They run in gangs and look for trouble, but they don't wear bandannas, mar walls with graffiti or peddle drugs.

And when they find trouble - senior citizens in need, handicapped children, loneliness, hunger, littered highways - West Valley area high school Key Club members try to help.Sponsoring civic leaders say the West Valley area Key Clubs are among the fastest growing in the state, with each of the four high schools this year registering their largest increases ever in membership.

"It's hard to describe the motivation," said Kearns High School junior and Key Club member Leila Brown, though she and her friends try by referring to some of the proj-ects they have initiated in recent months.

"We cleaned up a widow's yard - she needed our help - and she made cookies for us. She was 96 years old and just wonderful," recalled Granger High Key Club President Jill Carlson.

Allison Merrill, a Kearns High junior, remembers the joyful looks in the faces of mentally handicapped children when they were presented with Halloween pumpkins that West Valley Key Club members had carved for them.

Jana Austin, another Kearns Key Club member, mentions the film recycling project that helps restock a community food bank. "What we enjoy most is doing things that directly benefit people."

Such as decorating Christmas trees for two needy families, organizing blood drives, visiting retirement centers. Over the weekend, they cleaned up Granger Park, 3500 S. 3600 West.

"They channel their energy where the community needs it," said West Valley banker Dan Milano, "and they have a lot of energy."

Milano and other members of the Kiwanis Club - the organization that sponsors the Key Clubs nationwide - say the sharp upswing in student voluntarism is cause for renewed optimism following the so-called "me decade" of the '80s.

Businessman Pete Buniva, the local Kiwanis Club's youth services coordinator, said the pendulum among the young seems to be swinging back toward "getting involved."

"We hear so much about the gangs and the apathy of high school kids today, but the public isn't getting the news about the good so many of these kids are doing," Buniva said.

Ted Bisping, president of the West Valley Kiwanis Club, said, "This is a whole new dimension in student involvement. They select the activities themselves, take care of all the arrangements and carry through with it. They have been really impressive."

The students said they get their project ideas from various volunteer service agencies. "They have a lot of things that need to be done and not enough people to do them," Merrill said.

"Adults are so busy that they can't devote the time," said Brown. "We can."