By Stephen E. Lipken
Over 260 Westchester teens of all faiths packed a total of 3600 pounds of medical supplies, delivered by airlift by the Afya (Swahili, “health”) Foundation to victims of recent U.S. hurricanes. UJA Federation of New York’s J-Teens worked at Westchester Reform Temple (WRT), Scarsdale, on Monday, January 15th, the Martin Luther King Day of Service, thanks to a generous grant from UJA’s Time for Good volunteer initiative.
Adjacent to the J-Teen Leadership activity, UJA’s Westchester Jewish Community Services (WJCS) Kid’s Kloset collected new and gently used clothing to send “bags of love” to needy children.
Partnering with UJA was American Jewish Committee Westchester/Fairfield (AJC); Westchester Jewish Council (WJC) and Westchester County Youth Council, White Plains.
Brian Hegt, Governor’s Representative, Hudson Valley Region presented a Special Proclamation from Governor Andrew Cuomo, designating Monday, January 15th as Martin Luther King Day in New York State. Hegt was joined by Westchester County Executive George Latimer; new Westchester County Legislator Nancy Barr; Dan Hochvert, Mayor of Scarsdale; Assemblywoman Amy Paulin and Susan Spear, representing U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand as well as Pastor Jim O’Hanlon, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Rye Brook.
AJC Executive Director Scott Richman noted that AJC honored Dr. King in 1965 and stressed how much he felt at home with AJC because of its dedication to human rights. Richman also spoke lovingly about the Steinberg family, WRT members and human rights activists who perished in a plane crash in Costa Rica on New Year’s Eve.
In the summer of 2007, Danielle Butin, an occupational therapist while on vacation in Tanzania, talked to doctors on medical missions who could not do their work because of a dire lack of basic medical supplies. Returning to New York, she founded the Afya Foundation with the goal of collecting unwanted medical supplies and equipment from hospitals and ship them to places in great need.
“Today we are thrilled to have this amazing partnership with J-Teen Leadership,” Butin stated. “These teens have been an integral part of Afya’s operations since our launching in 2008…We will be packing thousands of pounds of medical supplies to send to physicians, clinics and nurses in Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands…”
“This is an amazing effort for volunteer service and it is particularly impressive because of all the young people that have given up a day off…to serve other people,” Latimer opined. “It is reflective of what this generation is all about… to see over 250 people together in this one spot…having fun and doing good work is a tremendous mitzvah for all of us.”