We had the good fortune of connecting with Leslie Gang and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Leslie, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
When we built a little free library on the school’s campus where Hindi’s children attended, we had no idea what was about to happen. We asked children in the grade to bring one book to donate to the box so that they’d be able to “give a book and take a book.” Within 2 weeks, we were inundated with requests from neighbors to pick up children’s books from their homes that they were no longer reading. We realized very quickly that there is sort of an untapped market here of families with growing children who will most likely ALWAYS outgrow books. We knew right away that the right thing to do was to collect these books and work as the “middle man” and get those books to children who need them, who cannot afford them otherwise. While we do struggle with funding constantly, we firmly believe that as long as the books keep coming, we will keep going.
Since our nonprofit’s inception, we have donated more than 225,000 children’s books to more than 650 organizations spanning across all 50 states, Israel, India, Africa, Puerto Rico and Haiti.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am the Director of Admissions and Communications at The Brandeis School, a private school located in Long Island, NY serving children in toddler programs through 8th grade. I have been in my current position since 2019 and am so proud to be a part of this beautiful family consisting of dedicated lay leaders, administrators, teachers and parents. At first it was definitely a struggle, being the new kid on the block and having recently worked at a school in the community (who some would call the competitor) and I definitely had to work extra hard to prove that my intention was to support, enhance and grow the school. I learned very quickly that my goal should always remain to do my job to the best of my ability and to utilize my skills for the greater good. It became less and less important to harp on how my colleagues perceived me to be or what they believed I was- what was important is what I know I am and what I am able to accomplish. I can tell you now that my colleagues are like my family and this school is my second home. I really do believe that if you believe you’re able to accomplish something, no matter how difficult it may seem, as long as you are motivated and become that little engine that could, nothing will stop you.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
There’s nothing more I love than my hometown, New York.
I would spend a day in the North Fork exploring and enjoying all of the local wineries and stopping for local lunch by the water. Sparkling Pointe has the best sparkling wine on the island and Mattabella winery has the most beautiful atmosphere, but I would sample a wine at every stop and of course stop at Hallock Cider Mill to pick up the best sauces, marinades, pies and fruits.
I would also stay in Manhattan for one or two nights, on a hotel that overlooks Central Park and walk through the park. I love walking through the city and would go downtown to enjoy a day at SOHO. Of course I would plan to see at least one Broadway show (squeezing in 2 would be amazing). I’d eat at my favorite restaurants- Blue Ribbon Sushi or Tao. I would have cocktails at the rooftop bar at Rockefeller Center at sunset and take a subway to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and enjoy South Street Seaport area.
I’d also rent an AirB&B in Woodstock for the remaining times, one of my favorite towns in New York and explore Hudson County which is a beautiful part of the state.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’d like to give a shout out to my cofounder David Kanarfogel, who , despite having just lost his wife and adjusting to a life where he had to single handedly care for 5 children, jumped in feet first into my crazy idea of developing this nonprofit. His enthusiasm, positive outlook and passion for reading has inspired me since day one.