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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Today's news is filled with tragic events in the lives of many families, yet little is said about where families can turn for help. I would like to let you and your readers know about "Because I Love You" (BILY), a not-for-profit parent support group.

Parents come to our meetings with problems with their children such as substance abuse, running away, truancy, and verbal and physical abuse. Our goal is to provide the tools that reunite dysfunctional families. The courts, school officials and members of the medical profession refer families to us, but we are asking your help in letting more families in need know about us. Many families are in crisis, and BILY can help.

We hold meetings in many states and provide referrals to professional and non-professional resources such as rehab centers, shelters and other self-help groups. Our services are free. We have no paid employees, only concerned parents who volunteer their time and experience.

More information about Because I Love You is available on our Web site at: www.becauseiloveyou.org. Our e-mail address is: bily1982@aol.com, or send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to BILY, P.O. Box 473, Santa Monica, Calif. 90406. Thank you, Abby, for the wonderful work you do. -- DENNIS PONCHER, FOUNDER, BECAUSE I LOVE YOU

DEAR DENNIS: I am pleased to help spread the word. I know that my readers who are experiencing problems with their children will benefit from learning about your organization. You provide an important service, and I wish you continued success.

DEAR ABBY: This is in response to "Anonymous, Naturally," who complained about straggling shoppers who come in three minutes before closing time and expect to "shop the entire store." I encounter this situation at least once a week.

I also work in a busy department store. We have a public address system like the one you suggested. At 8:45 p.m., we start announcing that the fitting room is closing, and then repeat the announcement every five minutes until 9 p.m. Customers just keep walking through the store and continue shopping. When we remind them that the store is closed and offer to help them find an item, we get nasty, rude remarks or dirty looks.

People complain about how rude clerks are in stores. Well, maybe they should look at themselves. Some of them are unbelievably insensitive. Let them work one night in our shoes, picking up after their children, smiling while someone is in our face complaining that the lines are too long, or trying tactfully to let the customer know that the price tag they just switched to get a lower price is incorrect. I actually had a male customer tell me one night that he couldn't believe I was smart enough to catch it!

How do you get the message across to people like that, Abby? I could go on and on, but why? Most shoppers don't really care. All we want is a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T. -- JUST ABOUT HAD IT IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR JUST: I was astonished at the number of letters I received from salespeople telling similar stories. I would like to think that most shoppers really DO care, and exhibit courteous manners.

If the problem is as widespread as all of you indicate, it may not be resolved until store owners shut down their computers at closing time, and inform customers that their purchases will have to be rung up the next day. It is management's job to strike the balance between being consumer-friendly and being fair to staff.

I wonder how many store owners are as interested in protecting their employees as they are in making last-minute sales.

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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