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Leadership Letter

Revising the original version of this letter on March 13 requires acknowledgement of the health crisis sweeping through communities across the world. In a time of monumental changes for many, the first order of business for us has been to postpone events: the April 15 Open House for members and guests and the April 25 Field Trip for members. We have responded to the need to limit any potential harm to those we would meet even while working to fulfill our mission.

The topic of the original letter remains valid. I went back for some needed inspiration to Sue Pitchford’s March 2019 letter where she wrote that “Philanthropy is one way to get past the partisan divide” and encouraged us to acknowledge that we all can work together for good so that we all become better. It is difficult for me to think of a more appropriate message for now and the future.

Two recent experiences reaffirm this belief. First is the Catalist conference where Bronwyn Belling and I joined over 350 representatives of giving circles from across the country and spent three days honoring and yet dissecting the roles and responsibilities of both philanthropists and collective giving organizations in increasing equity and inclusion in our communities. I am happy to report that AAWGT is asking the right questions and working toward possible answers.

Second, our March 4 program “The Cost of Silence: Census 2020” brought out a large and enthusiastic audience who heard about the importance of counting everyone in every location to ensure equitable and accurate distribution of funding for critical programs for the next ten years. The health crisis makes this even more critical.

Working together to solve problems is the hallmark of our organization and as we move toward May when we will collectively vote to award grants funds, we can be sure that our efforts will bring us closer together. Sincerely yours,

Sheila Onuska, President
Elaine Shanley, Vice-President

Local Colleagues at Catalist Seattle

Barb Van Winkle, Women's Giving Circle of Howard County; Vivian Manekin, Baltimore Women's Giving Circle; Buffy Beaudoin-Schwartz, Women's Giving Circle of Howard County; Bronwyn Belling and Sheila Onuska, AAWGT.

2019 Grantee Spotlight

Tahirih Justice Center

Tahirih Justice Center supports courageous immigrant women and children fleeing violence on their journey to safety and justice by providing free legal services and social services case management. With expert attorneys on staff, an in-house social services department, and a Pro Bono Network of 281 attorneys from 54 leading law firms in Maryland, Tahirih provides free legal assistance in immigration and family law, as well as holistic case management services to ensure that survivors can truly access justice and become self-sufficient members of their community.

Tahirih provides free direct services and referrals in the following areas:

  • Immigration Law Services: Legal services to protect survivors of gender-based human rights abuses include gender-based asylum claims; “U” visas for crime victims who cooperate with law enforcement to convict perpetrators of violence; Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) petitions to empower battered spouses and children of U.S. citizens or Legal Permanent Residents to obtain lawful status free and clear from their abusers; “T” visas for victims of labor and sex trafficking; and special immigrant juvenile status (SIJS) for unaccompanied minors who have been abandoned, abused, or neglected by one or both parents.
  • Family Law Services: Interim, temporary and final orders of protection, divorce, custody, and visitation to ensure the safety and stability of families.
  • Social Services Case Management: One-on-one education regarding survivor rights, responsibilities, and resources, as well as dynamics of abuse; safety planning; goal settng and referrals to ensure that every client has access to shelter, counseling, food, clothing, financial assistance, debt relief, urgent medical care, and other critical resources, as needed, to help her rebuild her life.

With support from Anne Arundel Women Giving Together, our team has been able to provide holistic legal services and social services support to an increasing number of immigrant women and children in Anne Arundel County who are seeking safety from extreme gender-based human rights abuses such as human trafficking, domestic violence, sexual assault, forced marriage, and other abuses. In 2019, our staff of eight served over 575 clients throughout Maryland and 35 clients specifically in Anne Arundel County.

In the words of one of our own clients, “What helped me the most is that here I learned to call the police. They taught me to defend myself, to speak up, not to be quiet. I am not quiet anymore. I was ashamed before. I did not want to make a scene in order to avoid problems. I have noticed that every time somebody wants to abuse me, I have the freedom and strength to call the police.”

We’re excited to see, with the help of Anne Arundel Women Giving Together, what we will accomplish in the coming year for women and girls fleeing violence in our community. To learn more about our services, visit our website here.

Upcoming events our members are engaged in. We invite others to join AAWGT to participate with us.

In consideration of our members and guests, the AAWGT Annual Spring Open House has been postponed. Also, the April 25 Field Trip open only to members has been postponed. We will send out information on the event once we reschedule.

2019 Grantee Spotlight

Organization of Hispanic/Latin Americans

Founded in 1998, the Organization of Hispanic/Latin Americans of Anne Arundel County, Inc., generally referred to as OHLA, is a small organization of one full-time office manager and six volunteers. OHLA is dedicated to promoting the well-being of the Hispanic population of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County. The primary focus is to assist Hispanic residents in resolving issues with government agencies, businesses, landlords, and healthcare providers as well as any legal issues that arise. These are challenges that Hispanics must often deal with but which pose difficulties due to language, educational and cultural hurdles. OHLA’s assistance helps them overcome these barriers across a wide range of issues. Additionally, Hispanic immigrants are currently under great stress due to the aggressive enforcement efforts of the federal government.

OHLA is very grateful for the grant of $5,000 from Anne Arundel Women Giving Together (AAWGT) for FY 2020, helping to cover the salary of the OHLA office manager/case worker. The office manager is essential for OHLA as she provides the continuity for the program while each of the six volunteers helps in the office one day a week. The office manager is there every day OHLA is open and carries a heavy case load. She is essential to OHLA’s ability to serve the many clients who come in for assistance.

OHLA’s office hours are 9:00 am to 1:00 pm Monday through Thursday. During this part time schedule OHLA assists between1,500 to 2,000 clients a year. OHLA staff help with any problem brought in the door from filling out a change of address form to helping prepare a citizenship application. Most clients come in for assistance in preparing applications to the Department of Social Services, the Department of Health and the Child Support Enforcement Office. OHLA also conducts a legal assistance clinic every Thursday that helps with family legal issues, immigration matters, taxes and other issues that clients have. AAWGT’s generous grant to OHLA is instrumental in enabling OHLA to continue to serve its many clients and accomplish its mission.

Learn more about OHLA here.

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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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