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Q&A With Sharray Tefila's Alan Branfman

Second Chance Toys is blessed to not only have a lot of supporters, but many long-standing people who regularly contribute time and other resources to the organization. One such supporter is Alan Branfman from Temple Shaaray Tefila, located at 250 Est 79th Street in Manhattan. The congregation can also be visited online.
Alan, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, first learned the importance of community-oriented volunteer work during his college days. He was a volunteer at the University in a 4-year recreation program for mentally challenged adults and teens.  After his college years, he moved to Roxbury, Mass., where he was a paid teacher-coach-facilitator for Volunteers In Service To America (V.I.S.T.A.). He worked daily in a Head Start Center and then in the afternoons he coached young teen boys in athletic programs and took them all around Boston, acquainting them with various cultural institutions that are so much in abundance in the city of Boston.
Whether this is all rooted within the concept of "tikkun olam", Alan has proven to be someone who helps others on a regular basis.
I had the pleasure of conducting a Q & A with Alan for the SCT Blog. Alan explained to me during our exchange that the movie "STAND AND DELIVER" was especially inspiring to him. When pairing that film's message with the mission of Second Chance Toys, he felt as if had found a new mission in life.


How did you find out about Second Chance Toys?
Alan Branfman: I initially found out about SCT from Alan Goldberg, also a member of Shaaray Tefila. About 9 years ago, he asked me if I would be interested in collecting gently-used plastic toys from members of the temple, in order to donate them to children in need, and keep them out of recycling dumps as long as possible.
We collected a great amount of gently-used plastic toys. I always enjoyed doing this around the holidays each year, for sure. Alan Goldberg moved out of town, and I have been doing this project on my own, with the splendid guidance and assistance and contributions from the people at our synagogue. I expect to continue in this vein, hopefully, for much time to come!
What is your favorite thing about working with our organization?
Alan: my favorite aspect of working with SCT is that they do what they say that are going to do--always! They tell me when to expect the pick-up truck on or around Dec. l9th each year, and the truck invariably arrives always precisely on time. We load the toys onto the truck sent by l-800-GOT-JUNK? and they take the items to the destination so designated.
In the past few years, I opted to travel to a school on Manhattan's Lower East Side, where the toys were distributed at a ceremony presided over by an inspiring NY Giants football starting player. I enjoyed this piece of the ceremony immensely. I then traveled the next year to a Head Start Center in East Harlem, which was great. This past year, SCT found a very suitable Head Start Center that was quite responsive and, the distribution ceremony was very moving. I hope to interact at this facility many times in the future! Great, good people!
It has been a very on-time, well-selected time frame that these events have unfurled around the Chanukah/Christmas season. Second Chance Toys has never failed to set things up professionally and be quite responsive to the needs of the place where the children receive the toys.And, they have coincided wonderfully with Shaaray Tefila's collection schedule.
Do "Green Initiatives" factor into your daily life at all?
Alan: Green initiatives are all around us, for sure. Whether it be discarding waste products in a recycling situation, or working to improve a street's appearance or a building's facade- outside and in-- with newer technologies. I am totally in synch with these types of undertakings. I don't specifically claim to have innate knowledge of the many facets of green technology that is abounding more loudly and distinctly in our environment. But, the fact that the new technologies are predominating more and more in our society augurs well for a cleaner, healthier environment that we all strive to have and hope for in the decades ahead.
Our children and future grandchildren deserve to have the cleanest atmosphere possible. I would expect that Second Chance Toys, with its emphasis on cleaning up the world we live in by putting off the disposal of plastic toys through their collection activities-- will flourish more and more in the short and long term, as its stated goals become even better known.
Does the Shaaray Tefila Synagogue have other causes that it champions?
Alan: Shaaray Tefila has many, many other causes is advances very well. Firstly-- they do also collect items a few times a year for Jewish soldiers who are stationed overseas. They are in areas in which the U.S. military has placed these men and women all over the world. Such items as clothing, toiletries, books, are all shared with these brave soldiers throughout the world.
Secondly, they have a "Mitzvah Weekend" at least two times a year. I have done some volunteering in this area-- where people fan out throughout the 5 boroughs. We visit some senior centers, and spend time with seniors in their home environments at the centers.
Thirdly, the synagogue is embarking on a very significant program that will provide meals for school children who experience a deficit of food here in the city each and every day. This has been named "Backpack Buddies", which will be working diligently to include more and more meals each year ahead for these students.
Another program is a soup kitchen, which has been operational for years and years at the synagogue. Volunteers work once a week at the temple in one of the main rooms on the ground floor, providing meals for neighborhood people that are served with no strings attached. 
I could go on and on about what the synagogue does on a yearly basis. Suffice to say, it is a strong community-oriented place , with many outreach programs of all stripes and varieties. We look forward to many more years working alongside Second Chance Toys!