August 31, 1998 12:00 PM

When Brandon Keefe volunteered to donate books to Limerick Avenue elementary school in Canoga Park, Calif., principal Ronni Ephraim was pleased but didn’t have high hopes. After all, at 13, Brandon was just a kid. “I thought he’d donate about 40 or 50 books,” she says. “When he showed up with 4,000, I was overwhelmed.”

To Brandon, 4,000 is kid stuff. In the past five years, book drives he has spearheaded have brought in more than 10,000 volumes. Twice a year, Brandon, who lives in Agoura Hills, Calif., with his parents and younger brother Grant, 10, helps organize a new drive at his middle school, distributing flyers and sorting through donations to make sure the books are in proper shape. “Imagine if you were reading, got halfway through and a bunch of pages were missing,” he says. “That would be horrible.”

It all began when Brandon’s mother, Robin, 44, a homemaker, took him to her volunteer board meeting for the Hollygrove Children’s Home, a residential facility in Hollywood for abused and neglected children, which desperately needed books. A few days later his third-grade teacher encouraged students to start up community-service projects. Brandon remembered Hollygrove and within months helped deliver nearly 2,500 books. “Any child could have done the same thing. Brandon’s initiative made the difference,” says a proud Robin.

An avid reader himself (“the house could be on fire and I’d still be reading”), Brandon finds comfort in the object of his labor. “If you get lost in a book,” he says, “everything that’s bothering you just goes away.”

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