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

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.<</p>

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.

The Innocence Project: Causes of and Solutions to Wrongful Incarceration

On June 8, AAWGT presented a panel discussion for members and the community on Wrongful Incarceration and The Innocence Project’s work to free wrongfully convicted individuals and improve the criminal justice system. The virtual presentation was moderated by Carl Snowden, a longtime civil rights activist, founder of Carl Snowden and Associates, and the Convener of the Caucus of African American Leaders in Anne Arundel County.

Panelists included:

  • Robyn Trent Jefferson, The Innocence Project, Post-Litigation Fellowship Program, with 34 years of experience as a paralegal litigation specialist
  • Lisa Woodward Lunt, a former federal public defender now teaching federal public defenders and court-appointed panel lawyers as Attorney Advisor, Defender Services Office — Training Division, Administrative Office of the US Courts
  • Michelle Murphy, an exoneree who spent 20 years in jail due to a wrongful conviction

What Is “Wrongful Conviction” and the Mission of the Innocence Project?

Wrongful conviction is when an individual either pleads guilty to—or is convicted by—a jury for an offense that that individual didn’t commit, described Lunt.

The Innocence Project is an independent nonprofit, whose work is guided by science and grounded in antiracism. Since inception in 1992, the Innocence Project has used DNA and other scientific advancements to prove that a conviction was wrongful. The organization has helped to free or exonerate more than 200 people who, collectively, spent more than 3,600 years behind bars. Such efforts have led to the passage of more than 200 transformative state laws and federal reforms. Today, the Innocence Project continues to fight for freedom and drive structural change.[1] The Innocence Project is affiliated with 70 organizations nationally (for Maryland, see innocenceproject.org/policy/maryland/) and 13 abroad.

“The Innocence Project is intrepid and dogged in identifying the problems in the legal system, which often impact people who may be innocent of offenses,” said Jefferson.

The Close Link of Racism and Wrongful Conviction

Many agree that criminal justice system reform is sorely needed. “Systemic racism pervades society and is ‘baked into’ the criminal justice system—the way policing is done, the way laws are written, and the way mandatory minimums, which have a coercive effect, are applied,” said Lunt. Innocent individuals take plea bargains rather than risk getting a longer mandatory minimum sentence following a trial. “The system perpetuates racism, often leading to a disproportionate incarceration rate for people of color,” she said.

Relevant data for Maryland:

  • Maryland has a disproportionately Black prison population: 70% of its prisoners are Black, while Blacks in the state comprise only 30% of overall population.
  • Maryland ranks #1 among the 50 states in such disproportionality. The Justice Policy Institute cited as possible reasons for such disproportionality the underinvestment in communities (particularly in Baltimore), over policing, extremely harsh sentencing and restricted parole practices. Disproportionality is most pronounced among emerging adults (ages 18-24).
  • Anne Arundel County, youth of color (ages 11-17) represent 41% of AAC’s youth population in 2020, yet 67% of juvenile complaints.

Nationwide, huge racial disproportionality is evident in the legal system, spanning arrest, conviction and sentencing. Systemic racism is baked into the overall criminal justice system and Maryland has a lot of work to do, particularly related to juvenile justice reform. Said Lunt, “It’s hard as a lawyer, particularly a new one, to come into Maryland’s detention centers and see primarily black and brown prisoners in cages, and it gets harder and harder over the years.”

Said Jefferson, “‘Junk science’ has falsely convicted a lot of people, as have faulty eyewitness identification, police and prosecutor misconduct, and incentivized testimony from jailhouse snitches, and other people. It’s up to us as part of a community to work to stem and eradicate wrongful conviction.”

Michelle Murphy’s Story: A Victim of Wrongful Conviction

At age 17, Murphy, a single mother of two young children, awoke one morning in 1994, and her 3-month-old son had been brutally murdered in her kitchen. Murphy called the police. “I was raised to believe the police were the ‘good guys,’” said Murphy. But this wasn’t true in her case.

The officer who was in the room with Murphy during her 8 hours of interrogation told her repeatedly that she was the one who committed the murder. His coercion included mentioning that the only way she’d get home to her 2-year-old daughter again would be to confess to the murder by claiming that she accidentally killed her baby. So, she confessed to a crime she didn’t commit.

In 1995, Murphy was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. “I was devastated,” said Michelle. “I lost everything.” Among other misleading evidence, at the trial, the prosecution falsely implied to the jury that blood recovered from the scene matched Murphy’s blood type.[2] Murphy spent 20 years in prison.

Then, in 2014, after a five-month effort by lawyers and the Innocence Project, a Tulsa, Oklahoma, court exonerated her of the murder of her infant son based on DNA and other previously undisclosed evidence pointing to her innocence.

The long-term impact of wrongful conviction on Murphy has been, and continues to be, immense. “What kept me alive during 20 years in prison was needing to prove to my daughter that I was not who they said I was during my trial,” said Murphy.

How to Make a Positive Difference Individually and Collectively

As described by Carl Snowden, consider these actions:

  • Research: Educate yourself about Maryland’s criminal justice system. Visit the Anne Arundel Detention Center.
  • Investigate: Ask state’s attorneys and circuit court judges about Maryland’s diversion programs to reduce incarceration. What do they do to partner with the Innocence Project? This will indicate that the incumbent or candidate is interested in assuring that people who should not go to jail, do not go to jail. Be active in your investigation.
  • Vote: Know that voices and votes do make a difference. Coming up is one of the most consequential elections of a lifetime. When you look at your ballot, don’t skip any races like a judge, state’s attorney or sheriff. These positions impact the criminal justice system in a big way. In advance of the election, inform yourself by asking the candidates questions, such as for a state’s attorney: What is she/he doing to assure that falsely accused people don’t go to prison? Will he/she be open to new discoveries of information that would lead to a new trial?

As described by Michelle Murphy, consider these actions:

  • Support the Innocence Project
  • Create local sources of help: If there’s not something available locally to help exonerees, create it. We all need help. If it were not for the Tulsa County Public Defender’s Office, I still would not be able to have a job, because the crime is still on my record and a lot of people would not hire me.
  • Inform your vote: As mentioned by Mr. Snowden, be mindful of the kind of people, like State’s Attorneys and judges, that you elect to office. Do your own investigation, not follow behind the leader blindly by accepting solely what that individual is saying in his/her campaign. Look into the candidate. It’s your vote that helps gets that person into office.

Education Meeting: The Geography and Color of Anne Arundel County Poverty

February 9, 2022

An informative presentation by Dr. Pamela Brown demonstrated that there is still much work left to do to improve our county’s impoverished neighborhoods. We hope that this valuable information assists you when making decisions and determining actions to make the best impact. We want to thank our Q & A moderator Chanel Compton who created a lovely atmosphere and commentary with Dr. Brown, helping us process all the information.

Please view the recording and slide deck HERE If you were unable to attend the zoom event.

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 www.givingtogether.org/impact.

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.

Field Trip to Marshall Hope Corporation

When driving up to the Marshall Hope Corporation in West Annapolis on June 23rd, the first thing you see is rows of cars lined up, bumper-to-bumper, ready to receive donations of groceries, feminine products, diapers, cleaning supplies, baby blankets and clothing. Those rows of cars, along with the orderly pick-up stations, illustrate the “why” and the “how” of Marshall Hope’s monthly pop-up food pantry.

About 30 AAWGT members came to the parking lot of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Annapolis to help out on June 23 for our Post Grants field trip. Due to covid, we hadn’t been able to have our annual field trip since 2019. So it was really exciting when our Post Grants leaders, Chair Sarah Sweeney, and Assistant Chairs Bev Nash and Caroline Purdy, connected with Marshall Hope to once again give us first-hand knowledge of how our grants impact those in need.

Marshall Hope received grants from AAWGT in 2021 and 2022. The first grant was $10,000 to help with the food pantry. This year’s grant was $20,000 and was earmarked to purchase diapers, formula and feminine pads for the food pantry, plus supplies for the new Marshall Hope Learning Center. Marshall Hope’s mission is to spread hope in the Annapolis community by providing essential resources and services to members of the Hispanic community who lost their income due to Covid and do not have access to federal aid.

Our members were put right to work that Thursday afternoon placing boxes of diapers onto pallets to be taken to the first station at the pop-up pantry. Other members put portions of rice, beans and masa into bags. That food would be added to the dairy, chicken, vegetables and baked goods that are handed out.

The food pantry is a feat of organization. Marshall Hope volunteers first go car to car, marking on the windshield how many families are represented by each driver. If the driver’s families need diapers, the required size is also marked on the car. Finally, clothing size is put on a sticky note on the windshield. Drivers then go through the pantry stations three at a time, with volunteers giving them the requested items. Those in need leave with a week’s supply of food. The need was so great that afternoon that the pantry opened early, as the line of cars was reaching out to Ridgely Avenue.

Marshall Hope was founded by Amy Marshall and Diana Love. In April 2020, they joined forces to support the family of an early victim of Covid. They then got a list from an Anne Arundel County Public Schools social worker of 50 families who were desperate for food due to job loss. The organization grew thanks to generous donations of money, a refrigerated truck, and more, so that they are now serving 350 households at each pantry. The Presbyterian church also donates the use of their modular buildings for all food and donation storage. Marshall Hope works with churches of all denominations, and they partner with many local agencies.

We were proud to be able to help Marshall Hope that day, as we work to fulfill our mission to improve the quality of life for women and families in our community.

Costs of Meals Given Out at the Pop-up Pantry:

  • $30 dinner for family of 4
  • $40 diapers for 1 child for 1 week
  • $60 toiletries for a family for 1 month
  • $350 dairy for 1 distribution for 250 families
  • $1,200 rice, beans and masa for 1 food distribution

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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Anne Arundel Women Giving Together | giving@givingtogether.org
AAWGT is a fund of the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County
AAWGT is a member of Philanos: Accelerating Philanthropy through Women’s Collective Giving

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