|When she's not structuring real estate deals, Linda Galante L'79 devotes considerable time and energy to helping homeless women and children improve their lives. Nearly 90 percent now live in permanent housing.|
As noted in the Philadelphia Business Journal last year, Linda Galante L'79 is a Woman of Distinction. She has earned that accolade through a string of big-time real estate deals in her hometown over the last thirty years.
Among others, she structured and negotiated a long-term lease and $60 million in revenue bonds for the move of the Philadelphia Please Touch Museum from a small Center City location to the colossal Memorial Hall in Fairmount Park. And she represented the Bryn Mawr Film institute in the purchase of the historical Bryn Mawr Theater, saving it from demolition and decay. But Galante's service to the Drueding Center's Project Rainbow, a housing program that provides supportive services to North Philadelphia's homeless women and their children, remains closest to her heart.
"It is, as we like to say, helping one person at a time," says Galante, who serves on Project Rainbow's board of directors.
"That is as important, if not more important in my own view, than helping a nameless faceless million. These women have names and experiences. What we have done at Project Rainbow has been to really, in these individual cases, break the cycle of homelessness."
Galante joined Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young LLP immediately after graduating Penn Law School and has remained there ever since. She is a member of the firm's board of directors and a partner in the business department, where she concentrates her practice on banking, real estate and corporate law.
In the late 1980s, Galante was introduced to the Sisters of the Holy Redeemer after consulting with her firm's health care client, Holy Redeemer Hospital and Health System. During that time she became pregnant with her son, John. When the Sisters told Galante of their plans to renovate a vacant nursing home into a facility for homeless mothers and asked her to join the governing board, she felt the coincidence was undeniable.
"For some reason it just hit me emotionally how really lucky I was that my child was being born to someone who had the wherewithal emotionally, physically, and economically to raise him with my husband in a fashion that was comfortable for both of us," she says. "My heart just reached out to these women who were literally homeless, pregnant, with children, and had nowhere to go. I jumped at the request and agreed to be on the board right away."
What started out as a temporary shelter for homeless mothers and their children has turned into a comprehensive program that prepares its clients to become members of society, says Galante.
The shelter boasts more than 30 units, allowing each woman a bedroom to herself and her children. Every floor has a common kitchen where the women work together to prepare meals. In addition, Project Rainbow offers a childcare center, counseling, educational and employment services, and a health clinic.
Galante chaired the board at Project Rainbow for more than a decade. She was the recipient of the program's Fifth Anniversary Person of the Year Award and was also honored with the naming of the Galante Career Development Center.
"I think we're a beginning to an end," Galante says. "We not only take women in the transitional situation where the women stay for a short period of time, but then we make sure we don't give up on them. Once they're out of the center, there are still issues, just as in life, where assistance is needed. I think that's what makes Project Rainbow different, in that we don't forget about the women that have gone through our building.
We stay in contact with them and are available to assist them in any way."
And the success of the program is reflected in its numbers.
In 2010, nearly 90 percent of the women that walked through Project Rainbow's doors have moved into permanent housing and over 50 percent have maintained paying jobs for over a year.
That, Galante says, gives their children the message that "it is essential to rely on yourself to succeed."
In return for her service, Galante says Project Rainbow has made her "a more intuitive and sensitive person" and "a better lawyer." But she credits her passion to give back to her parents.
"My father and mother were very big on helping those who are less fortunate," Galante says. "My father is also a lawyer and he often said to me that lawyers, in everything they do, are the last ones that make sure society is a kind and just place. Lawyers really keep the social contract alive and [Project Rainbow] is an extension of that."
And her work is far from over. The City of Philadelphia estimates that there are more than 4,000 homeless individuals in the city on any given day.
"Unfortunately, the homeless are still with us," she says. "We often say at Project Rainbow that our best success is when we are no longer needed. Unfortunately, we are still needed, and by lots of people. Beyond us and organizations like us, I don't know what would happen to these people."