Dear President Bush:

You got a minute?I hate to bother you and I know you're busy, and if this isn't in your domain, would you please pass it on to whoever deals with the "thousand points of light" people?

I belong to a family of volunteers. Nothing special. Nothing above and beyond what most citizens are doing, but I have to tell you it's getting tougher and tougher out there to sparkle.

Things have changed since a group of women staged a style show or baked a few brownies to raise funds to plant geraniums around the school library. We now are charged with the survival of our people. Our little fund-raisers must now keep the doors open on every social service organization in existence, from battered wives to abandoned children, from bone marrow transplants to counseling, from care of the homeless and the elderly to national disasters and the arts. We are responsible for cancer and AIDS research and our cultural legacy.

Frankly, we have exhausted our creativity and our resources trying to do this. (Not to mention using up every friend we've ever had.) I personally have sent in recipes for a hundred cookbooks and dumped rubber ducks in the canal (at $5 a duck) to see which floats over the finish line first. I have been roasted and raffled, judged chili contests and run in 10Ks.

I have been called upon to auction an imprint of my lips (Brooke Shields always gets top dollar), the doodles I make while I'm on the phone, quilt squares with my name on them, my husband's underwear, and so many personal items of clothing from my closet that I expect any day now to have a chairman somewhere return something with a note saying, "We're not that desperate."

I have decorated Easter eggs, drawn a picture of my family, played in tennis tournaments, served as a celebrity waiter/cook, conducted a home tour, and given speeches, books and checks to one cause or another.

Every week, across our desks come appeals from good people who are using every resource they have to raise money to keep the doors open on their programs. The tab runs from $10 a ticket to $10,000 for a table of 10. Each one is important. It is impossible to pick and choose.

Mr. President, our human needs are too crucial to blow up balloons or sell tickets to. We're not a rock concert. We're not even in the entertainment business. We're in the humanity business.

We are flattered to be called the "thousand points of light," but these are times when our glow is flickering. I hope the threat of darkness frightens you as much as it does us.

Voluntarily yours

Erma Bombeck