By KEVIN CHIRI
Slidell news bureau
SLIDELL — When Susan Roberts talks about her sister’s enthusiasm to help others, she uses an unusual word.
“Exhausting,” Roberts said. “She helps people so much that when I look at all she does, it seems exhausting.”
But for Roberts, that is the only way she has ever known her sister, Cheryl Galante.
Today, however, it is Galante who needs the help.
In late May, Roberts and many of the other six siblings joined Galante at her home in New Jersey, where the large family gathered to celebrate the youngest sister graduating from college.
After the party finished, Roberts and others were on their way to the airport in terrible, stormy weather when she received a phone call.
“It was Cheryl, and she just said ‘I’m in an accident.’ We turned around and headed for the hospital,” she said.
Galante was driving home in the bad weather and had gotten into an accident that has changed her life, now putting her in a position to rely on others for help until she recovers.
The car accident left her with a broken neck and broken hand, forcing her to wear a “halo” that goes from her neck to her waist. She is unable to do many normal, daily tasks and certainly is unable to work.
Her family has rallied around her, putting on local garage sales and trying to drum up support to help Galante, who was already coming out of a divorce that had made her life a challenge.
Galante, along with her four sisters and three brothers, grew up in Slidell the children of Ronald and Martha Lloyd. Their father died at the age of 38 from cancer, and their mother passed away several years ago.
Roberts describes her sister as a “problem solver and a person always looking for ways to help others. She has so much compassion for others.”
After finishing high school, she moved to Florida to follow her dreams of making it in the fashion industry. She began working as a fashion stylist before meeting a man, getting married, and moving to New York. Her plans as a fashion stylist took a turn, as it does for many people, as she had three children in a short period of time.
“Her life became about her kids and she was staying home with them,” Roberts explained.
But the marriage hit hard times and Galante was already in a bad situation with a pending divorce in 2005 as Hurricane Katrina suddenly made the big news back in her hometown of Slidell.
“When Katrina hit, Cheryl kept hearing all the news reports of how bad it was down here. Even though she was having a very difficult time in her marriage, she wanted to help in any way she could,” Roberts said.
Galante, as was her character, went into it full force, forming a corporation called Save Our South (SOS), that began to collect clothes and non-perishable food from residents and businesses in the Northeast.
“People were so willing to help,” Roberts said.
Galante used her organizational skills to make the project more than a simple relief mission of sending a truckload of clothes.
“She was so organized and had all the clothes put into boxes labeled for different groups. One said ‘Family of four with electricity,’ and another said ‘Family of two with no electricity.’ Then she got enough donations to get it all shipped south,” Roberts said.
With the relief effort in Slidell still getting organized, a truck loaded with “hundreds of boxes” arrived at Roberts’ home, which had flooded, but now was gutted and not being used.
“We used my home as a place to receive the goods at first, then we got a local school to be our distribution site after that,” she said.
Galante ended up sending three trucks of food and clothes before her personal problems took over. Her divorce went through and she was suddenly going back to work since Roberts said she was not getting child support payments.
“She was such a tough cookie,” her sister said. “She worked four part-time jobs at one time. And the amazing thing is that she was still so positive, even after the accident.”
Galante has to remain in the halo for her broken neck for a minimum of four months, and then she will be changed to a similar halo, but one that is slightly less restrictive.
“She has no health insurance and can’t work. I really don’t know how she is managing,” Roberts said. “The family is helping as much as we can, but we are hoping maybe she will get some help from the public, since she helped so many people after Katrina.”
A fund has been set up at Capital One Bank in the name of Cheryl Lloyd Galante, or donations may be mailed to her sister, Susan Roberts, at 59393 Spring Dr., Slidell, La., 70461.