THE COMBINED Federal Campaign (CFC) soared to new heights this year, with federal employees contributing a record $42.8 million, exceeding the 1998 total of $40.8 million. That huge sum speaks volumes about the benevolence of military and civilian federal employees in the national capital area.

Making the 1999 campaign the most successful undertaking in this season of giving was no easy feat. It took dozens of kickoff events, rallies and meetings to achieve the CFC Washington area goal of $42 million. Credit goes to the nearly 150,000 members of the federal work force who stepped up with pledges. But it also took thousands of federal employee volunteers, in and out of uniform, to put this campaign over the top.

And some agencies completed their campaigns in sterling fashion. The Joint Chiefs of Staff had an 86 percent participation. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was a leader among departments, raising more than $2.2 million. The U.S. Air Force's $1,533,757 collection helped put that department in the top ranks of givers, followed by the Central Intelligence Agency, which collected $923,268.

With the CFC representing more than half the entire United Way campaign, the financial support of federal workers emerges as crucial to the well-being of communities in the national capital area. Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, who chaired this year's successful campaign and personally promoted the event in more than 35 visits, said, "Our community benefits immeasurably" from the generosity of our federal employees. It is a work force which truly gave something back.