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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Please print this letter from someone who is tired of getting solicited for donations, especially those that specify how much one should give.

I live on a fixed income that barely pays for rent and food, not to mention my insurance and other obligations. I tithe at church and give to food projects and kitchen funds, so it's not as though I am stingy.

I have had requests to donate to several different causes and have been criticized when I do not respond. They have no way of knowing what my money situation is, so why can't they just accept whatever I offer and quit dunning me?

Abby, I'm doing well to support myself at age 78 without burdening my family.

I resent being made to feel guilty when I can't send money for cards and address stickers I did not order. I live in a senior citizens lodge, and most of the tenants feel the way I do, so please speak out for us. Thanks for letting me sound off. -- JANE W. IN BERKELEY, CALIF.

DEAR JANE: People are not obligated to pay for anything they did not order -- this includes stickers with your name and address printed on them. By the way, you are not obligated to return them either. Please share this information with your friends at the lodge.

DEAR ABBY: In a recent column, you published a letter from a woman whose sister died at 57. Wayne, her husband of more than 30 years, subsequently remarried.

She said she had recently introduced them as her brother-in-law and his wife, Jo Ann. Twice Jo Ann corrected her publicly, saying, "He WAS your brother-in-law," stressing the "was."

She said that in her opinion Wayne would always be her brother-in-law.

Abby, according to the IRS, the following relationships that are established by marriage are not ended by death or divorce:

"Your child, grandchild, great-grandchild (a legally adopted child is considered your child).

"Your stepchild.

"Your brother, sister, half-brother, half-sister, stepbrother or stepsister.

"Your parent, grandparent, or other direct ancestor, but not foster parent.

"Your stepfather or stepmother, your uncle or aunt, a niece or nephew, your father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law or brother-in-law." -- OSCAR G. PRICE JR., A GRATEFUL ENROLLED AGENT FAN, BIRMINGHAM, ALA.

DEAR MR. PRICE: Thank you for pointing this out. Who says tax men don't have a heart?

DEAR ABBY: Please get this message out to the media, authors and sign painters. Numbers are not possessive or contractions; they do not require an apostrophe.

Abby, I see this error -- "20's," "50's," "80's" -- on television, in the newspapers, on billboards and on signs. Aren't these numbers properly written 20s, 50s, 80s? Or am I incorrect? -- CAROLYN FRINGS, RETIRED SECRETARY

DEAR CAROLYN: You are correct, but there is one case in which an apostrophe should be used: when indicating the contraction of a year. For example, when referring to 1996, it may be written: He starred in two plays in '96. (Note the apostrophe is in front of the numbers.) Or for a decade: She published four best-sellers in the '80s.

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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