craft fairs.
One guy was sitting in a booth, juggling three cubes of chain mail as he discussed a computer that could cure the common cold.
Another guy across the aisle was rattling on about the time ants took over the world.
At my table, three persons were discussing a novel one of them is writing (Sample sentence: "She hopped groggily into the kitchen. Slowly, a mass of fanged peanut brittle raced at Diane.").
While I was trying to digest all that, as well as my dinner, a lanky character named Spam walked up to me, stuck out his right hand and said:
"Hi. Amazed to meet you."
The setting was the back booths of Lum's Restaurant in College Park, one of the more typical suburban restaurants ever placed on this earth. But there is considerable doubt that my dinnermates inhabit the same planet.
"The turnout here varies wildly," said Jim Williams, one of my seatmates.
"The people vary wildly, too," added a bystander, with a knowing smirk.
But these Lumsians share a unifying passion: science fiction. They are members of the University of Maryland Science Fiction Society, which has been meeting every Wednesday night at Lum's for the last seven years.
Why Lum's? "Well, the management doesn't get too upset when we park our space ships in the parking lot," said Jim.
And why was I there? Because the UMSFS has an earthbound concern that I respect very much. They love kids, they love Children's Hospital, and they wanted to contribute $401 to my campaign.
Said I, as I pocketed their checks and got up to go: "I thank you, earthlings."
"Must you insult us?" asked one of them.
TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE CAMPAIGN:
Make a check or money order payable to Children's Hospital and mail it to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C. 20071.