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AAWGT Grants $159,265 to Local Nonprofits

May 11, 2022

This year marks our 16th year of grantmaking. Since our founding in 2006, we have invested more than $1.5 million in grants to 47 different nonprofits in Anne Arundel County working to improve the quality of life for women and families.
Applications for grants were carefully evaluated by our reviewers. This year’s grants total $159,265. Voting was online and results were announced at our May 11 membership meeting.
These organizations received grants this year:

Asbury Church Assistance Network, $4,998, for mobile food pantry expansion

Assistance League of the Chesapeake, $4,998, for school uniforms for students at Tyler Heights Elementary School

Center of Help, $15,080, for their program assisting bilingual families

Charting Careers, $20,000, for their mentoring, college and career readiness and family partnership program

Co-op Arundel, $20,000, for the My Sistah’s Keeper program, which is designed to give women the tools and skills to identify and reach their goals

Community Alliance of South County, $6,125, for summer overnight camp scholarships for ten low-income children and follow-up

Marshall Hope Corporation, $20,000, to purchase diapers, formula and feminine pads for the food pantry, plus supplies for the Marshall Hope Learning Center

Providence Center, Inc., $8,064, for consent, healthy relationship and abuse prevention training for women with intellectual and developmental disabilities

STAIR-Annapolis, Inc., $20,000, for the Start the Adventure in Reading, including purchase of books, lesson plans and take-home books for students

Tahirih Justice Center, $20,000, to provide trauma-informed legal and social services support to immigrant survivors of gender-based violence

We Care and Friends, Inc., $20,000, for the women-empowerment program that trains and counsels women to become self-reliant entrepreneurs and business leaders

Adult Literacy in Anne Arundel County

Fifteen percent of adults in Anne Arundel County have a low level of literacy. For education on this important topic, on November 9, 2022, AAWGT presented a virtual panel discussion. Introduced by Education Committee Chair Tatiana Klein and moderated by AAWGT Vice President Susan Cook, the presentation featured three individuals actively involved in the AACo Literacy Council:

  • Jane Seiss, executive director
  • LaToya Saunders, Literacy  Council alumna and high school diploma graduate
  • Susann Felton, math and high school tutor and trainer.

Since 1977, the Literacy Council has been offering free, weekly, one-on-one tutoring to help adults build literacy skills. Approximately 300 volunteers, who receive training from the Council, provide students with tutoring in Basic Literacy, Math, GED (General Educational Development), NEDP (National External Diploma Program), and ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test) preparation, and college coursework. AAWGT awarded the Literacy Council grants to fund one-on-one literacy training in 2007 and a tutor training workshop in 2010.

A Pressing Need

The ramifications of low literacy are felt in all areas of life, including health, household income and outcomes for children. “We target as students the thousands of adults and out-of-school youth who cannot read at a functional level. Challenges such as working more than one job and lack of transportation, childcare or access to technology, stack up against these individuals,” said Jane Seiss. “Boosting their literacy through one-on-one learning can help them increase their self-esteem, raise children to have strong reading, writing, speaking and listening skills, take advantage of job opportunities, and many other essential benefits,” noted Susann Felton.

FY22 Stats

  • More than 300 trained tutors (the majority of which are actively tutoring)
  • 14 staff and support volunteers
  • 13,000+ volunteer hours each year
  • 198 active students, with 58 pursuing basic literacy, 66 English as a second language, and 74 high school equivalency or the ASVAB (to qualify to enlist in the military)
  • Student waiting list of fewer than 50 individuals

Student Goals

The student’s goals set the agenda for his or her tutoring. “One of the first things a tutor does when he/she meets with a student is to ask, ‘What are your big goals,’” described Susann Felton. Answers often include earning a high school diploma (from about ½ the students), obtaining a driver’s license, getting a job, better job or promotion, obtaining U.S. citizenship, getting into the armed services, registering to vote or voting, learning to communicate in English, and reading a book to children or grandchildren.

“About a third of our current students are non-English-as-a-native-language speakers,” said Seiss. “Our tutors work with ProLiteracy materials, around which they receive training.”

LaToya’s Story

As a requirement to retain her job, LaToya found herself in the position of needing a high school diploma within a one-month timeframe. “I tried on my own, but just could not do it. With only two weeks left to the deadline, I reached out to the Literacy Council,” she said. “I did lose my job, but I met a cool tutor who kept working with me, and in 2018, I walked across the stage to receive my high school diploma.”

Currently, she has her own cleaning business and is the supervisor for the crossing guards for Annapolis City Police Department. She mentioned referring friends and people she meets to the program, letting them know the importance of getting a diploma through the help the Literacy Council provides and encouraging them to become a student.

Felton commented this: “LaToya should be incredibly proud of what she accomplished. After losing her job, she still had to care for three younger siblings and pay the rent, so she was working three jobs. Yet, she made the time to meet with tutors several times a week. Her work ethic and performance have been extraordinary.”

Tutor Qualifications

If you can read and write, you can tutor! “You don’t have to be a teacher to be a tutor,” said Seiss. “Beyond attending a day-long training session, held in the spring and fall, usually on a Saturday in Severna Park, you just need a desire to help someone and a willingness to meet the student at a local library once a week. We will train and support you.”

Tutors spend from a month to many years working with a student, depending upon the relationship and needs. Many develop long-time friendships that are very special to them. A few tutor-student meetings occur virtually, but most meetings are in person.

What the Literacy Council Needs from the Community

Funding for textbooks, materials and technology, as well as additional staff and training, are ongoing needs of the Literacy Council. “We always are seeking public understanding of and support for literacy needs,” mentioned Seiss. “And of course, we always need volunteers.”

For More Information

If you are interested in learning more about becoming a volunteer tutor, the next tutor training workshop is planned for March 2023. A date will be confirmed in early January. For more information about the Literacy Council, see its website at or call 410-269-4419.

New Membership Contribution Levels

Our Membership Committee has proposed, and the Steering Committee has approved, new contribution levels of membership in AAWGT. In this new system, members will now be able to choose among five different membership levels. All levels are equal in member benefits, and all members, no matter the level, have one vote. When it comes to approving our slate of officers, voting for nonprofits to receive grants, changing our bylaws, etc., it will be “one member-one vote.”

This change was made possible when the membership voted on August 1 to change our Bylaws so that the Steering Committee could set the member contribution levels.

This article serves to explain the new contribution levels. Recently, all members received a detailed email explaining what these changes will mean to them. This page on our website has full details.

These new membership contribution levels were developed after discussions with other giving circles and with our leadership. We believe the change will build on our 16-year legacy of improving the lives of under-served women and families in Anne Arundel County.

As of October 1, 2022, the AAWGT contribution levels will now be:

  • Lifetime: $12,000 (donor-advised fund with the Community Foundation)
  • Sustainer: $1,075/year
  • Ally: $575/year
  • Catalyst: $375/year
  • Friend: $175/year

The $75 administrative fee continues for all levels of membership with the entire contribution remaining tax deductible. A lifetime member’s donor-advised fund pays the member’s annual dues of $500 per year, with the member paying the $75 administrative fee each year.


We would like to increase the number of AAWGT members and, at the same time, make membership more financially possible for more women. We recognize that not everyone can afford to pay $575 or $300 to join AAWGT. Our members are very generous, and we doubt they will reduce their dues payment under this new system – and are hopeful they will perhaps even increase it. By expanding our contribution levels, we are hoping to be more inclusive and to be more representative of our community. We believe these potential new members will have perspectives and talents that will be highly beneficial to AAWGT.

Our ultimate goal is to increase the money available for grants. As in the past, we also encourage members to make additional donations to the Grant Fund and to the Endowment Fund. The bottom line is that we want to generate a larger pool of grant dollars by encouraging an ever-growing number of members to give what they can at their comfort level.

The membership levels will be reviewed in two years’ time to see if our goals have been achieved.

Why diversity, equity and inclusion matter:

A more diverse, equitable and inclusive membership will provide more and different perspectives, which will enhance our work in the county. Diversity, equity and inclusion are critical as we continue to grow, change and innovate. Continuing to embed these values within AAWGT offers opportunities to engage the greatest number of stakeholders in every aspect of our mission. Our collective philanthropy encourages outreach to women in a variety of roles and circumstances who share our commitment to our mission.

Changes to membership level upon renewal:

These new membership levels will take effect on October 1, 2022. Each member’s usual renewal date will not change. When it is time for a member to renew, she will receive her usual email notice and at that time, she can choose among the five contribution levels outlined above.

Membership level confidentiality:

Personal membership levels are considered private and will remain undisclosed. The number of people who will know what a member has paid will be kept to an absolute minimum, with everyone understanding the importance of confidentiality.

Conflict of interest issues:

We hope this proposed new membership structure will encourage more nonprofit staff to become AAWGT members. Our governance team has written clear guidelines to prevent conflict-of-interest issues when an AAWGT member is also a founder, director, trustee or staff member of a nonprofit that is applying for a grant or serves on our Post Grants Evaluation Committee or our Grants Committee. These guidelines have been in place for some time and are reviewed frequently. They are available upon request.

We couldn’t have achieved this monumental change in our contribution levels without the hard work of many of our members. Thank you to all who brainstormed, reviewed, researched and collaborated to make it possible.

Poverty Amidst Plenty VII: Moving Forward Together

The Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County has published the 2022 Community Needs Assessment, Poverty Amidst Plenty VII: Moving Forward Together. The report provides an overview of the issues in our county that impact the economy and quality of life. It was prepared and written by Pamela M. Brown, Ph.D.,with assistance from Alexander Alty, Lisa Kovacs and Cindy O’Neill. Click here to learn more and to download a copy of the report.

Grants Showcase

AAWGT members and guests learned about 19 local nonprofits working with women, children and families at our annual Grants Showcase on September 13, 2022. Eleven of those local nonprofits are 2022 grant recipients. Eight of them received grants from AAWGT in 2021, and made presentations at the event.

The theme of the evening was acknowledging the power of one, multiplied by many. By that, we mean that our members’ contributions to our Grants Fund and Endowment Fund, when added together, have an amazing impact on vulnerable members of our community. In fact, since its founding in 2006, AAWGT has awarded 121 grants to 47 nonprofits totaling close to $1.6M.

“We look forward to the Grants Showcase throughout the year, not only because it gives us a chance to meet with all of you, our members and guests, but because we have an opportunity to hear first-hand from the 2021 AAWGT grantees about their inspiring accomplishments toward helping women and families in Anne Arundel County,” said Sarah Sweeny, chair of the Post Grants Evaluation Committee, which hosts the annual event.

Sarah went on to summarize the impact that our giving circle had on those served by our grantees:

  • Annapolis Immigration Justice Network: provided legal and case management to 192 immigrants.
  • Anne Arundel County Court Appointed Special Advocates: advocated for abused and neglected children, helping to change the lives of 30 children.
  • Anne Arundel County Food Bank: expanded and stocked baby pantries serving 5,760 people.
  • Charting Careers: supported young people through mentoring, and college and career readiness, improving the lives of 100 young people.
  • Co-op Arundel: taught financial literacy, life and self-introspection skills to 30 women through the My Sistah’s Keeper program.
  • HOPE For All: provided furniture, new beds, linens and kitchen items to 863 households.
  • Marshall Hope Corporation: expanded newborn and toddler pantries serving over 3,000 people last year.
  • Rebuilding Together: provided urgent home repairs and furniture for 30 women homeowners.

We are appreciative of the many hours our Post Grants Committee liaisons devote to keeping us up-to-date on the grantees’ work during the year.

Members and guests went home that night inspired by all that our grantees accomplish. You can learn more at

Cherie Loustaunau Memorial Fund

As an AAWGT member, Cherie Loustaunau was continually moved by the stories of women striving to overcome so much. Cherie’s husband, Michael Kurtz, recalls fondly how Cherie would come home from AAWGT meetings and share stories with him. She was always so pleased to be a part of AAWGT’s positive impact on the lives of these women. Soon after joining AAWGT, Cherie became a Lifetime Member, seeing this as a way for her dollars to continue helping women in perpetuity.

These new membership contribution levels were developed after discussions with other giving circles and with our leadership. We believe the change will build on our 16-year legacy of improving the lives of under-served women and families in Anne Arundel County.

In 2019, we sadly lost Cherie to pancreatic cancer. In 2020, AAWGT announced a $20,000 Memorial Donation from Michael in memory of Cherie and in honor of her commitment to AAWGT and its mission. In August 2022, the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County announced that Michael has made provisions in his estate to establish the Cherie Loustaunau Memorial Fund as an endowed CFAAC fund benefiting Anne Arundel Women Giving Together. Cherie believed there is a wider community that needs nurturing and support, said Michael. “Cherie would be pleased that this endowed fund will keep supporting AAWGT for a long, long, long time.” AAWGT is privileged to be the beneficiary of Cherie and Michael's amazing legacy of giving back — we are grateful for the opportunity to join Michael in honoring Cherie's memory in this way.

Cherie was featured in the Community Foundation of Anne Aroundel County’s recent newsletter. Read about the fund here.

2022 AAWGT Founders’ Award

The 2022 Founders’ Award was given this year to Cindy Whittle. Cindy was assistant chair of the Grants Committee in 2021 and chair in 2022. As assistant chair, she worked with then chair Susan Cook to completely rethink and revise the grant application. She spent hours researching best practices in the areas of grants, speaking with grant makers and grantees, and learning about trust-based philanthropy. Thanks to her efforts, our application was simplified with fewer questions and was targeted toward diversity, equity and inclusion.

It was a monumental task, but she deftly led the effort.

Cindy also led a meeting of our membership where she explained the ideas behind all the changes, thereby eliciting 100% support.

As Grants Committee chair in 2022, Cindy demonstrated time and again that she wouldn’t ask members to do anything she wouldn’t herself take the time to do. Thus, she was always available to answer questions and work through issues.

Cindy worked to educate grant reviewers on the new application process. She also helped streamline the review process. Her capacity to think creatively and explain these new ways of reviewing grant applications was amazing. Her calm demeanor and dedication to the giving circle were critical to the success of the changes her committee proposed.

She is now planning on moving onto the Grants Systems Committee – one that will certainly benefit from her many skills.

Read more about the Founders’ Award and all the amazing members who have received it HERE.

Racial Equity Study Group

The Racial Equity Study Group (RESG) grew out of the November 2018 Racial Equity Institute presentation at Maryland Hall, which AAWGT co-sponsored. In January, 2019, Giving Circle members who had attended came together for personal growth, to share their understanding with the larger membership, and to figure out what could be done about racial inequities. RESG intersects with the Grants and Education committees, has brought training on unconscious bias to grant reviewers and the membership at large, and has spearheaded the formation of the DEI Committee.

2022 begins our fourth year of meeting and there are several topics on the agenda including: the Study of Women in Cross-Cultural Conversations, understanding the lives of women of different races; The Voices of the Enslaved, an historical perspective; Lessons Learned from Black Authors, what a book club can teach us; and Equity in Philanthropy, how it works in the community.

Open to all AAWGT members, registration for all monthly meetings which are held on Zoom the second Tuesday of the month from 4:00-5:00 pm. is available on the members’ page on our website. Please join us!

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AAWGT is a component fund of the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County
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