To finance his good works, Taylor donates $500 a month from his $35,000 salary and collects thousands more in online donations. Bombarded with 500 e-mail requests a week, he chooses recipients whose needs are truly urgent, but who seem to have a real chance of getting back on their feet with a little boost. "Keith has always been a champion of the underdog," says his father, Toby, 63, a retired trucking executive. (Keith's mother, Hope, 60, is a nurse; sister Laura, 31, is a decorator in Birmingham, Ala.) Taylor hatched the idea for his charity because friends and family helped him out financially when he was a struggling grad student. "The most someone ever gave me was $300," he says. "But it was life-changing money at the time."
Divorced since 1999 (ex-wife Allison, a preschool teacher, and son Gabriel, 5, live in Texas), Taylor hopes to raise $5 million within five years and eventually open Modest Needs offices nationwide. "People really do want to help others," he says. "All it takes is willingness to act on the desire."