By Sharon Chin

SAN MATEO (KPIX 5) — A peninsula teenager shares the joy of reading with underserved kids thanks to a creative fundraising campaign that ends in a high note.

16-year-old Eric Gan bears gifts: boxes of donated books. The junior at San Mateo’s Aragon High School founded Books4All three years ago to inspire children to read.

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“That’s part of the reason I wanted to work with elementary schools, is because that was where I got my passion for reading,” Gan said.

He wanted to give books to schools serving many low income students, so he did the research and chose Sunnyslope and Calaveras Elementary Schools in Hollister.

That’s about two hours from his home, depending on freeway traffic.

Gan’s parents drive him as he delivers to grateful principals like Joe Rivas at Sunnyslope Elementary.

“It’s refreshing,” Rivas said. “To have this young man want to give back to the community, to want to give back to students and children in need.”

Sunnyslope’s library gets only $2,200 a year to serve its 600 students, so librarian Stephanie Aguilar welcomes Gan’s yearly donations.

“It’s like Christmas,” she smiled.

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He brings free office supplies like markers for teachers and books for students, from stories to science, and facts to fantasy.

“They are just like grinning from ear to ear and they’re super excited that we got more books and they love it,” said Aguilar.

So far, the teenager has given away more than a thousand new and used books, some of which come from family and friends. He has purchased the rest online using $7,500 he’s raised. Of that, Eric himself has contributed about $5,000, thanks to his musical talent.

He performs an annual benefit concert in San Mateo and he donates his prize winnings from regional piano competitions as well as his earnings from tutoring.

Gan and his family also volunteer by serving Thanksgiving meals through the Salvation Army in San Jose. And during the Camp Fire two years ago, they donated supplies in Oroville.

Principal Rivas wonders what the teen’s next chapter will bring.

“I’ve told him, ‘You’re going to make an impact on the future of this world,'” Rivas said.

So for funding Books4All, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Eric Gan.

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During the pandemic, Eric and his family have shifted gears: they have donated 240 surgical masks to UCSF and hundreds of dollars to its COVID-19 response fund.