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WomanOf the Month 9-05: Luella Chavez D?Angelo

Hurricane Katrina proved to be a wrenching event for the staff of First Data Corp., both for those watching from afar and for those directly affected. Luella Chavez D’Angelo, president of the First Data Western Union Foundation and WomanOf the Month, noted on September 1 that many of the company’s 250 employees in Alabama , Mississippi and Louisiana remained unaccounted for and of 30 who had managed to check in with their company, all had lost their homes. “We have a very small staff of eight at the foundation who do the miracles of more than 100, and they are busy figuring out how they can help the victims of Hurricane Katrina,” she said. “I have been in the job five years and provided support for many disasters, but this hits home hard.” Since the foundation’s launch in 2001, it has provided more than 1,000 grants of $19 million total. She addressed the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce.

On September 2 Western Union Financial Services Inc., a subsidiary of First Data Corp., reduced its service fees by 50% on Western Union Money in Minutes transactions sent from within the U.S. to Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama. It also established a special, no-transfer fee service for U.S.consumers who wish to help by sending donations directly to the American Red Cross. They can do so by visiting a participating Western Union Agent location in the U.S.

D’Angelo was hired in December of 2001 to develop First Data’s first comprehensive charitable program. Today the foundation has distributed funds to nonprofit organizations in over 55 countries and has directly assisted more than 325 individuals with educational scholarships.

Grants are provided for :

  • educational, health, and human services programs, especially in support of initiatives that address literacy, healthcare for the uninsured, poverty alleviation, language barriers and cultural adjustment.
  • scholarships for non-traditional, low-income students in the United States or Puerto Rico who have overcome personal challenges, exemplify initiative, exhibit a commitment to learning and working hard, and demonstrate financial need.
  • an Employee Matching Gift Program. When employees make a donation to a non-profit organization, First Data Corporation matches the gift dollar-for-dollar. Each year, hundreds of thousands of matching dollars are donated through the First Data Western Union Foundation to make this corporate charitable commitment possible.
  • emergency assistance around the world, and in the U.S. , to help those whose lives have been devastated by disaster.

Before joining the Foundation, D’Angelo was the director of marketing for the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. During her six-year tenure, D’Angelo was responsible for managing the advertising, promotions, market research, public affairs, media relations, community relations and corporate sponsorship departments of the museum. Her efforts resulted in the museum’s highest annual attendance.

Her switch to the foundation took an unexpected turn when she found out within 48 hours of accepting the new job that she was pregnant with her first child. “I called First Data and told them that I understood how important the job was and that I wanted them to know that in nine months I would have to go away for three months—but they said it was part of work life and that I was their candidate. So I was essentially birthing two babies at once.apostrophe

D’Angelo had never led a foundation before and found it a humbling experience to “get her armsapostrophe around a corporation that employs more than 30,000 people around the world speaking more than 75 languages. She credits two fundamental beliefs for giving her the energy and the purpose she needed: she is committed to doing something challenging that she enjoys, and to giving back. “It’s important to make time for giving back,apostrophe she says.

She also has a passion for motherhood and for her community. Her son is now four, and she finds it equally rewarding and exciting to search for the balance between her professional and personal worlds. “I try to find that balance with my heart and with my purpose,apostrophe she says. “We all know that parenthood is 24/7, but really, what more important job is there? It sustains families and communities and builds leaders. I look forward to sharing with my son the stories of achievement of the people I have encountered in my work with the foundation.apostrophe

D’Angelo’s mother, a PhD and professor, served as an inspiration. “I wanted to have her success and also, to achieve the balance she found,apostrophe says D’Angelo.

“The expectations are higher for the working woman,apostrophe says D’Angelo. “We’re expected to also be the best mother, girlfriend, community woman, and also pursue our interests. I worry about too much focus on the professional. My experience is that the balanced life is the best business case for success.apostrophe