We have gotten many strange and mysterious donations to our Children's Hospital fund-raising campaign over the years. But they don't come much stranger than the gift we got a few days ago.

Two hundred pounds of pennies.

As you might suspect, the penny story is a long one. It begins with a phone call from Louis Fava, the manager of Montana Double Car Wash on 18th Street NE.

Lou said he was calling on behalf of all the employes at Montana. All year long, whenever they get pennies as part of a tip, the guys chuck them into a rubber bucket. At the end of each year, they give bucket and copper contents to charity. This year, the guys had chosen to bestow their generosity on Children's.

I thanked Lou emphatically, and noted that the gift was especially generous when you consider that tip money is what his employes live on.

Then I pointed out that my name is Bob Levey, not Arnold Schwarzenegger. How the heck was I going to lift 200 pounds of pennies?

Lou said he didn't know, either. But if I could figure a way to get the pennies out of his office, they were mine.

This was clearly a task for those angels of mercy, Co-Op Courier Services.

These hardy messengers spend most of their time carrying two-ounce press releases to and from Capitol Hill. They were taken slightly aback when they were told what awaited them on 18th Street. "Two hundred pounds of what-t-t-t-t?" a Co-Op dispatcher was overheard to say.

But in a matter of moments, they agreed to make the pick-up. And since the beneficiary was Children's, they agreed to do it for nothing.

An hour later, I was stirred from my labors by a loud noise about 100 feet down the corridor.

It sounded like, "Unnhhhhhh!"

Followed by a "Mmmmmmunnnnh!"

Followed by two gasping guys pushing one hand truck that bore one large plastic bucket of pennies.

I thanked the guys as profusely as they were sweating, wished them a Merry Christmas and waved goodbye. Only then did it dawn on me.

What was I going to do with all those pennies now?

The good folks at the foreign exchange firm of Ruesch International hopped smartly to the rescue. They offered to roll and count the pennies for nothing -- provided, of course, that I managed to get bucket and contents to their offices at 1140 19th St. NW.

In world-record time, I had Co-Op on the phone again. Once again, they agreed to do the delivery -- and to do it free.

An army of elves at Ruesch is still rolling and counting, so I can't tell you how much all those pennies turned out to be worth. But I can say this:

Huge thanks to Ruesch and Co-Op. And a plea to Lou and the guys at Montana Double Car Wash.

Get a pair of scissors.

Cut out this column.

Tape it in the cashier's window.

Tell all your customers to read right here where it says . . . .


So be sure it's true

When you say, 'I love you'

It's a sin to tell a lie-e-e-e-!

Imagine 37 male barbershop voices filling the auditorium of the Walter Reed Annex with a tuneful rendition of those words. Then imagine my old buddy Lou Miller calling a halt to the musical proceedings -- and calling Levey to the rostrum.

Into his waiting mitt, the 37 members of the Home Town U.S.A. Chorus placed $410 for the benefit of Children's Hospital.

Sweet music, gentlemen. Many thanks.

Some end-of-the-year group donors to our annual drive:

The staff of Dr. Michael A. McCombs of Vienna ($100).

The cash office at Hecht's, Montgomery Mall ($50).

Participants in the 50th anniversary reunion dinner of the Old Oaken Bucket football game ($500, and a bucketful of thanks to that man-about-football, Eddie Crane).

Banner Glass Inc. of Silver Spring ($100 in lieu of Christmas cards).

The Lillian and Stanley Posner Foundation of Northwest ($500).

The Computation, Mathematics and Logistics Department of the David Taylor Naval Ship R & D Center in Bethesda ($160 from the coffee fund).

The Separations District and the General Books District of Corporate Accounting at C&P Telephone ($48).

Cardinal Campers of Haymarket, Va. ($56).

Margaret Judy's best buddies in the school band, the thespian troupe and on the literary magazine at Churchill High School in Potomac ($25).

The Grand Slammers of McLean ($20).

The Fairfax County Duplicate Bridge Club ($44).

Headquarters, U.S. Air Force, Security Assistance and Training Cost Division ($110).

The Clinton Day Group ($15).

The MIS Department at Riggs National Bank ($106 left over from a 50-50 raffle at the office Christmas party).

The cafeteria staff at White Oaks Elementary School in Burke ($20).

Investors Realty Services Inc., of Upper Marlboro ($100).

The Mid-Atlantic Sporting Goods Association ($114 from an annual 50-50 raffle).

The training center, First American Bank of Virginia ($30 in lieu of gag Christmas gifts).

The Country Squares, a squaredancing group in Northern Virginia ($120).

Capitol Datsun Inc. of Northeast ($200 in fines paid during the year by seven salesmen when they were late to sales meetings).

The National Capital Chapter of BMW Car Club of America ($325, raised at Excluservice, a BMW sales and service company in Rockville).

The Community Woman's Club of Annandale ($100).

Boy Scout Troop 701 of Bowie ($85).

The H-B Woodlawn Latin Club ($150).

All the gang at James Ryder Randall School in Clinton ($15).

The American Legion Auxiliary, College Park Post 217 ($200).

Employes of Science Applications Research and RMS working in the Electrodynamics Branch of the Laboratory for Extraterrestrial Physics, Goddard Space Flight Center ($103).

The Airline Executive Secretaries Association of Washington ($100).

The Emerald Society of the D.C. Fire Department ($100).

The U-11 coffee mess, Naval Surface Weapons Center, White Oak ($100).

The office staff and maintenance crew, Montgomery White Oak Apartments, Silver Spring ($140).

The Holy Cross Ladies Duckpin League ($15).

And the staff at Parklawn Memorial Park in Rockville ($210 in lieu of Christmas presents).

A glorious outpouring! Thank you bunches. 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.