Combating homelessness with the Branford Marsalis Quartet


Over 80 patrons of Molloy University’s theater program gathered last week to raise money for Bethany House, which helps woman and children experiencing homelessness.

Bethany House, which has facilities in Baldwin, Bellmore Roosevelt and has sheltered the homeless for more than 30 years, partnered with Molloy, a longtime supporter, to host a fundraiser at Molloy’s Madison Theatre last Friday. It featured Grammy-winning jazz saxophonist Branford Marsalis and his quartet. 

The event began with hors d’oeuvres and beverages at a pre-concert reception in the Larini Room, on the second floor of the theater.

Lisa King, a board member of Bethany House and a co-chairwoman of its development and communications committee, explained that the concert was a collaborative effort between the organization and Molloy, which have partnered in the past to raise money for the shelters. At the annual Boxtown event, Molloy students camp out in boxes in the campus square to simulate a night of homelessness and raise money for woman and children experiencing the real thing. 

King said that Ellen Foley, a Bethany House volunteer, came up with the idea for a fundraising performance at the theater after visiting with her family last year. Foley said that her husband, Jack, suggested that she and her colleagues at Bethany House partner to create a combined event. 

Zimmerman said she discussed the idea with other members of the Bethany House board and the university, and all joined forces. 

Angela Zimmerman, the Director of Development and Alumni Relations at Molloy and a fellow Bethany House board member, said that Molloy is a natural partner for Bethany House, because their missions complement each other. Bethany House, like Molloy, Zimmerman said, was founded by a member of the Dominican Sisters of Amityville, and shares values associated with the Dominican Pillars of study, service, spirituality and community. 

“Through our collaboration,” Zimmerman explained, ““Molloy University students have been involved at Bethany House in multiple ways from internships in social work, health and marketing to mission related activities.” 

At the same time, she added, by supporting homeless women and their children, Bethany House effectively roots out homelessness two generations at a time.

Edward Thompson, Molloy’s Vice President for Advancement, said that Nassau County residents have an obligation to help others who are down on their luck, as Bethany House does. He is motivated by an obligation to Molloy’s mission to serve the community and help the downtrodden.

Doug O’Dell, executive director of Bethany House, said that it differentiates itself from other shelters because it is a community organization as well. Some people come to Bethany House, he said, because they are struggling with financial issues, domestic abuse or substance abuse, and there they can feel safe, recover from their trauma and prepare to take on the world again. 

“You walk into one of our Bethany homes and you smell the food cooking, and see a decoration that says, ‘You’re welcome here,’” O’Dell said. “They then know that they’re home.”

Molloy’s President Jim Lentini said he was impressed by the work Bethany House does for woman in Nassau County and was committed to maintaining the longstanding relationship between the organization and the university.

Lentini was impressed by Marsalis’s performance as well. “Branford Marsalis and his quartet displayed a rare form of jazz artistry in what was a spectacular concert,” Lentini said. “Their set of original compositions was performed with a kind of nuance and sophistication that only master players can execute. And they did so, beautifully. The full house in Madison loved every minute of the performance, which drew enthusiastic applause after each solo and throughout the evening.  It was a great night on the Madison stage.”