Making Valley Stream family home disability accessible


Funds raised at the first bingo luau event held by Rescuing Families will help a Valley Stream family outfit their home with increased disability access and ease.

Rescuing Families got the community together on Aug. 11 for a luau-themed bingo night to raise funds for the Reyes family. The Reyes family that the organization will help includes a 43-year-old man who became paraplegic after a swimming and diving accident when he was 18. The community was able to raise $9,150 at the event with 140 people in attendance.

The charity Rescuing Families wants to help as many local families as it can by creating beautiful disability accessible homes.

Since it began seven years ago, it has helped six families live with increased disability access, ease and safety after being remodeled by the organization.

“What I liked about it is that it’s local,” Theresa Belmonte, a volunteer with Rescuing Families, said. “It’s not like one of these charities where you write a check and hope they’re doing good. You see what comes of it. At the end of the project you see the house, the ramp, the new bathroom. You see where everyone’s efforts and money have gone.”

The Reyes house needs a complete gut and replacement to become accessible and safe, because it is a very old home built in 1964. The paraplegic man’s parents must help him out of the tub and he only has a very steep, unstable ramp to get in and out of the home. Increasing the access and safety of the tub and ramp are two of the main project goals for Rescuing Families.

The luau bingo night included cash prizes for bingo winners and six costume contests. Half of the costume contests were for Hawaiian shirts: the most creative, most original and funniest. The other half were for Hula girl costumes: the most creative, most original and funniest. Prizes for contest winners were bottles of wine, scratch-off tickets and little trinkets.

“They come up with some great ideas and some great costumes,” Centauro said. “So we’re excited to see what they come up with this time.”

At the luau bingo night, food and drinks were served. Drinks were basic like beer, wine and soda. But the food was all tropical themed: Hawaiian chicken and wings, pineapple upside down cake and fruit bowls.

Gina and Vinny Centauro started Rescuing Families seven years ago after 10 years of running their own construction business. While the organization has 40 members, on average there is a core group of 10 members who help with the renovations directly. They come in to help demolish and rebuild. A few other contractors in the northeast also help build with them.

“When the disabled person actually comes home, the feeling you have is beyond description,” Barbara Donohue, a volunteer with Rescuing Families, said. “Everyone just ends up crying and weeping, so it’s a pretty intense feeling.”

Rescuing Families raises funds through several events throughout the year. It hosts a monthly community market with crafts, thrifts, food trucks, pet rescues and civic organizations. The booth operators pay a fee to have their booth there. Plus, Rescuing Families charges $5 for public entry into the market. From whatever the Rescuing Families booth itself sells the proceeds also go to the charity. People can donate directly to the organization while they are there. All proceeds go directly to the families in need. Rescuing families does the same thing semiannually with a craft-only fair.

It also hosts bingo nights throughout the year. The bingo nights started with an ugly sweater bingo night in December over three years ago. They held ugly sweater contests and gave away cash prizes for winning bingo. This year, Rescuing Families added the luau bingo night.

“Everybody likes a luau,” Centauro said. “It’s just a very festive, fun thing.”