When Nicolae Ceausescu took the helm in Romania in 1966, he announced that each woman under 45 must have four children. He later raised that number to five. But families couldn't support the children in a bleak economy, so thousands were abandoned.

Nearly a year after Ceausescu's death, 100,000 children under 18 live in orphanages, where they sleep three or four to a bed. One staff worker is responsible for 27 children. And 10 percent of the children under age 3 have AIDS, contracted from tainted blood transfusions that were intended to boost nutrition.June Fenn, a Utah registered nurse, first learned about the problems faced by these children while watching television. A call to the State Department provided a list of organizations that were working in Romania to help these children.

The biggest needs, she found, were simple: plastic feeding bottles, powdered infant formula, new blankets and quilts and new stuffed toy animals.

Fenn, working with AmeriCares in Connecticut, is collecting those items through special donation boxes set up at Dan's Food Stores. She plans to make at least two shipments to Connecticut, where the donations will be forwarded to Romania by AmeriCares.

In Romania, AmeriCares will see that the materials are distributed to hospitals, orphanages and clinics where they can alleviate the plight of the youngsters. In a time when newspaper and television stories abound about how donated items are not getting through to needy people worldwide, AmeriCares has had remarkable success in selecting needy targets and then reaching them, Fenn said. Donated materials will not go to waste.

The shipments are costly, according to Fenn, and financial support is also needed. She's trying to time the effort so donations will be sent out at Thanksgiving and New Year's.

Anyone interested in joining the AmeriCares effort can drop items off at any Dan's Food Stores location, or leave a message at 468-4740, so Fenn can arrange to pick up donations. Monetary donations can be sent to Fenn, P.O. Box 18178, Salt Lake City, UT 84118.

AmeriCares was founded by Connecticut businessman Bob Macauley following the nuclear accident at Chernobyl in May 1986. Since that time, Macauley and his volunteers have worked with generous product suppliers to deliver liquid and powdered milk, baby food, vitamins and medicine to Poland; helped youths in the United States, South America and Canada; provided medical aid to Pakistan and Africa; and sent medical supplies to refugee camps worldwide.