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"You write about charities often. So what is your favorite, the one you send your own money to?"

The person who asked that question knew that there are two reasons why Hospice is my favorite charity. One is because of the 16 years I spent in New York City. The other has to do with the late Mary Curran and Mary Van Burek, two of of the kindest people I have ever known.

You see, when I lived in New York City, I knew little about charities. Yes, I had some charitable organizations to which I would send money in memory of my parents. But until I began to work in Western New York, I knew little about the overall scene. Nor did I know about volunteer fire departments or Elks lodges.

Not that the New York City I lived in didn't have charitable deals. As one bromide goes, "It's a great city for the very rich or the very poor."

Anyway, the thrill sure doesn't convey the feeling of Christmas a person gets while standing on the Computer Task Group front lawn at 4:30 p.m. waiting for the lights to be turned on at the Hospice Light-A-Life Memorial Tree at dusk.

Those lights will be on through Dec. 31, and the address is 800 Delaware Ave. Parking is free, and the good neighbors, the American Red Cross, take the overflow from CTG. And don't ask me about the weather for the lighting.

Regular visitors to this corner know that I avoid saying anything is the first, biggest or earliest or what have you. But I will say that I lean to Hospice in the charity field. And that causes a person in the first row to ask, "Is that because the people there were so good to your late wife in her final days on this mortal coil?"

The answer ia a ringing yes. Most people this side of Jerry Lewis, who does the Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon though none of his loved ones was affliated with it, favor an organization with which you have had a good experience. And I just liked the way the Hospice peolpe handled themselves and Mary's last days with us.

That's why I send Hospice money every Christmas, and though my contributions won't make a dent in the economy of a Third World country, the hope here is that it helps.

Maybe, I would send the money even if Mary Van Burek never existed. But she did, and I think of her shining face every time I see a Christmas tree or hear the name Hospice.

Now for the commercials. This is the 10th annual Light-A-Life Memorial Tree on the CTG grounds, and thanks go to the CTG group and especially to Gale S. Fitzgerald, the chairwoman and chief executive officer of CTG, which sends a mailing about the tree to various sources.

In the mailing, Mrs. Fitzgerald tells about the various options available. For $100 or more you get get a "1998 Patron of the Year" listing with your name on a special plaque, a tag with your loved one's name on it and a 1998 commemorative bell.

For $40, a donor gets a tag with a silver bow and a commemorative porcelain bell. For $15, a person gets a tag with the loved one's name in it and a red bow.

No matter what price you pay, be prepared for a day when you'll never hear the words, "Bah! Humbug!"

Now a man in the third row is asking, "Is there another reason why you are well-disposed toward Hospice?"

The answer is: "It was at Chef's Restaurant at a Variety Club luncheon about five years ago where I first met Rose Collins, who worked for another public relations firm then. And she showed me how to eat cannoli, which I never had before Buffalo.

Anyway, I still say that Hospice is my favorite charity.

Today's score: Bills 27, Colts 21.

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