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Franklin Square community tries to help Oceanside family recover

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Elmont-native Gino Cali was reunited with his daughter, Gia, on Jan. 27 after not seeing her for three years.

There was just one problem — Cali, who is now living in Oceanside, did not have any clothes or supplies for an 8-year-old girl. He has since gone shopping, he said, but could still use more help.

To do so, Gina Centauro, co-founder of Franklin Square-based Rescuing Families, Inc. decided to hold a gift card drive for the family, and will be collecting Target, Walmart, Visa, American Express and Mastercard gift cards at 1010 Lewiston Street “for as long as we need to.”

“We are working to mitigate some of the financial strain for him,” Centauro explained, “and some of the emotional strain for his daughter.”

Gia was living in the Pollina-Valva household in Center Moriches, where an 8-year-old boy died after allegedly being forced to sleep in an unheated garage. Child Protective Services had previously been called about alleged abuse at the house, and the Suffolk County Department of Social Services investigated the couple after child neglect petitions were filed in 2018. A judge then ordered DDS to do a home supervision, issued orders of protection for the Valva boys that required Michael Valva and Angela Pollina to “refrain from harmful behaviors toward the children” and mandated them to attend parenting classes.

In court last week, Cali, detailed how he knew Pollina was abusive when they were together. He said she used to hurt her twin daughters, and testified that Pollina prevented him from seeing Gia. When he tried, he said, he would be harassed.

“They didn’t want me to see my daughter,” Cali alleged to the Herald.

But just last week, a judge ruled that Cali could have custody of Gia, moving him to tears. “I’m just glad I got my daughter back,” he said of the decision, adding that they are now “going to start the healing process.”