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Rescuing Families holds charity yard sale amid devastating robbery in Hempstead

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Gina and Vincent Centauro, co-founders of Rescuing Families, a Franklin Square-based charity that renovates the homes of local families in need, take pride in redirecting the money raised at the group’s fundraising events to the families they serve. But funds raised at the charity’s most recent event is being set aside for a different purpose: to account for a major blow the nonprofit sustained on June 10, when $25,000 worth of its tools were stolen overnight at the home it is currently renovating in Hempstead.

Under white, enclosed canopy tents, Rescuing Families volunteers assisted local residents browsing an array of goods donated by Long Island residents at the yard sale, last Saturday and Sunday. The goods donated ranged from clothing, to DVDs, pottery and more.

“The main purpose of the fundraisers is to help pay for supplies and materials and housing for families when we’re renovating their homes,” Vincent said.

But last weekend's yard sale was different for the Centauros and Rescuing Families.

“This weekend’s yard sale is especially important to our charity right now, because we actually sustained a tremendous loss,” Gina said. “We are not going to be able to help any families if we are not able to recoup our tools.”

The couple emphasized that they wish the funds raised at the yard sale could be spent on completing the home the charity is currently renovating and more families’ homes in the future. “We try to get as much money to help others as we can,” said Johnathan, a Rescuing Families volunteer who normally works on-site, helping to renovate homes. 

The nonprofit incurred not only a $25,000 loss, but a personal loss as well. “It was a generation of tools,” Vincent said. “We’re contractors for 15 years … grandparents, dad’s tools; everything was totally wiped out. We lost everything.” 

The upside, Gina said, to last weekend’s yard sale was the charity’s return to large-scale fundraising events amid the coronavirus pandemic. Last year, restrictions forced Rescuing Families to reduce space and capacity at fundraising events. The group’s fundraising events did not raise as much money for the charity due to the safety restrictions, Gina said, but the turnout at last weekend’s yard sale exceeded their expectations.

“For us, being able to open up was such a wonderful thing,” Gina said. “To see the amount of support and the amount of people that were so incredibly excited to see us come back in full force … the donations we got and continue to get are amazing.”

In light of last Thursday’s robbery, the turnout at the yard sale was especially motivating, Vincent said. “Today’s been crazy, it’s been more active than it normally is,” he said, referring to the number of people in attendance at the yard sale.

Vincent credited the generosity of the community for driving the turnout. “The people in the community are very generous, but they’re even stepping up more than they previously have, because of the hardship and hearing that it affected us,” he said.

The charity’s yard sales are an opportunity for local families to buy goods at an affordable price and for other families to clear out space in their house and ensure their cherished belongings remain among the community. “It serves a purpose for the community,” Gina said.

“Our charity is not a huge charity,” Vincent added. “The community is what drives us. We’re not getting funding from corporations; we’re getting funding from our neighbors.”

Rescuing Families next fundraising event is a BBQ and a Night at the Races on July 11, from 5 to 10 p.m. at the VFW Post 2718 in Franklin Square.