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Retrofest51 concert to benefit Freeport no-kill shelter

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Bobbi and the Strays, an animal rescue shelter that operates in Freeport and Glendale, has one mission — to protect and take care of cats and dogs on Long Island and in New York City. 

But that mission became more difficult when the coronavirus pandemic shut down the no-kill nonprofit’s fundraisers and shrank its volunteer force. Elyse Jordan, who runs the Freeport shelter on Rider Place, estimated that it lost $100,000 in donations last year. 

As Bobbi and the Strays focuses on recovering this year, one of its volunteers, Allan Spielman, of Woodmere, is helping raise money with a retro benefit concert. Spielman said that his band, Retro69, would play alongside 10 other groups on May 23 outside the Philips Shopping Center, in Lynbrook, as part of a charity concert to raise funds for the shelter.    

“This will be the 51st Retrofest we do, and it’s for a great cause,” Spielman said. 

Retrofest is an ongoing concert series that recreates famous festivals of the late 1960s and early ’70s. This year’s Retrofest 51 will emulate the Bath Blues and Progressive Music Festival and feature the music of Santana, Led Zeppelin, Jefferson Airplane, the Moody Blues and others. 

Spielman explained that the idea for turning Retrofest 51 into a benefit concert came through a partnership with the Ground Central Coffee Company, across the street from the Philips Shopping Center. Retro69 has played five concerts at the coffee shop, so together they decided to hold a larger concert to benefit a local charity, choosing Bobbi and the Strays because of Spielman’s connection to them. 

“Alan is wonderful for putting this together,” Jordan said. “We’re so thankful to all the bands who are coming out to play. 

Jordan said the fundraiser would allow their volunteers to better serve the more than 100 cats and dogs at the shelter. She explained that the shelter takes in animals that have a harder time being adopted because of illnesses or other afflictions, so its largest cost is veterinarian care.  

She added that the number of pets the shelter oversees could drastically increase as it rescues animals from overcrowded shelters, neglectful or abusive owners and the streets.

“Our main goal is to find permanent, loving homes for all the dogs and cats that we rescue,” said shelter founder Roberta “Bobbi” Giordano, who established the first Glendale shelter in 1998 before expanding to Freeport in 2011. 

Spielman, himself, adopted a cat from the shelter. 

While Spielman was more than happy to dedicate Retrofest51 to Bobbi and the Strays, he was also excited to be able to lead an outdoor concert after most of his gigs were canceled in 2020 because of Covid-19. 

Although Retro69 was able to move to livestream events during the pandemic, which shut down venues to prevent large gatherings, Spielman said nothing beats the feeling of playing in front of fans. 

“This will be a great way for people to enjoy some classic songs after a year of not being able to have events like this,” he said. 

While the concert begins at 1 p.m., there will also be a special Comic-Con brunch at the Ground Central Coffee Company, at 659 Sunrise Highway, to attract more donors There will be no cover charge for the concert, but donations starting at $10 are suggested.

Along with providing medical aid and food for the animals, the shelter also hosts several programs that allow volunteers to bond with and take care of the cats and dogs at the shelter. Businesses can also sponsor a pet and receive updates on the animals through social media posts promoting their commitment. 

To learn more about donation or volunteer opportunities with Bobbi and the Strays, visit bobbiandthestrays.org.