Event Summaries for AAWGT events for the past year are maintained on this site. All events are summarized in the Full Circle News, the bimonthly newsletter of Anne Arundel Women Giving Together. The full newsletter archive is available here.

2019-22 Events

Click on the boxes below to read summaries of AAWGT events held in 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022. 

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

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

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, 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 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.
[1] From The Innocence Project website at 
[2] The Innocence Project News: 09.12.14.

Making a Positive Difference for Anne Arundel County Women and Children

On March 16, in recognition of Women's History Month, AAWGT's Leadership Development and Nominating Committee presented an energizing panel discussion for members and the community on women leaders in climate action and environmental justice. The virtual presentation included three experts in local and regional environmental issues affecting the health and welfare of women and children in our county:

  • Member and panel facilitator Kate Fritz, Chair of AAWGT’s Marketing & Communications Committee, and CEO of Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay;
  • Carmera Thomas-Wilhite, Director, Urban Conservation Initiative with The Conservation Fund, and Board Vice-Chair, Anne Arundel County (AAC) Watershed Stewards Academy; and
  • Lynn Heller, Founder and CEO, Climate Access Fund, and Chair, MD League of Conservation Voters.

Watch the full webinar here. Please click the Download button to see the video. A summary follows.

Setting the Stage

The impacts of climate change are becoming a regular occurrence in AAC. Increased flooding, destructive storms, and rising temperatures have a long-term impact on our most vulnerable citizens. Kate described AAWGT’s journey of racial awakening and desire to be a part of the solution to environmental and social inequities that create challenges for vulnerable residents. She provided facts about the county, including:

  • 550 miles of shoreline threatened by sea level rise;
  • Rapid loss of tree canopy due to developments;
  • 15% of single heads of households below the poverty level;
  • 12% of AAC residents living in “food deserts,” with no food available within one mile of their homes;
  • Inequitable access to green space across the county; and
  • Asthma rates, associated with ER admissions costs that are 1.3X higher for AAC black residents when compared to the state overall.

Among other challenges, rising waters and increased storms will result in wet basements, mold, and indoor air quality issues, and increased property damage. Rising urban heat will cause health issues in areas with minimal or no tree canopy and heat-absorbing impervious surfaces. Industrial land use is disproportionately located within the black and brown communities, resulting in decreased health outcomes in these areas.

Suggesting the use of “anti-Vegas” rules during the webinar, Kate encouraged listeners to learn, listen, and share their thoughts with others so that positive change can continue to spread. Questions and abbreviated responses from the panelists appear below.

What brought you into this space and what does this moment in time mean to you?
Carmera described how her grandfather instilled early in her life the importance of taking care of nature. He modeled the ability to speak up about environmental burdens that many communities deal with. She wants to be in the same room with the burdened, to elevate their voices and be part of the solution. Lynn describes an “ah ha” moment many years ago after hearing a speaker talk about the rapid onslaught of climate change. She decided to devote the rest of her life on the planet toward assuring that her children and their children can enjoy the outdoors in the same way she has always done.

What are the most pressing issues and how does one get started?
The two biggest issues cited were the need to be equitable across the board with available resources for improvements in all communities, and time—the clock is ticking.

What can we do to protect our most vulnerable residents?
At a high-level, answers included helping to set priorities for, and assuring accountability of, governmental agencies and elected officials. More grassroots strategies follow.

Please share an action that people could take in their everyday life to be part of the solution for some of these challenges.
Sometimes it can all seem overwhelming, and people don’t know how to plug in to help. So Lynn recommended identifying the aspect of environmental and social issues or a sub-issue you’re most passionate about (for example, the Chesapeake, equitable clean energy, etc.). Each has its own action entry point, she said. For instance, if you’re worried about the impact of flooding on the vulnerable, she pointed to organizations, like the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative, that focus on indoor air quality and improving the indoor and outdoor environment for lower-income households. You can connect in a donor way, volunteer your time, and other means. Carmera pointed to the importance of connecting to the people who are impacted by the issue you’re interested in. Knowing what the other half of the world experiences is important. Getting outside and connecting with nature is also a wonderful way to see what’s going on.

Can you talk about public access to water?
A lot of the shoreline in AAC is privatized and not accessible to the greater community, notes Carmera. The county has tried to address this by putting in public boat ramps, purchasing parcels of land for public parks, but a lot of communities don’t have equitable access. Many organizations are trying to address this, including The Conservation Fund, cited Carmera.

Does it really matter if a single person contacts their elected official about an issue?
Carmera is a firm believer that individual action or small group actions can make a big difference. Many officials really do want to hear from their constituents. Testifying or sending letters of support or lack thereof ensures that your voice is heard. If your representative is not taking action, you must hold them accountable at the next election. “Does a single vote count?” asked Lynn. “Yes, because it’s part of the collective. If we all sat home and did nothing, we wouldn’t have an impact.”

Do you think that the climate change movement does a good job in messaging? How can we do better?
Much of the messaging has been around sea-level rise, noted Kate. The communication often is at a high level and doesn’t drill down to the community level, said Carmera. When you think of the effect of something on individuals or communities, you can shift the story. Lynn adds that messaging is a work in progress. Maryland’s focus has always been water quality and the Chesapeake Bay. Now it’s much broader, but she indicated we could do a better job in messaging around the intersection of climate change and public health and safety where the impacts of extreme weather are felt.

What keeps you hopeful for the future?
Kate cited hope because environmental and social activists are now sitting at the same table. Lynn said she’s hopeful because things are moving in the right direction at the individual level, where more and more players are involved. The earth will be fine 500 or 1,000 years from now; it’s humanity that will not be fine and a lot of folks are recognizing that, she said. Carmera is hopeful because the conversation about equity has come to the attention of so many people and organizations; all want to be part of the solution. This cohesion is “building community resilience” throughout society.

Concluding Comments

Kate ended the session by mentioning that the Women in Leadership Forum is putting together a resource called “My Action Guide.” It will provide links and things readers can do related to climate change and surrounding women and family issues.

Again, the recording of the full session on March 16 is available here.

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.

The AAWGT Education & Program Committee presented its final program of the year on October 21 via Zoom: an in-depth discussion of Maternal and Infant Mortality entitled Who Will Save Our Mothers? Dr. Monica Jones, Systems Chair of Luminis Health, Women & Children’s Services, served as keynote speaker. Dr. Jones thoroughly explained the current state of maternal & infant mortality, both in this country and in our county. She demonstrated that America’s maternal & infant mortality is twice as high as Canada’s and three times higher than Great Britain, emphasizing that most of these deaths are completely preventable. The underlying reasons for these shocking statistics were clearly delineated.

State Delegate Shaneka Henson masterfully moderated a wide-ranging and informative conversation with Dr. Jones and a panel of community stakeholders in our state & county who working on these issues. Our distinguished Community Stakeholder Panel included: State Senator Sarah Elfreth; Joy Hatchette, Associate Commissioner for Consumer Education and Advocacy at the Maryland Insurance Administration; Dr. Michael Udwin, MD, FACOG Medical Director, Practice & Payment Transformation, CareFirst BC/BS; Dr. Glenda L. Lindsey DrPH, MS, RDN, LDN, Lecturer at Morgan State University, Co-Director of the Inspiration Factory that focuses on nutritional counseling, and Public Policy Coordinator for the Maryland Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics; Kristin Marshall, BA, Parent Educator for the Healthy Start Program sponsored by the Anne Arundel County Health Department; and Gail Coffee, RN, BSN who has been with the Health Department for almost two decades and is now working in the Healthy Start Program.

The lively and engrossing conversation covered everything from stories from patients susceptible to problem pregnancies to what the State Legislature and private insurance companies are trying to do to ameliorate these problems. A full recording of this program, speaker bios and other resources can be found on our Resource Page. HERE.

This year’s 15th Anniversary Grantee Showcase was hosted at the Annapolis Mari-time Museum in Eastport on September 22. Despite the rainy weather, we were so hap-py to be able to get together with friends and colleagues in person on this important occasion!

Nine 2020 grantee organizations were highlighted as they described the work they’ve done and their successes during a most challenging year. The nine Grantees are:

Newtowne Community Development Corp: From Surviving to Thriving, a residence program supporting women toward personal development

The Annapolis Immigration Justice Network: Legal Fund/Family Preservation Project which enables female heads of households to obtain legal representation for their immigration court cases

AAC Food Bank: Baby Pantry which this year improved and expanded baby pantry services for low income families in spite of the pandemic

Chrysalis House Inc: Training for Childhood Development Staff which served 150 women and 59 children

HOPE for All: Turning Houses into Homes which supported 122 single women households, 83 of which were single moms with children

The Light House: Family Assistance Program which supported 240 households in finding permanent housing, of which 42 individuals were supported with the AAWGT grant

Seeds 4 Success: Student Health Wellness Initiative: which teaches youth how to improve their health habits and those of their families

Services from the Heart: Backpack Buddies/Food Backpack which distributes food to at-risk children, this year delivering 1,343 backpacks with 25 holiday meals to 106 children in three elementary schools

Touchstones Discussion Project: Expanding Women’s LifeLeadership Skills for Post-Incarceration Success a discussion-based program for women at the MD Correctional Institution. Due to COVID-19, the AAWGT grant this year was used to build internal staff capacity.

In 2021, AAWGT donated over $138,000 to eight nonprofits who shared their organiza-tion’s information and talked with AAWGT members during the evening. 2021 Grantee are: Co-op Arundel: My Sistah’s Keeper; Marshall Hope Corporation: W. Annapolis Pop Up Pantry; Annapolis Immigration Justice Network: Legal Assistance Project; AAC CASA Inc: Court Appointed Special Advo-cates; AAC Food Bank: Expanding Baby Pantries; Chart-ing Careers: College & Career Readiness; HOPE for All: Turning Houses into Homes; and Rebuilding Together: Urgent Home Repairs. We look forward to working with all of these dedicated and creative organizations over the next year.

The AAWGT Grantee Showcase is an annual event and gives us the opportunity to highlight and thank the many dedicated organizations who work diligently to improve the lives of women and their families in Anne Arundel County.

On June 9th The AAWGT Education & Programing Committee presented an engrossing panel discussion on Affordable Housing in Anne Arundel County. Kathy Koch, Executive Director of Arundel Community Development Services (ACDS), Theresa Wellman, Chief of Community Development for the City of Annapolis, and Melissa Maddox-Evans, Executive Director, CEO of HACA are leaders in Affordable Housing in the County and were our amazing speakers, moderated by Ardath Cade, a longtime affordable housing champion. The audience was given a true picture of what affordable housing means and what funding resources are available for the seniors, disabled adults and working families that would otherwise not be able to afford to live in Anne Arundel County. We earned about tax credits or reduced debt costs for private and non-profit developers which, in turn enable lower-than-market-rate rents to persons with limited income. And we were also informed of Public Housing with its funding problems in the past and its hopeful future.

To hear the recording of this program, please click HERE.

Additional event resources may be found  here. Resources include Luke Frederick's Anne Arundel County Public Library presentation providing a startling history of laws that have impacted affordable housing with additional resources provided by our Event Presenters including the HACA Quarterly City Council Presentation.

Affordable Housing = Public Housing?

In her introduction, Cade made clear that public housing is only one piece of affordable housing. The latter is defined as housing that serves persons whose income is 60% or less of the median income in the region. This means that a person with a median income under $44,000, including the fully or partially employed, elderly, and disabled, may be eligible for affordable housing in the County.

Theresa Wellman, Chief of the Community Development Division for the City of Annapolis, underscored the fact that many people don’t understand the breadth of individuals who need affordable housing which often includes your children, your parents, and a large percentage of the nation’s workforce. A common misconception, she said, is that affordable housing doesn’t look like market-rate housing. In fact, she noted that the 25 affordable housing sites in the County (13 of which are in Annapolis), blend into their communities and come in many forms, including rehabbed homes and apartment complexes.

To ensure affordable rentals and ownership, the Community Development Division’s practices include rehabilitation of existing units, acquisition, new construction, lease/purchase arrangements, and payment in lieu of taxes. The Division also administers the federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) for Annapolis that provides help to low-income homeowners to make repairs to their homes.

Do Financial Incentives Work?

Kathy Koch, Executive Director of Arundel Community Development Services (ACDS) described how funding for affordable housing typically is made available through financing mechanisms such as tax credits or reduced debt costs for private and non-profit developers ,which enable lower-than-market-rate rents to persons with limited incomes.

ACDS runs programs focused on increasing/maintaining homeownership and rental housing, providing housing to individuals with special needs, fair housing, eviction protection, and ending homelessness. Additionally, ACDS, alongside its many partners, acts as a developer, funding administrator, and project manager for a variety of affordable housing and community development initiatives.

What about Attainable/Sustainable Housing?

Melissa Maddox-Evans, Executive Director/CEO of the Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis (HACA) noted that HACA serves approximately 1,100 families, with 700 receiving public housing in sites around the City and 400 receiving housing choice vouchers and tax credits. Rent increases or decreases depend on household income and the wait for housing is 1-3 years.

With a FY 2021 budget of $13.5 million, HACA is not able to meet 100% of need. Because housing authorities are not allowed to leverage their owned properties—only to manage them - there is now a $70 billion backlog in capital improvement needs for housing authority properties in the U.S. But, through the Rental Assistance Demonstration Project, HUD now allows authorities to partner with private investors that are dedicated to affordable housing.

AAWGT celebrated its annual Open House on April 14 - once again by Zoom. This get-together gives new and prospective members a chance to interact with longer-term members to learn about ‘who we are’ and ‘what we do.’ So far this year, we are delighted to have had 17 new members join AAWGT and we’re expecting more during our Fifteenth Anniversary year!

President Elaine Shanley opened with two videos offering congratulatory video remarks from Founder Kathy Brooks, and Lifetime Member and corporate sponsor Angie Ponatoski. Elaine then highlighted AAWGT’s mission and how we accomplish it through grant making, engaging and educating women about issues affecting women and families in AA County, and building the power of collective philanthropy. She closed her introductory remarks with a slide showing our cumulative accomplishments over the past 15 years - achieved by awarding over $1.2 mil through 102 grants to local nonprofits.

The Membership Committee, led by Caroline Purdy, Margo Cook, and Mary Ann Bleeke, presented slides describing the mission, impact and time commitment of each of AAWGT’s 10 committees. The last half of the meeting was devoted to breakout rooms to encourage participants to learn more about us by asking questions of current members and sharing what they believe are the most pressing issues in our community today. While a wide range of topics were discussed, common themes were: transportation; food insecurity, particularly during this pandemic year; getting schools back to normal and addressing educational losses, particularly for kids struggling even before COVID; mental health issues for children and families due to pandemic social restrictions; and encouraging diversity and antiracism by building - and re-building - our social connections within our community following this socially isolating pandemic year.

For current members, these discussion groups offered a chance to share why they joined AAWGT, such as friendships made with like-minded women, opportunities to learn about our county nonprofits and how they serve those in need, and participation in the rewarding work to make a difference in our local community. The discussion groups were a lively substitute for our annual in-person Open House.

Closing the meeting, Elaine announced two citations from Delegate Shaneka Henson and Senator Pam Beidle, congratulating our organization for the contributions we have made to Anne Arundel County over the past fifteen years.

On March 10, AAWGT presented a fascinating panel discussion moderated by member Cardie Templeton. Speakers were three extraordinary women leaders: Linda Gooden, Rear Admiral (Ret.) Margaret Kibben, and Monica Brown Jones, M.D. Topics included the importance of opening doors, the role of leadership “grit,” gender stereotyping, the pandemic’s effect on women’s leadership, overcoming self-doubts, and leadership’s evolution in the next decade. Highlights follow. Please click HERE for the full recording of this event.

Opening Doors. After Dr. Jones completed her residency at the University of Cincinnati, her department chair suggested that NIH would be a good place to land for a fellowship. Indeed, the National Cancer Institute had a postdoctoral research fellowship in ovarian cancer, Dr. Jones’ key interest area. She took the fellowship and became a basic science researcher, and after four years at NCI, moved to run a research lab at the Mayo Clinic. “To pay it forward,” Dr. Jones invited young women from all over the world to join her lab as post-doctorate fellows. Most proud of the mentorship section of her CV, she says everyone should have such a section that highlights what the mentored individuals have accomplished.

The Role of Leadership Grit. Kibben’s Dad told her, “You have to have Grun (family name) grit.” If cards are against you or if something looks overwhelming, you grit your teeth and power through it. She notes the many voices that can counter desires or hopes and hold you back. Grit enables pushing through to say, “I can try this, and if I fail, I will pick myself up and move forward.” Grit also is an important element of how one interacts with other people. It indicates, “I have a voice and I want to use it.” This is a big part of learning how to lead and succeed.

Overcoming Self-Doubts. Most leaders have many moments of self-doubt. The key for Gooden is to surround herself with a team whose members push back on decisions and raise issues that may require consideration. Too often we think the leader needs to know everything, but it takes a team to get things done and to provide checks and balances. She also cites the importance of having a mentor, particularly someone who will “play it straight” and not just tell her what she wants to hear when she asks, “What do you think?”

Leadership’s Evolution. As new generations enter the workforce, it will be comprised of a greater share of women. Women’s leadership style, characterized by mentoring, coaching, inclusivity, and collaboration, will lead to more success because new generations are looking for this style. Gooden expects the next decade to be “the age of the woman.”

Pandemic’s Effect on Women Leaders. The discussion touched on the fact that 2.5M women dropped out of the workforce due to COVID either due to job loss or the need to stay at home to care for children and help them with virtual learning. The panelists shared concern about this and unified commitment to help women who want and need to go back to work, as well as those who may choose or not be able to return. They also lauded the creativity and innovation of teachers during this era.

Final Thoughts: Each speaker noted the vital importance of “paying it forward” to open doors and support women’s leadership development. No one gets to a higher position in life without the help of others, commented Gooden. Additionally, finding your voice is critical. This activity requires self-awareness, which is a key leadership quality, said Dr. Jones. We all need to lean into leadership responsibility; people are waiting for us to use our character and our leadership gifts, so do it, Kibben urged.

The first 2021 education session offered by AAWGT via Zoom highlighted three organizations: The Annapolis Shakespeare Company, The Maryland Hall Outreach Program and the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra Academy. Each has effectively reinvented how and where they deliver their arts offerings, thereby helping to ensure the continuance of a vibrant arts community in Maryland’s capital.

Our creative speakers presented ways the local arts community is using the power of the arts to positively impact youth in Anne Arundel County. Sally Boyett spoke about the Shakespeare Company and its online performances for AACPS classes. She also described extensive outreach partnerships and internships with local performing and visual arts programs. Laura Brino included videos of students, powerfully demonstrating Maryland Hall’s efforts to provide local youth with a safe environment for self-expression, confidence building and the motivation to stay in school. Netanel Draiblate described how ASO professionals teach and mentor music students regardless of income level, with full and partial scholarships offered on a financial needs basis. He also showed touching videos highlighting student performers and what this program means to them.

You can watch the entire program, including the video of Mary Spencer of the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County, HERE.

Susan Schneider, Chair of the Education Committee, introduced our October 14 program “Elevating All Students - Eliminating All Gaps” and Keynote Speaker, Maisha Gillins, Executive Director, Office of Equity and Accelerated Student Achievement, Anne Ar-undel County Public Schools.

Dr. Gillins began her presentation by explaining that AACPS’s Educational Equity Policy governs everything her office does. After a thorough history of racial disparities in America and in Anne Arundel County, Dr. Gillins provided specific examples of implicit/unconscious bias in the classroom. She identified several steps individuals must take to identify and counter these biases: self-examination, widening perspectives, countering stereotypes, holding oneself accountable, and anticipating biases. Finally, she described approaches AACPS is taking to address these issues including professional development for staff with suggested self-study, establishment of a Workforce Diversity group and more.

Zoom audience questions followed and were moderated by Monique Brown, Anne Arundel County NAACP, Tatiana Klein, Centro de Ayuda and Barbara Hoffstein, Assistant Chair, Education Committee.

We were pleased to welcome 106 attendees to this Zoom Webinar. To access a recording of the program and further resources, please click HERE.

On September 9th, AAWGT presented its annual Grants Showcase by Zoom Webinar. Members and guests alike embraced the new format, with 211 registrants.

This annual event is our chance to literally “showcase” the wonderful work of our 2019 grantees who just completed their grant year. This year we added a segment to shine light on our new 2020 grantees—9 organizations that together received over $130,000 to fund their work in the coming year.

Showcase Moderator SusanbCook and Post Grants Evaluation Committee (PGEC) Chair Kate Caldwell kicked off the one-hour presentation, noting that over the past 14 years, AAWGT has invested over $1.2 million in AAC nonprofit organizations.

The Webinar provided an opportunity for grantees to tell us about the challenges and successes of their grant& year. Presenters included Rob Levit/Creating Communities, Jo Ann Mattson/Light House Tony Gamboa/Organization of Hispanic && Latin Americans of Anne Arundel County OHLA, Barbara Cupp/Rebuilding Together AAC Laura Iversen/Start The Adventure in Reading STAIR - Annapolis, and Stefanie Takacs/Touchstones Discussion Project. Kristen Strain/Tahirih Justice Center was unable to attend due to illness but Susan Cook highlighted their project.

Our 2020 grantees were highlighted in a PowerPoint presentation we created to congratulate them on their newly-awarded grants.

Barbershops and beauty salons have long been trusted gathering spaces. Dr. Stephen Thomas and the Health Advocates In-Reach & Research (H.A.I.R.) Program use the strength of this trusted relationship to bring critical health screenings and information into the community.

Our keynote, Dr. Thomas, UMD, School of Public Health, Dir. Center for Health Equity, began with the history of mistrust of doctors by persons of color due to the long history of unfair practices and mistreatment. He shared his research from the study at Tuskegee and highlighted the disparities in coronavirus sufferings. His research came to life when he showed us how life expectancy can be predicted based solely on your metro stop.

In a lively discussion, Dr. Thomas and barbers Mike Brown and Fred Spry explained how they bring nurses and physicians into their barbershop to screen for diabetes, colorectal cancer and hypertension, and to promote flu shots. The barbers leverage their trusted client relationships to save lives from the barber chair, and they teach healthcare workers to do the same.

This education program was presented via a Zoom webinar. A recording of this event may be found here.

The Grant Applications that will be funded by our 2020 Annual Grant Fund were decided by the AAWGT Membership on May 13. This year, because of the Coronavirus Pandemic social restrictions, all voting was online only. Though an unfamiliar process for some of our members, over one-half voted, more than ever before.

This was a year of big accomplishments for AAWGT and the Grant Fund. A record amount of money was raised for grant distribution, thanks to our generous members and the special Grant Fund Challenge. We also had 48 grant applications which was more than ever before, partly because of how widely the Call for Applications was distributed. And, it goes without saying, the amount of time every member of the Grants Committee put in to review and evaluate all the submitted grant applications was extensive. All this hard work culminated in 17 applications approved for the ballot.

New this year is the Fundamental Needs Grant. This grant has a maximum of $10,000, and the organization making the grant proposal must be headquartered in Anne Arundel County and have revenue of no more than $100,000. The program/project being proposed must address the areas of food insecurity, parenting support and/or the needs of children from birth to five years. This being the first year for this grant, the Grants Committee was pleased with the quality of grants that made the ballot.

he Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County will be distributing the $139,381 Grant Fund to eight Regular Grants plus the Fundamental Needs Grant. Each is described below. This year, because of the pandemic crisis, the decision was made to allocate all the Grant Fund dollars rather than returning the remainder after full grant amounts were awarded to the 2021 Grants Fund. Therefore, Center of Help, the first choice of the voters that could not be funded in full, will receive the remaining $3,073.


Newtowne Community Development Corporation — From Surviving to Thriving: $10,000

Provides case management and mentoring services to at least 10 single mothers in Woodside Gardens Apartments, a low-income housing complex in Annapolis helping them change behaviors so they can become effective persons and parents and move away from poverty.


Annapolis Immigration Justice Network — Legal Fund/Family Preservation Project: $20,000

Provides legal services, guidance, accompaniment, translation services and referrals to non-legal assistance to immigrants as they navigate the complex immigration process.

Anne Arundel County (AAC) Food Bank, Inc. — Baby Pantries: $10,000

Improve and expand AAC Food Bank baby pantries which provide baby food, formula, diapers, wipes and other essential items to low-income parents/guardians in Anne Arundel County.

Chrysalis House, Inc. — Training for Child Development Staff: $6,330

Gives the children in their care the best possible start in life, through a structured, nurturing environment, which will help break the generational cycle of addiction, crime and poverty.

HOPE For All, Inc. — Turning Houses into Homes: $19,978

Provides basic goods to AAC women and families in need so they can establish healthy homes and lives after homelessness and crises.

The Light House, Inc. — Family Assistance Program: $20,000

Supports a comprehensive program for homeless families, families at risk of homelessness and homeless individuals working to reconnect with their children to promote long-term self-sufficiency.

Seeds 4 Success — Student Health and Wellness Initiative: $20,000

Increase S4S students’ use of their health insurance and access to primary care providers as a preventative measure and move them away from using only the ER.

Services from the Heart — Backpack Buddies Program/Food Backpacks: $10,000

Provides weekly food backpacks to 100 economically disadvantaged children in the FARM (Free and Reduced Meals) programs in Anne Arundel County at three Title I schools.

Touchstones Discussion Project — Expanding Women’s Life and Leadership Skills for Post-Incarceration Success: $20,000

Delivers 42 weeks of discussion-based educational programming for 200 women at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women (MCI-W) in Anne Arundel County. Develops improved life and work skills, promotes healthy decision-making and parenting skills and reduces recidivism.

“Women’s voice is vital in achieving a fully functioning society,” stated Karen Smith, chair of the AAWGT Leadership Development and Nominating Committee, in introducing AAWGT’s annual Women and Leadership Forum. She emphasized that we as women leaders need to use our voices in Census 2020 because the cost of silence is high. To drive home her point, she told attendees that during the last decade, Anne Arundel County did not receive more than $43 million in federal dollars it could have received….simply because one in five residents did not respond to Census 2010. For our community to receive the resources it needs, everyone must be counted in Census 2020.

Karen further explained that AAWGT’s annual Women and Leadership Forum is scheduled each year to coincide with International Women’s Day and designed to inspire and empower each of us as women leaders. This is especially pertinent this year as we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote in the United States.

Karen then introduced AAWGT vice president and program moderator, Elaine Shanley. Elaine introduced Maggie Gunther Osborn, senior vice president and chief strategy officer, United Philanthropy Forum. Maggie gave a dynamic and informative presentation about the challenges, misconceptions and implications of Census 2020, sharing that $1.5 trillion in federal dollars will be allocated to state and local agencies based on numbers generated by this Census. She also identified the biggest challenges to achieving a “full count”: (1) reaching the hard-to-count; (2) accessing the new online systems being used for first time this year; and (3) the lack of trust in our government’s use of Census data.

Following Maggie's remarks, Elaine introduced Charlestine Fairley, PhD, CEO of Anne Arundel Community Action Agency, and Jennifer Purcell, PhD, chief of staff, Office of the County Executive, who provided the local viewpoint and what we as individuals and organizations can and should do to ensure that everyone in Anne Arundel County is counted.

Elaine facilitated a very active question-and-answer period with our three speakers, drilling down on key questions such as data security, the Census roll-out timeline, efforts to reach the hard-to-count, and the actual cost to agencies such as the Community Action Agency resulting from undercounting. Elaine then recognized Christine Feldman from the County Library System who explained the Census education and assistance that libraries are providing to County residents – and recognized Phyllis Wai-Naftal from the US Census Bureau, who spoke of Census-related employment opportunities.

In closing the meeting, Karen called attention to our role as trusted ambassadors within our community and the importance of making our voices heard among these groups by sharing with them what we learned tonight. Together we can help facilitate an accurate Census 2020 count for Anne Arundel County.

More information about Census 2020 can be found here. An interactive map tracking data collection can be found here.

Here are some of the highlights Census 2020 jobs -

  • Rewarding historic (decennial Census) jobs that support the community.
  • $20.50 - $23.00 hourly rate for Anne Arundel county residents. Weekly paycheck.
  • Flexible working hours - weekdays, weekends, and evenings - to fit everyone’s schedules.
  • No resume, no job experience, no diploma, no maximum age to apply.
  • One online application (average 30-40 minutes) covers 2 non-supervisory positions, additional assessment questions for 2 supervisory positions.
  • 18+ can work - for those turning 18 in the next few months can apply now.
  • Legal residents can also apply (please refer to attached document 2020 Census Jobs).
  • Assignments are mostly between April to July - making great Spring/Summer jobs.
  • 2020 Census income excluded for recipients of SNAP, CHIP, TANF, Medicaid and housing assistance (please refer to Census Jobs FAQs and HUD notice PIH 2017-05 (HA))

Anne Arundel County Packet Updated

2020 Census Job Details and Qualifications - English and Spanish

Census Jobs FAQs - Income Waiver for Social Services Assistance

HUD Notice PIH 2017-15 (HA) - Income Exclusion under Temporary Census Employment

Keynote Speaker, Dr. Brenda Jones Harden, set the stage for a powerful conversation about the critical needs of an infant, and the long-lasting effects of neglect. Her dynamic presentation before 141 attendees, described research demonstrating that brain growth starts prenatally, with peak development from two months to three years of age. She shared brain PET scans, comparing scans from a baby with a dependable caretaker, who regularly speaks, hugs, and interacts with the baby against the scans for a baby who did not have those benefits. The difference is striking. Neglected children suffer from long-lasting decreases in cognitive, language and social skills for the rest of their lives. Evidence-based interventions for parent and child through private home visits, Early Head Start, Judy Centers, can make a difference—and the earlier the intervention, the more successful. Shockingly, the U.S. lags behind other countries in quality earlychildcare. Tatiana Klein provided statistics from AA County. Tamira Dunn presented the wide range of services provided by the Judy Center program.

Find Dr. Harden’s presentation and more on this important subject here.

Transportation: A Route to Education, Jobs, Health Care, and Food, AAWGT’s third educational program in October, focused on an issue that is seemingly intractable in our large, spread-out county of Anne Arundel.

Dr. Celeste Chavis, Associate Professor in Transportation and Urban Infrastructure Studies at Morgan State University, used maps to illustrate the inherent inequity in current public transportation systems in Baltimore City. One example is the long commute to school facing many lower income children who must use public transportation. Dr. Chavis also defined several types of equity that can impact public planning, including procedural equity, which asks whether residents who have been historically excluded from planning are authentically included when a proposed policy change or new project is considered.

Dr. Pamela Brown, Executive Director of the Anne Arundel County Partnership for Children Youth and Families, also provided maps to demonstrate the need for improved public transportation in Anne Arundel County. She reported that transportation has ranked among the three highest every year that Poverty Amidst Plenty, a county needs assessment report, has been produced.

The final speaker of the program was Steuart Pittman, County Executive for Anne Arundel County.  Pittman recognized his Transportation Officer, Ramond Robinson, who has worked tirelessly to make incremental changes that make a real difference, as highlighted by Pam Brown's presentation. Pittman thanked Anne Arundel Women Giving Together for convening the discussion, and thanked the group for its commitment to the issues of lower-income residents of Anne Arundel County.

Open since 1987 as a safe haven for women, children, and families who are homeless or abused, Sarah’s House is located on the edge of US Army Fort George G. Meade and consists of eight refurbished Army barracks housing office space, emergency shelter, dining facilities, a day care center, and four apartments where clients can live while obtaining support services.

Executive Director Kathryn Philliben briefed the group on arrival and introduced her staff, all of whom have been at Sarah’s House for at least 12 years. Kathryn explained that incoming clients are initially placed in emergency shelter so that case managers, program assistants, and training staff can identify the type of assistance needed. Each individual or family is given their own room with a door that locks, and as many clients have not experienced such security and safety in the past they are thrilled to have some privacy. Residents’ meals are donated by churches, volunteer organizations and businesses. Stays in the emergency shelter are limited to 90 days after which clients move either to one of the apartments at Sarah’s House or somewhere in the county, where they are given financial help with rent for up to a year.

Kelly Anderson, Manager of Client Services, explained how the staff is organized to help clients with multiple issues. Case managers specialize in one area, making them more efficient in obtaining assistance, whether with legal matters, mental and behavioral health issues or employment and financial needs. Staff seeks to listen and help solve problems while also instilling self-reliance. Regarding employment, Eileen Meagher, Manager of Housing and Employment Services, explained her staff seeks first to identify client interests, as the more interested in the job being pursued, the more likely the client is to stay with the program. AAWGT grant funds were used in the past year to fund many of these training and certification classes.

Sarah’s House is always open to volunteer assistance and can use donations of twin bedding, both new and gently used. Pillows must be new. If you are interested in helping, please contact them at

The annual Grants Showcase highlights the impact of AAWGT’s philanthropy as grantees inform and inspire community members with stories illustrating how our grant funds are making a difference in Anne Arundel County. On Wednesday, September 11, 2019, 77 AAWGT members and 69 guests gathered at the Blue Heron Room in Quiet Waters Park to hear how six non-profits utilized the funds provided them during the 2018 grant year. President Sue Pitchford opened the evening while Assistant Membership Chair Margo Cook thanked corporate sponsors One North Wealth Services and Holden & Campbell, Attorneys at Law for their support in underwriting some of AAWGT’s operating costs. Opening remarks also were made by Ann Francis, Development Director for the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County (CFAAC), the umbrella organization under which AAWGT operates.

Next, Eileen Cortese, Chair of the Post-Grants Evaluation Committee, asked representatives from each of the seven 2018 grantees to describe how AAWGT’s total of $105,136 in grants were put to work over the last grant year, concluding June 30, 2019. The grantees were: Anne Arundel County CASA, Anne Arundel County Public Library Foundation, Inc., Arundel Child Care Connections, Associated Catholic Charities, Inc., Sarah’s House, Seeds 4 Success, Inc., and STAIR—Annapolis, Inc. Speakers shared their thanks and described multiple uplifting success stories. Highlights included library customers being able to conduct job interviews by video, using AAWGT-funded computers; a family whose father doubled his wages through job training paid for with AAWGT funds, allowing them move out of emergency shelter into independent housing; and almost 100 second grade students whose reading level rose from under-performing to at-grade-level due to the efforts of their tutors. A memorable moment occurred when speaker Najiba Hlemi, Executive Director of Seeds 4 Success, shared that she herself had been a “CASA kid” in her youth, a background she has in common with many of the children she helps today. Her story illustrates how local non-profits are working together to make life better for county residents, sometimes without knowing it!

Also introduced during the program were the seven grantee organizations chosen to receive a total of $112,778 in grants for the 2019 grant year, beginning July 1. They are: Creating Communities, Light House, Inc., Organization of Hispanic/Latin Americans of Anne Arundel County, Inc., Rebuilding Together Anne Arundel County, Inc., STAIR-Annapolis, Inc., Tahirih Justice Center, and Touchstones Discussion Project. Attendees were able to visit the organization’s information tables to learn more about their mission and programs, and it will be exciting to hear their stories next year.

Sue Pitchford closed the evening by announcing an exciting initiative to raise $20,000 in donations to AAWGT’s grant fund by the end of 2019 to fund an extra grant in 2020.  Details on how to donate to this fund can be found on this site.

UPDATE: Click here to read Dr. Pam Brown’s September 2021 presentation for Hunger Action Month. It is a concise yet thorough update to the 2018’s Poverty Amidst Plenty.

AAWGT’s second educational program in June drew one of the largest audiences ever, with 130 members and guests registered. In this land of plenty attendees were given a chilling overview of the number of people in the US who are not sure when and how they will get their next meal.

Karen Bassarab, Senior Program Officer at Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, and Christine Melendez Ashley, Deputy Director for Government Relations at Bread for the World, began by reviewing the root causes of chronic food insecurity. Governmental policies, food advertising and societal norms were identified as factors in poor nutrition practices, along with more individually- based barriers to good nutrition such as lack of nutrition knowledge and unhealthy lifestyles. Limited access to healthy food due to urban “food deserts” was also identified. The overall result is that compared to white Americans, Latino families are two and a half times more likely and African American and Indigenous families are up to three times more likely to be food insecure. It also was reported that regardless of race, 30% of female-headed households are food insecure.

While causes vary, food insecurity universally creates a vicious long-term cycle of decline among affected populations. Inadequate nutrition from conception to 24 months negatively affects a child’s ability to succeed throughout life.  This pattern continues through youth and adulthood, as an ongoing diet of non-nutritious, calorie-dense foods causes obesity and associated chronic diseases, ultimately leading to increased healthcare costs and decreasing the financial resources needed to purchase nutritious food.

In looking towards solutions, it was heartening to learn of recently formed county/school partnerships to combat food insecurity locally, as presented by Ann Heiser Buzzelli, RD, LDN, Community Education, Anne Arundel County Department of Health and Jodi Risse, RD., Supervisor, Food & Nutrition Services, Anne Arundel County Public Schools. After surveying the Brooklyn Park Community, Ann & Jodi encouraged a local farmer and other partners to set up the Brooklyn Park Farmers Market featuring foods with a rainbow of colors, enticing attendees to taste new foods. Jodi also applies the rainbow of colors approach to nutritious eating in school cafeterias, where students may serve themselves an unlimited number of fruits and vegetables.

The final speaker of the program was Michael Wierzbicki, a North County teacher who has pioneered a STEM education program for underserved students to combat food insecurity. Mike provides hands-on classes in growing nutritious food in urban gardens, farming tilapia, and tending honey-producing bee hives. Through these activities he teaches lessons in environmental science, nutrition, and general science, as well as principles of business. His students have started packaging their foods under the Cohort Brand, and several samples were displayed. At the completion of the program, Mike and his student assistants shared product tastings with the audience.

The 2019 Annual Grants Voting Meeting, held May 8 at the Annapolis Maritime Museum, has always attracted a sizeable group of engaged and inspired members, and this year was no exception. The tradition of gathering members to choose the next group of grantee organizations is an exciting demonstration of collective giving in action. As an increasing number of members take advantage of early online voting, we continue to see record voter turnout, and to celebrate the importance of each individual’s role in choosing how to disburse our combined contributions.

As volunteers helped calculate the final tally for 12 organizations, members also learned more about the ongoing research that guides AAWGT in identifying the most critical needs in the community. Guest speaker Mary Spencer, recently appointed President and CEO of the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County, provided an overview of the foundation and its bi-annual publication of “Poverty Amidst Plenty” which surveys major social needs among area families. She pointed out that philanthropy can do much to help low-income women and their families overcome inequalities in health care, education and opportunity-disadvantages that can trap them in poverty.

Following her presentation, the results of the balloting were announced. Six organizations serving Anne Arundel women and families will receive a total of $92,778 through grants ranging from $5,000 to $20,000, for programs beginning after July 1, 2019. We also awarded $20,000 to STAIR for the second year of the Momentum Grant. Names of the organizations and details about the funded programs can be found below.

2019 Grantees

The Grant Voting Meeting on May 8 selected six 2019 Grantees as described below. The total amount of grants to be awarded though the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County is $112,778. The Grantees included the second year for our two-year Momentum Grant to STAIR-Annapolis for $20,000 following their demonstration of successful progress toward program/project objectives, plus six additional grantees whose efforts are described below.

Momentum Grant—Two-year grant for $20,000 each year

STAIR–Annapolis: Start The Adventure In Reading - $20,000/$20,000

Providing cost-free tutoring for second graders in low-income areas so that 75% of them are reading at or above grade level by school-year’s end. A summer Reader’s Theater program for 6-to-12-year-old children that is designed to maintain skills operates at two community centers. In 2019, STAIR plans to increase the number served from 78 children to 90 to 100 at 12 sites. This is the second year of this grant.

One-Year Grants

Creating Communities: Youth Programs - $20,000

Offering arts experiences for 850 low-income children after school and in the summer and supporting teachers to add more art approaches for their students. Four programs will be partially funded — (1) Arts Mentorship Academy; (2) Arts Ambassadors for students from Georgetown East Elementary School; (3) Tuesday Afternoon Learning Experience (TALE) and Wednesday After-School Arts Club; and (4) In-School Residencies to allow artists to collaborate with teachers in public schools county-wide.

Light House, Inc.: Family Assistance Program - $20,000

Providing emergency shelter, transitional housing and education for 18-26 adults as they rebuild their lives with compassion as they move toward employment and self-sufficiency. Assistance is focused on effective parenting, financial literacy, employment readiness and counseling is also offered as necessary.

Organization of Hispanic/Latin Americans of Anne Arundel County (no website): Bridge the Gap - $5,000

Partially funding an Office Manager position to supervise volunteers. This office provides pro-bono services to help Hispanic immigrants as they apply for various programs (such as food stamps and medical care) and with various legal issues (such as landlord-tenant issues). Translation services are also offered.

Rebuilding Together Anne Arundel County, Inc.:  Urgent Home Renovations for Women and Children in Anne Arundel County - $20,000

Providing free home repairs for single low-income elderly women so that they can remain safely in their homes and communities. Our last $20,00 grant to Rebuilding Together made it possible to complete $143,000 worth of repairs.

Tahirih Justice Center: Protecting Courageous Immigrant Women and Girls Fleeing Violence - $7,778

Offering social and legal services for immigrant Anne Arundel County survivors who have fled or been a victim of domestic violence. The Center is headquartered in Baltimore; transportation may also be provided when necessary.

Touchstone Discussion Project: Building Women’s Life and Leadership Skills for Post-Incarceration Success - $20,000

Delivering 42 weeks of discussion-based educational programming for 200 women incarcerated in the Maryland Correctional Institute for Women in Anne Arundel County. Program develops life and work skills and promotes healthy decision-making and parenting that reduce recidivism.

Against the beautiful springtime backdrop of London Town House and Gardens in Edgewater, eighty members and their guests gathered on April 10 for an evening of good conversation and a celebration of AAWGT’s collective philanthropy.  Our annual Spring Open House gives members a wonderful opportunity to re-connect, catch up with each other, and learn more about what’s currently happening in the giving circle. It also offers prospective members a chance to learn first-hand about our organization’s mission, structure and accomplishments. In addition to a brief overview of AAWGT’s 13-year history by President Sue Pitchford, chairs of the nine committees that comprise the Steering Committee each highlighted the work their committees do and enthusiastically invited engagement from those interested in being more involved.

Members and guests then broke into small groups and considered two questions:

  1. If you had a magic wand, what one thing would you do to make the lives of women and families in AA County better?
  2. How can AAWGT broaden its reach in the county and have an even greater impact?

These lively discussions generated new ideas that will be put to good use going forward.

“How Women Find Their Voices” was the topic of the 2019 Women and Leadership presentation which earned two standing ovations for speaker Lesley Poole, CEO of The SEED Foundation, Washington, D.C. Addressing an audience of more than 100 women, Lesley began with her own story — how her parents gave her the gift of a voice and how they always “saw” her for herself. She was taught to speak respectfully, always, but never to shy away from doing so. It was not until she entered the larger world that she experienced the feeling of not being heard, of becoming invisible, or of simply being marginalized.

Lesley shared several personal experiences, including being invited with other recognized luminaries as a speaker at a powerful Aspen Institute conference, and then being questioned in the airport  “Are you the gospel choir?” On another occasion she was told with great surprise, following her presentation, “You spoke so well”.  She then shared that it’s been important to her to “stop collecting evidence”, to stop counting insults, and to move forward instead. In her former role as a teacher she worked extensively with young people from 6th to 12th grade at SEED’s D.C. boarding school, encouraging them to find and use their own voices. She believes this approach, coupled with a strong academic foundation, gives students their own start to leadership.

Lesley ended by sharing that she has learned to become a bridge builder, noting that relationship-building in personal settings, such as a small group dinner, helps us appreciate our differences, and understand the racial inequities that exist. She fervently believes that it is everyone’s job not only to speak their own voice, but also to protect the rights of others to be heard. She reminded us of those in our community who for generations have remained invisible — those who ask, “Do you not see me?” She closed with a rousing final message to the audience: “Let’s be the change, together!”

AAWGT launched the 2019 educational program year on February 13 with a powerful presentation on how much further the military needs to move to fully welcome women soldiers.

Lt. General Flora D. Darpino, USA (Ret.), the first female to serve as the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General,  discussed her current work as trustee and Secretary of the Service Women's Action Network, tackling longstanding gender disparity in health services for women veterans. Research on women soldiers' experience with quality and accessibility of VA health services was presented by Laura Pinnock whose firm, ALTARUM, conducted the research on behalf of the Veterans Administration. In addition, Dee Loftus, a psychotherapist with Arundel Lodge Behavioral Health Center, and Army veteran Patricia A. Craig, Chairperson for the Mental Health Advisory Council for the Washington D.C. VA Medical Center, shared their moving experiences from decades of treating post-military veterans.

Returning service women often face issues similar to those of returning male veterans - PTSD, depression, and relationship problems with children and with spouses.  Unlike male veterans, however, women veterans are much more likely to have been the victims of military sexual trauma and are three to four times more likely to become homeless. One of the greatest barriers to women accessing VA medical benefits, including mental health services, is that many don't understand they are eligible. Fear of stigma, lack of child care, and long lead times for appointments are other barriers for women in need of mental health care. Despite the stories of hardships and the constant struggle to win respect and recognition of women as veterans, it was a hopeful evening, led by four strong women who are working and advocating to better the experience for active and veteran military women.

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