Columnist

At a time of bad news, mixed news and confusing news, I have some good news: The Washington Post Helping Hand smashed past its goal of raising $225,000 for three local charities.

When we hit the “equals” button on our big calculator for the final time, it told us that Post readers had donated a total of $254,837 to Bright Beginnings, N Street Village and So Others Might Eat.

“We launched Post Helping Hand five years ago with one goal in mind: to facilitate significant financial donations to organizations fighting hunger, homelessness and poverty in our region,” Post Publisher Fred Ryan said Tuesday. “Since then we have raised more than $1,145,000 for our beneficiaries.”

This year that was thanks to the contributions of 1,472 individual donors. If you were one of those, thank you.

Where has your money gone? It’s gone to support Bright Beginnings, a preschool serving homeless families that last fall opened a handsome new facility in Southeast Washington. Teachers there use the latest techniques to get their young charges ready for kindergarten.

It’s gone to support N Street Village, a place where women experiencing homelessness can get off the streets and restart their lives in a place of compassion, strength and dignity.

It’s gone to support So Others Might Eat, a charity whose broad mission encompasses providing meals and medical attention, and erecting housing.

Our grand total this year was boosted by the contributions of many Post employees who earmarked a portion of their paychecks to Helping Hand. (We even had an in-house raffle that raised $2,336.)

The money is important, of course — charities can’t run on good wishes alone — but what I also value about the eight weeks I spend each year immersed in Helping Hand is the opportunity to meet people who have overcome great odds.

It can’t be easy for them to open up about the external forces and internal decisions that once brought them low. They do it because they want you to be inspired to give. They do it because they want to offer their thanks to the charity staff members who have helped them. And I think they do it because they’re proud of what they’ve achieved, as they should be.

And I’m proud of you — of us — for again making Helping Hand a success. Thank you.

Snow job

It looks like another winter storm is expected to hit the Washington area this weekend. It’s the perfect time to sample reader reactions to my Monday column imploring people — please, by all that is holy — to clear the snow from the roofs of their cars.


Nicole Scott shovels snow off her car Jan. 14 in Alexandria. Readers weighed in on whether to clear snow piled on car roofs. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

Some readers said they can’t reach the roof. Their SUV is too tall or they’re too short.

To them I say: That’s why God made brooms. A regular broom or push broom will work, but if you’re worried about scratching the paint, Mike Marmer of Germantown, Md., recommended something called the SnoBrum. It has a flat, rectangular head covered in soft foam. Its handle telescopes to 28 inches.

“I have been using the SnoBrum since the 1980s,” wrote Mike, who has a pair of them to clear his minivans. “The first two lasted over 20 years.”

It looks like they’re about 20 bucks online.

Even if you don’t have a broom — or abnormally long arms — you could at least make the effort to clear what you can reach. The result might be a ridge of snow along the center of the roof — a “snohawk,” I call it — but that’s better than a huge mattress of the stuff.

A few readers said they were taught that a big wedge of snow on the roof helps to weigh the vehicle down and give it more traction on slushy roads. I’m pretty sure that’s not the case, but even so the danger of flying frozen projectiles outweighs that supposed benefit. And if you’re that worried about traction, you probably shouldn’t be driving anyway.

Some readers said that if other drivers followed the “three-second rule” — staying far enough behind the car ahead of them that they can count to three as they pass any landmark — then any icy snow launched from the leading vehicle would crash harmlessly to the pavement in front.

I think the laws of physics and aerodynamics are too complex to make that a sure thing.

All of this made me wonder what makes a good driver. If you could boil the secrets of safe driving down to a handful of tips, what would they be? Three-second rule? Lights on, wipers on?

Send your recommendations — with “Driver’s Ed” in the subject line — to me at john.kelly@washpost.com.

Twitter: @johnkelly

For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/johnkelly.