Tonawanda Coke making headlines for the right reasons

BY TONY FARINA

The Explore & More Children’s Museum planned for Buffalo’s Canalside received a much welcome $1 million capital gift from the Paul A. Saffrin Foundation this week for the planned museum’s Play It Forward capital campaign.

Groundbreaking is targeted for March for the $27 million project which is scheduled to open in the second half of 2018.

“Those of us fortunate enough to call the City of Good Neighbors our home understand the importance of Being Good Neighbors,” said Saffrin, the 39-year-old CEO of Tonawanda Coke at the announcement of the museum capital gift this week during a program orchestrated by Explore & More educators with fourth-grade students at Eggert Road Elementary School in Orchard Park.  It was the second $1 million gift in 30 days from the Tonawanda Coke CEO who leads a company that has had some environmental problems in the past but which seems to have turned things around under his leadership.

Saffrin, a trustee of the foundation which provided the $1 million museum gift, said, “I can think of no better legacy to leave my children, and all of our children, than the opportunity to discover the world around them and all of the things that make our hometown special.”

Saffrin, who is also president of Vanocur Refractories, a company affiliated with Tonawanda Coke, just last month presented Daemen College with a $1 million gift from the same Saffrin Foundation to help promote  environmental awareness, the largest private donation in the history of the college.

Tonawanda Coke has had some environmental problems of its own in the past but none since Saffrin took over the company from his grandfather, J. D. Crane, who left in 2014.  He has clearly defined his commitment to the area and to enviornmental causes with the generous gifts to the Children’s Museum and Daemen’s Center for Sustainable Communities, and according to Tonawanda Coke’s A. J. Verel, the company has come a long way in correcting all environmental issues that have caused problems in the past.

“We are on a firm, safe path,” says Verel, who also serves as president of the Judges and Police Conference of Erie County.  Saffrin has apologized for Tonawanda Coke’s environmental transgressions of the past, but like Verel, he believes Tonawanda Coke has turned the corner on that page and things are much better today than every before.

In a press release, Saffrin cited the foundation’s commitment to supporting Buffalo’s revitalization and opportunities for Western New York’s children as reasons for the donation to the Children’s Museum.

The Explore & More Children’s Museum is currently located in East Auorora and is scheduled to open in the South Aud Block of Canalside, after breaking ground in March of 2017.  The Saffrin Foundation gift will be used for sponsorship of the Being Good Neighbors educational play zone, one of seven planned for the new museum.

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