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Grantee Spotlight

Center of Help

The Center of Help’s mission is to empower, educate and connect immigrants with resources to promote self-sufficiency and to advocate for the successful integration of the immigrant community into Anne Arundel County and the surrounding areas.
For over 20 years, Center of Help has served as a vital resource for immigrant families. From citizenship and English classes to children’s programs, they provide educational opportunities and extend a welcoming hand to our neighbors. They are a one-stop resource center that assists immigrants to overcome challenges, navigate systems and achieve self-sufficiency to break cycles of poverty.
The AAWGT grant is being used to fund one cycle of their Strengthening Families Program, a 14-week course for 14 families. Participants will learn new ways to connect with each other through bonding activities and practical lessons around communication, age-appropriate expectations and effective behavior reinforcement techniques.
Benefits extend beyond participating families by training parents and youth in relationship and “refusal skills” that decrease instances of generational issues like addiction and ACEs (adverse childhood experiences). The CDC defines ACEs as potentially traumatic events that occur during childhood including abuse or neglect, violence, death of a family member, substance misuse, mental health problems, parental separation or incarceration. When immigrant families learn protective skills and build positive relationships through the Strengthening Families Program, children are less likely to experience ACEs and the probability of social problems in future generations is lessened. The program complements the Center of Help’s approach of working holistically with its clients across the entire spectrum of their needs.
An important outcome of the program will be parents and adolescents reporting that they have learned additional information regarding gang recruitment techniques, signs and risk factors for gang involvement and more communication regarding gangs. They expect that the majority of families will report a positive change in their children, themselves and their families as a result of participating in the program.

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Education Meeting: Adult Literacy

November 9, 2022

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.


Grantee Spotlight

Rebuilding Together Anne Arundel County

Single Female Homeowner Renovation Grant
This year’s grant to Rebuilding Together was for $20,000 to renovate 14 homes for female homeowners in need. Rebuilding Together helps those who have nowhere else to turn and provides cost-free home renovations that allow women to age in place and remain an asset to their community. Without assistance from Rebuilding Together and the grant from AAWGT, these women were at risk of becoming homeless or having their home foreclosed on. Their average annual income is $23,000 with no money left over for urgent or critical repairs.
Fourteen homes were given life-altering repairs. During this year, the Maryland No Heat program ran out of funds and Rebuilding Together was able to step in to help elderly single-family female households. One woman called in during the winter after her HVAC stopped working. She told Rebuilding Together that during the day she used electric space heaters but at night she had to put her dog in her bed so he would not freeze. Another woman said her heat dropped to nearly 32 degrees and she was afraid her home’s pipes would burst. Rebuilding Together was able to intervene in all these circumstances and also installed roofs, ramps, new doors, windows, gutters, handrails, grab-bars and so much more.
Given Covid-related cost increases for materials and the need to use more contractors in light of having fewer volunteers, this was an especially tough year. Cumulatively, these projects would have cost homeowners over $375,000. A full report of these incredible home renovations will be presented at the AAWGT Showcase in September.


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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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