The Lasting Legacy of Bea Arthur

image of Bea Arthur at an event in 2011, wearing a dark, drapey gown and holding her hands in the air, to which I've added text reading: BEA ARTHUR: WIZARD.

As you may recall, after her death in 2009, Bea Arthur's estate made a $300,000 donation to the Ali Forney Center, which is the United States' largest organization supporting homeless LGBT youth.

Today, the center will break ground on "a full­ service, 18­-bed facility to be called the Bea Arthur Residence."
It was 2009, and the Ali Forney Center was struggling. Its donations were way down because of the recession and on a summer day, as executive director Carl Siciliano was heading into the office, he got a call from a staffer that the landlord was threatening eviction because the center was late on the rent.

"I pulled my car off to the side of the road and said my prayers. I didn't know what else to do," Siciliano told Metro. "I'm an old Catholic boy, I was a monk, and I started praying to all of my saints," he said. And to Bea Arthur.

The famed Broadway and television star, who headlined a huge fundraiser for the center, had died three months earlier. She was a friend and devoted supporter of the center.

When he got to the office, Siciliano got a call: The Golden Girl legend had put the Ali Forney Center, named for a gay teen who was slain on the city's streets, at the top of her list of charities in her will.

The money kept the center's doors open and allowed Siciliano to make payroll for many months.

It was then that he decided that should the center ever own property, he would pay Arthur back for her support by naming the building for her. Today, he makes good on that promise.

At the time of Arthur's December 2005 fundraiser [for the center, which was one of Arthur's final public performances], Ali Forney had about a dozen beds and a drop-­in center.

When the renovations at 222 East 13th Street are completed, the center will have 107 beds in all for its drop-in center, emergency shelter needs, and its longer-term full-service program that works to turn teens into independent young adults.

The facility is being developed in partnership with the housing preservation group, the Cooper Square Committee.
Blub. That was a lady who really knew how to be a friend all right.

Via Kyler, who notes that the Center also "recently added hormone therapy programs and dedicated housing services for homeless transgender teens." Sounds like a very important space. How fortunate Ms. Arthur took an interest in the Center and earmarked such a timely gift for them. ♥

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