Angela D. Giampolo, a local attorney known for her devotion to the LGBTQ+ community, recently returned from a 14-city tour that provided a variety of legal services on a volunteer basis.
The tour, which kicked off on June 6 and ended June 30, specifically conducted outreach in towns and rural areas that lack an abundance of legal services for the LGBTQ+ community. It’s known as the Caravan of Hope, a nonprofit 501(c)3 initiative Giampolo created.
Giampolo is licensed to practice law in three states, but she has a bevy of partner attorneys who assisted in the the states where she isn’t licensed to practice law.
The 43-year-old traveled in a large recreational vehicle with electric cooking, a large television screen, Wi-Fi availability, comfortable seating and ample sleeping quarters.
“It also served as the mobile law firm,” Giampolo explained.
King Financial Network, a financial advisory firm in N.J., generously contributed to the Caravan of Hope. Giampolo also received several private donations.
“It was predominantly self-funded,” she said.
Giampolo said she’s always been an optimistic person, so having “hope” in the nonprofit’s name seemed a natural thing. She’s also been a person who believes deeply in public service — a commitment that was reinforced while attending law school at Temple University.
Giampolo scheduled her “maiden voyage”of the caravan to coincide with Pride Month, she said.
Giampolo was accompanied on the trip by her partner Jessica Grisafi; her beloved chihuahua, Niko; a driver for the RV, Jamie Bulava; and videographer Jordan Fraser.
During the evenings, the RV was parked in various RV parks and other locations.
Giampolo and the three others would sleep in the RV or in various motels. “It was 14 nights in RV campgrounds and the rest in motels, for a total of 24 days and nights,” she said.
Giampolo never took a turn behind the wheel.
“I was gonna drive it in Laramie but there was a tornado watch in effect that day. I think we’re all better off that I didn’t,” she quipped.
She added: “I credit my lawyer partners and Jamie Bulava [the driver] for making this happen. Without either of them, I wouldn’t have been able to do this.”
She termed the tour “the most rewarding experience of my personal and professional lives.” She looks forward to traveling on future tours, with the same exact itinerary and the same legal partners.
“But in the future, I will tweak this as needed,” she said. “I’d like to do this well into my golden years.”
Most of the legal services that were provided centered around name changes for trans people and revisions to birth certificates and driver’s licenses to reflect accurate gender markers.
The American Civil Liberties Union reports that more than 520 pieces of legislation target LGBTQ+ individuals nationwide. Much of this legislation makes it more difficult to get name-change or ID revisions. Giampolo said the need for these services was great and it was particularly gratifying to help in any way she could.
“We did the largest number of name changes in Memphis, because of an anti-trans law that was about to go into effect in Tennessee,” Giampolo noted.
She also provided legal assistance regarding adoptions, uncontested divorces, advance directives, estate planning and answering general legal questions.
“We couldn’t provide legal services if there was a contested party or if it was a criminal matter being prosecuted,” she added. “But we would still connect the person with a local partner attorney. We just couldn’t service them on the caravan per se. If there was anything we couldn’t do on the caravan, we made sure to find a home for them with a friendly attorney.”
Having a proper person to serve as your power of attorney is important, Giampolo stressed. “It’s so important that someone you trust has legal, financial, and health care powers of attorney for you to help make decisions in moments when you’re unable to do so,” she said.
Even if no legal services could be provided to a person, it was still a meaningful experience for Giampolo.
“I called it the Caravan of Hope,” she continued. “I thought that our legal services would be what provided the hope. Quite the contrary, some of the biggest impact we had was with folks we couldn’t help legally — but we sat with them and listened to their story. I never anticipated that when I didn’t perform legal services — I would still provide a large amount of hope for people. They looked much lighter when they left us.”
The major towns she visited include Laramie, Wyoming; Birmingham, Alabama; Denver, Colorado; Memphis, Tennessee; Pittsburgh, Pa.; Little Rock, Arkansas; and Albuquerque, New Mexico.
A lot of planning took place before the tour to ensure that people knew her itinerary and could avail themselves of her services, she added.
“I had a partner attorney in each town to help me provide the services because I’m not licensed to practice law in every state,” Giampolo explained. “We needed a welcoming host entity in every city. A lot of community centers hosted us. Everyone was so wonderful, helping us get the word out.”
When she was in Alabama, she noted, someone from Tennessee traveled three-and-a-half hours to obtain legal advice from her.
“That was very moving,” she added. “I’m grateful we were able to help that person.”
Giampolo said she got support from unexpected sources, including a white cisgender straight male from Texas who eyed Niko warily in an RV park.
“It was a campground. Niko was off-leash,” Giampolo explained. “The gentleman was staring at us. But he also saw the caravan, and its details, with multiple Pride Flags. And he made it clear he was an ally. He came up and expressed his support and gratitude for what we were doing.”
However, her social-media accounts were plagued with hate messages, on a daily basis.
“The haters were aware of my route because I had to publicize it so folks would know where to find me,” she said. “On a daily basis, my assistant had to delete the hate that was posted on my Instagram and Facebook accounts. But I also got a lot of support. We would just delete everything else.
A small support group of friends were on hand to see Giampolo off. Her departure also was filmed by a local TV station. Jeb Rehmann, her best friend, gave a brief interview, referring to Giampolo as “the one and only!”
Persons who wish to view a video of the tour can contact Giampolo at [email protected].
She said she’ll continue to provide referral services to folks in rural areas across the country throughout the year until next June, when she hits the road again.
“It’s a labor of love and very fulfilling for me,” she concluded.