Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: We are writing to let you know of the far-reaching effects of your Operation Dear Abby campaign. Our sixth-graders at Randolph Middle School in Randolph, N.J., wrote holiday cards as a class project. We sent hundreds of cards to the addresses listed in your column.

As responses to their letters began to arrive, the daily question became, "Is there any mail from the military?" Servicemen and women from all over the globe wrote wonderful notes and letters to the students. Some included pictures, patches and money from foreign countries where they were stationed.

The activity also turned into geography lessons as students located on maps various home bases, current stations and stops in between. Connections with weekly current events lessons made news come alive.

The cards were greatly appreciated by the military people who received them, which is the obvious intent of Operation Dear Abby. In addition, students had the experience of expressing their concern for others as well as patriotic pride. Combining those benefits with the extra bonus of various classroom activities made this an invaluable activity we plan to repeat in the future. We are looking forward to the next Operation Dear Abby. Thank you for making it possible. -- EDIE KLINK, CAROLE HUNTINGTON AND ELENA MASTROIANNI, SIXTH-GRADE SOCIAL STUDIES TEACHERS, RANDOLPH MIDDLE SCHOOL

DEAR MSS. KLINK, HUNTINGTON AND MASTROIANNI: I'm delighted that Operation Dear Abby provided a bonus for your students. Each year I receive letters from readers expressing their enjoyment of Operation Dear Abby, and describing friendships (and even marriages) that grew out of it.

I'm pleased to publicize the following addresses for this year's Operation Dear Abby XIII. They will be in effect ONLY from Nov. 15, 1997, to Jan. 15, 1998 (after that, the APO/FPOs will close). If you have difficulty at your local post office, ask the clerk to check the recent postal bulletins -- the Operation Dear Abby addresses are not always entered into the postal computers, and clerks may assume the addresses are invalid. Priority mail only, please.

1. For Europe and Southwest Asia:

AMERICA REMEMBERS

OPERATION DEAR ABBY

APO AE 09135

2. For the Mediterranean Basin:

AMERICA REMEMBERS

OPERATION DEAR ABBY

FPO AE 09646

3. For South America, Central America and the Caribbean:

AMERICA REMEMBERS

OPERATION DEAR ABBY

APO AA 34085

4. For the Far East:

AMERICA REMEMBERS

OPERATION DEAR ABBY

APO AP 96285

5. For the Pacific Basin:

AMERICA REMEMBERS

OPERATION DEAR ABBY

FPO AP 96385

For those who wish to send mail to the military in Bosnia, the year-round addresses are:

1. For Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps land forces:

ANY SERVICE MEMBER

OPERATION JOINT GUARD

APO AE 09397

2. For Navy and Marine Corps personnel aboard ship:

ANY SERVICE MEMBER

OPERATION JOINT GUARD

FPO AE 09398

P.S. Cookies (sugar, oatmeal, molasses), gum, hard candy and boxed containers of juice are always welcome (chocolate is not recommended because it can melt in transit). But the No. 1 treat is "food for the soul" and that's mail, mail and more mail!

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby's "Keepers," P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600