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Full Circle News


May-June 2021

In This Issue: Leadership Letter |2021 Grants | Upcoming Events | Membership | Tara Balfe Clifford | Michelle Hellstern|  Grantee Spotlight - Service from the Heart 

Leadership Letter

What an exciting time of the year it is for Anne Arundel Women Giving Together. Spring is in the air and our 15th year celebration continues. We have received two very special citations related to this milestone - one from State Senator Pam Beidle and the second from Delegate Shaneka Henson. We are honored to have received this recognition!

We also just completed the voting process for our 2021 grants on May 11 and the awardees are listed below. Congratulations to all these outstanding organizations, some of which are new grantees and some of which we’ve funded in prior years. This year we received a record number of grant requests – all from very worthy organizations. It was a true challenge for our grant reviewers and membership to select among only the handful that were placed on the ballot. A huge thanks to Susan Cook, Grants Committee Chair and Cindy Whittle, Grants Committee Assistant Chair for the tremendous job they did leading the effort this year. We would like to thank as well all the grant reviewers and team leaders who gave countless hours to a very thoughtful review of the applications we received.

Thanks also go to all who participated in the membership meeting in April. We are truly fortunate to have so many bright and energetic women leading our committees and outreach activities. A special thank-you to all who have stepped up to lead and to serve on the important committees that keep AAWGT functioning smoothly.

That said, we need a few specific volunteers. We are looking for members to join our marketing team to help with social media and our Grants Systems Committee is looking for someone to help with our grants database. We will provide any necessary training and would love to hear from you.

We hope you and your families are well. Please remember to register for our June 9 Education Program, “Affordable Housing in Anne Arundel County.” We look forward to seeing you then!

Elaine Shanley, President
Maryann Gosnell, Vice President

Upcoming Event


June 9 5:00-6:30 PM

Kathy Koch, Executive Director, Anne Arundel Community Development Services

Theresa Wellman, Chief of Community Development, City of Annapolis

Melissa Maddox-Evans, Executive Director/CEO, Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis

Ardath Cade, AAWGT member and long-time leader and champion of affordable housing in the State of Maryland and Anne Arundel County will moderate the panel.

Our moderator and panel of speakers have more than 150 combined years of experience in the affordable housing field. They will share their perspectives about affordable housing in the County, describe programs and strategies that address housing needs, and answer questions from attendees.


Grantee Spotlight:

Services from the Heart - Backpack Buddies Program

A surprising number of children in Anne Arundel County face the insecurity of not having enough food to eat. Food insecurity touches nearly 1 in 5 children in some areas of our county. Inadequate nutrition affects a child’s physical and mental health and contributes to poor academic performance. The Backpack Buddies Program distributes food to children at risk of going hungry over the weekends, holidays and school breaks when food provided by schools isn’t available.

The $10,000 grant that we received from AAWGT for this school year has enabled us to deliver 1,110 backpacks to 106 children and 25 holiday meal bags. The children we serve are from three elementary schools - Belle Grove, Eastport and Hilltop. Founded in 2013, Backpack Buddies has delivered food to children from low-income families for nine academic years. Services from the Heart is an all volunteer 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and a labor of love for all involved.

During this school year, COVID-19 created unique challenges. In response, we adapted to deliver food, vegetables and fresh fruit directly to the families at three pickup locations. Using other program funds, we also provide $25 food gift cards with each monthly backpack.

Here is a personal story that one parent shared with us. “I have a large family. We are on a fixed income and have experienced many personal challenges in the past and present. Prior to COVID, making ends meet was a struggle. COVID has affected our world in so many ways and has added an extra struggle for our family. I am so grateful that your organization has continued to reach out to make a difference, in spite of COVID. We appreciate the current monthly assistance and additional help during the holidays. There are many low-income families that are struggling like mine and this assistance has meant the world to us. I hope that you will continue to be able to touch the lives of families in the way that you have touched ours!”

Visit Services from the Heart to learn more.

Not a Member Yet?

Please email us at if you’d like to be added to the invite list for our next prospective member event, which we will continue to host by Zoom until it’s safe to meet in person again.

Announcing 2021 Grants

This year marks our 15th year of grantmaking. Since our founding in 2006, we have invested more than $1.4 million in grants to 42 different nonprofits in Anne Arundel County working to improve the quality of life for women and families.

This year we offered three different types of grants. For the first time, we explored how our grantmaking might help us address racial inequities with a $20,000 Racial Equity grant. We also offered the $10,000 Fundamental Needs grant, this time limited to county organizations not previously funded by AAWGT. And we, of course, continued our Regular grant program.

We received a record number of 50 applications which were carefully evaluated by our reviewers to determine the 15 organizations that would advance to the ballot. We also had a near-record amount in our Grant fund: $138,496. Voting was online and results were announced and celebrated at a May 11 Zoom meeting. For more detailed information about our review process, see our grant summary process.

We are delighted to welcome Co-op Arundel, Marshall Love and Charting Careers as new grantees this year.

Racial Equity Grant: Co-op Arundel – My Sistah’s Keeper $20,000

An 8-week program that pairs 15 women with low incomes with a mentor to address topics such as financial literacy, life skills, goal setting and self-introspection.

Fundamental Needs Grant: Marshall Hope Corporation – W. Annapolis Pop-Up Pantry $10,000

Creation of a newborn and toddler pantry with diapers, wipes, bottles, formula and other necessities, Spanish-speaking volunteers provide other needed information to those who visit the pantry.

Regular Grants:

Annapolis Immigration Justice Network – Legal Assistance Project $20,000

Provides legal and case manager representation and related services to immigrant children as they face the challenging path to remain in this country.

Anne Arundel County CASA, Inc – For Abused and Neglected Children in Foster Care $20,000

To advocate for abused and neglected foster children to support their transition from the court system to a safe and stable home.

Anne Arundel County Food Bank – Expand/Stock Baby Pantries $8,496

To expand and stock baby pantries, adding facilities in Brooklyn Park, Laurel and Glen Burnie. (Due to tremendous need, we continued last year’s practice of allocating all remaining dollars available in the Grant fund.)

Charting Careers – Mentoring, College & Career Readiness $20,000

Breaking the cycle of poverty and inequity for African American and Latino youth in Annapolis with a mentor-focused approach that begins with tutoring in reading and continues in later years with college and career guidance.

Hope for All – Turning Houses into Homes $20,000

Provides beds, furniture, clothing, personal hygiene products and other household items to 100 homeless women and children as they transition to permanent housing.

Rebuilding Together – Urgent Home & Critical Repairs - $20,000

Works to keep low-income homeowners, largely women, in their homes by providing home repairs, thereby preventing homelessness and foreclosures. Our grant will renovate 14 homes.



A Warm Welcome to our Newest Members!

  • Shaneka Henson
  • Donna Wilson-Johnston
  • Karen Cook


In this 15th year of our collective philanthropy, we are highlighting a few AAWGT members. We feature Tara Balfe Clifford and Michelle Hellstern in this edition.

"If we use our trusted, respected, and ethical philanthropic power, we can help shape the agenda and use our access and influence to affect priorities in Anne Arundel County.”

Tara Balfe Clifford

With a deep commitment to, and a career focused on, community development and affordable housing, Tara was active in Baltimore’s Giving Circle. Then Tara joined AAWGT at its founding in 2005. She was part of the team that discussed and drafted guidelines for the first grants in 2007. Read the story.

"My membership with AAWGT has re-energized my stewardship passion and truly allowed me to grow as a servant leader.”

Michelle Hellstern

Michelle joined AAWGT in April 2019, having been introduced to the organization at a Rotary Club of Annapolis meeting. She is Senior Director of Corporate Compliance at Luminis Health and an Adjunct Professor at Towson University. More about Michelle.

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