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Jun. 18

Remembering Her Own Struggle, She Leads Others Out of Debt

Today at the Points of Light Conference on Volunteering and Service in Atlanta, Donna Mahon recieved a Daily Point of Light Award. Read Mahon's story and nominate someone you know as a Daily Point of Light.

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Donna Mahon

New York City native Donna Mahon knows financial adversity. In her youth, she worked full time at a bank – and three part-time jobs on the side – to put herself through college. She eventually earned an MBA and achieved a success, but she never forgot the hard work it took to build her career in banking.

For the past 25 years Mahon, now a Bank of America vice president and senior business support specialist, has volunteered her time conducting free financial workshops through a variety of community organizations to help others overcome economic obstacles.

Recently, Mahon relocated to the Atlanta area and soon began looking for new community service opportunities. She learned that Catholic Charities Atlanta was seeking volunteers for the Financial Opportunity Corps program, which recruits and trains volunteers as financial coaches who then help people from low- and moderate-income households achieve financial stability. The program, a partnership between Points of Light, Bank of America and the Corporation for National and Community Service, is run locally by Catholic Charities Atlanta.

Mahon thought the program sounded like a perfect fit for her and began volunteering in January. In just her first six months, she taught workshops in finance, budgeting and credit to more than 70 people. She has also given her time to train 11 Catholic Charities Atlanta volunteers as financial coaches and works one-on-one as a financial coach with a client of her own.

Mahon has already become a fixture at Catholic Charities Atlanta, where she is widely praised by staff and fellow volunteers, not just for her service ethic, but also for her kindness, generosity and warmth.

“I just have a passion for helping people,” says Mahon. “If anyone’s in need, I’m there.”

Mahon’s own financial coaching client is a woman who recently escaped an abusive relationship and who must often bring her child along to coaching sessions. Gradually, Mahon is helping the woman climb out of more than $200,000 of debt.

“It’s very humbling to know that you can help,” says Mahon. “These people are often in circumstances beyond their control, and they’re trying hard to improve them. It makes my day if I can improve a situation or give them an avenue they haven’t looked for.”

In addition to volunteering with the Financial Opportunity Corps, Mahon has helped the program evolve to meet broader needs. She has worked with the bilingual coordinator at Catholic Charities Atlanta to help translate workshops for clients who are Spanish speakers. And she has tailored workshops on credit to meet the needs of women in the Microenterprise Program of the Refugee Women’s Network, a partner of Catholic Charities Atlanta.

“It’s nice to be recognized,” says Mahon. “But the greatest recognition is helping the people who need to be helped.”

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