Hands-on charity

Ron Gallatin

Title: Founder, chairman and CEO, Hands On Tzedakah.

Other job experience: Investment banker; lawyer and CPA; retired managing director of Lehman Brothers.

Other community posts: Vice president of strategic planning for Levis Jewish Community Center, and board member of Jewish Family Service; member, B'nai Torah, Boca Raton.

Education: Degree in accounting from NYU; J.D. degree from Brooklyn Law School; LLM degree with specialization in taxation, NYU.

Personal: Age 66. Born inNew York City.

Family: Married to Meryl, vice chair of Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County; chair of Women's Philanthropy at Jewish Federation. Two children.

What kinds of things does Hands On Tzedakah do?

We efficiently utilize every dollar to help people who, without our help, would not receive it.

But every charity does that.

I don't agree. We pay all overhead expenses. Every dollar we get goes to help the specific people it's meant for. That's the worst case. The best case is that it will turn into two or three dollars, because we're good at matching grants.

Is HOT a reaction against your time at Lehman Brothers?

Not at all. My work with Lehman Brothers allowed me to do what I do now. It allowed the financial flexibility to retire early and to help people.

How did you get into your vocation?

When I founded HOT eight years ago, it was with the knowledge that most people don't donate because of two things: The expenses of the charity were too high, and [the donors] didn't know what the money was going for. So my wife and I pay the expenses of HOT.

And unlike other charities, which want money put in a big pool, HOT encourages donors to designate their gifts to a specific project. That makes them partners and gives them ownership.

How is all of this religious?

Righteousness is a key tenet of all religions. It's the responsibility to do what's right, what's correct. There's a Jewish concept, "Tikkun Olam.'" Jews are taught the responsibility to take care of everyone.

How do you know when HOT is being effective?

If I could show you some of the letters we get, you'd know. Like when I see kids who have shoes or sandwiches who wouldn't have otherwise gotten them. Like a boy who was 8 and was going to die. He and his family were able to fly to Camp Sunshine in Maine because of a donation. Camp Sunshine is for children who have life-threatening diseases.