The Free Synagogue of Flushing’s musical theater workshops, a Bayside ballet class for girls in wheelchairs, arts and science programs at the Maple Grove Cemetery – there are few borough organizations the Josephine Foundation does not seem to have a hand in.
Andrew Koslosky, a pre-eminent tenor and former Queens resident, founded the Josephine Foundation in 2002 to honor his mother’s legacy of using sports and arts to engage children from downtrodden communities.
The non-profit has grown into an organization that raises and disperses more than $2 million annually to arts and athletic programs for kids. The organization also bolsters these youth programs by donating equipment, providing tuition or registration fee scholarships as well as sending professionals to volunteer their time.
Josephine Foundation generates money by hosting shows with professional entertainers, holding fund-raisers and accepting private donations. All money raised gets funneled outward. And majority of its beneficiaries are in Queens, according to Koslosky.
“This was what it was all about when you talk about Josephine,” Koslosky said of his mother. “Her belief was that through performing arts and discipline and sports programs, kids could get through their problems regardless of their race, religion, creed, income. … and she was right.”
Long before Koslosky was a big enough name to headline charitable shows, he said he learned to croon while growing up in a struggling, single-mother household in East New York.
He said his mother, who worked mixing Chanel No. 5 perfume at a factory, threw change and money earned from odd jobs into a large vase. Every year, she would use this reserve to fund a vacation at Coney Island, buy tickets to a New York Yankees game and purchase seats at Broadway shows.
She taught him to sing by playing one line of a song at a time on an early model of a record player and having him repeat it.
Although his mother had two biological kids, she acted as a caretaker for many of his peers in the neighborhood, always impressing on them an appreciation for sports and arts.
“This is a woman who got out of the eighth grade and had to go to work,” he said. “It must have been amazing for her to come to conclusion that these are the right things.”
Koslosky went on to a career of acclaim in musical theater and singing. He has been featured as a soloist at St. James Cathedral in Seattle, St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans and St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. Koslosky has also acquired several credits in touring musicals, written, directed and produced a production about character portrayals of the passion of Christ and recorded a CD of Broadway show tunes.
But he has remained a mainstay at charitable shows.
“[Josephine] had two biological kids, but she had a lot of kids. They all called her mom,” said Koslosky, chairman of the Josephine Foundation. “I’ve kind of taken up that mantle because I have like 2,000 kids now.”
Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-260-4546 or by e-mail at strangle@c