Rescuing Families remodels house for disabled woman


When Dina Cantone first saw her new room, she waved her arms around and smiled a big smile.

Rescuing Families recently re-did Dina and her brother Michael’s house, who happen to be the siblings of the woman who runs Rescuing Families, Gina Centauro. Various companies contributed to the project for free. Twelve volunteers helped Rescuing Families gut and renovate the house for 11 months.

Dina is deaf, low-functioning autistic and developmentally disabled, so she needs around-the-clock care. She is also compulsive, so Rescuing Families needed to install locks on all of the cabinets and closets so that Dina wouldn’t eat or drink too much.

“She likes her room,” said Gina, who was using American Sign Language to talk to Dina for this interview with the Herald. “She thinks it’s beautiful. She liked having all of the volunteers here — seeing everybody every day. People would bring her snacks or buy her toys.”

Recently, Dina was hospitalized for water intoxication and almost went into a coma. With these changes, the staff will be able to better track her intake. She also needed special smoke and carbon dioxide alarms that flash so Dina can know when they are going off.

“It’s helping her because it’s making it easier for her to get around, and we can keep an eye on her easier,” Michael Cantone said. “The staff can have an easier time helping to do crafts, play games, make sure she washes, makes sure she eats properly, that sort of thing.”

The home was built in 1963 and was completely run down by last May. Originally, Dina and her father rented the property from a landlord. Later, Gina’s husband Vinny Centauro and his mother bought the home so that Dina could stay there. Since her dad passed away five years ago, she now lives with her brother who works and isn’t home a lot.

The property needed a new kitchen, new bathroom, new electric, new plumbing, new siding, a new roof and more. It was fully gutted in the process of this remodel.

Keller Williams Legendary, a real estate company with an office based in Franklin Square, came to the house and demolished the deck and stairs, helped with landscaping, and did cleanup.

National Grid helped make the kitchen bigger. They dug the foundation and did the cement work.

Low Price Junk Removal Top Value Movers, Inc., a waste management servicer, took down the roof and disposed of it.

“Just the thought of helping someone, that was the big general idea,” said Benny Tirado, a project leader at Top Value Movers. “Lending a helping hand and being able to have things that they needed; to be able to provide that was a rewarding feeling.”

The project was almost entirely done by contractors who contributed for free and volunteers. The only person they had to pay was the plumber, plus the cost of materials.

Usually, Rescuing Families raises money to pay for such things through bingo nights, luau parties and similar events. This time, Gina and Vinny paid the $80,000 cost out of pocket.

“We didn’t feel it was the right thing to do to go through the charity,” Gina said. “It’s really incredible. We always say that we help families just like ours, and we’re not kidding. My sister really needed the help.”

Another thing that was different about this project for Rescuing Families is that the work was being done without removing Dina and Michael from the home.

“It was a pleasure to be able to work on it, and to work on it with Dina in the home,” Vinny said. “Because we got to see her reaction as we’re moving things out and bringing new stuff in. She would get excited seeing appliances come in. That’s not something we usually do. In this case, it was great to see.”

On the reveal day, Dina saw her room and her brother’s room for the first time. Contributing contractors came, along with all of the project volunteers. Kathleen Voellm, a volunteer who helped renovate Dina’s home, said that the hands-on experience helped her learn about home improvement projects.

“It was exciting,” said Voellm. “It was fulfilling.”

For volunteer Teresa Belmonte, being involved in the process of uplifting someone’s living space was a rewarding experience.

“It’s local so it’s convenient,” said Belmonte. “You see improvements and good that’s being done on a local level.”

To find families in need, Rescuing Families is usually contacted through the office of people with developmental disabilities, social workers and the veterans’ administration. It tries to do three to five houses per year, but some years can only manage two to three because it’s so much work.

To get involved with the organization, find out where to donate, or see what events will be hosted in the future, visit