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Leadership Letter

There is no need to remind anyone reading this in November or December 2020 that this has been a year like no other. What has not changed is the commitment of each Anne Arundel Women Giving Together member to invest, inform and inspire. Supported by best practices in collective philanthropy, we are working together—if apart—to improve the quality of life for women and families.

When 2021 comes, AAWGT will be under the leadership of Elaine Shanley and a Steering Committee made up of new and experienced members. They will take charge of the 15th Anniversary Celebration, marking the years since our beginning in 2006. Planning for a series of events throughout the year is underway.

There is much to celebrate now that can be expressed in numbers. We have over 220 members. The 2020 Grants distribution was $139,381.00, the largest to date. The total amount raised over our first 15 years is over $1.2 million. All the work reflected in these achievements continues in ways adapted to the changed circumstances this year. There are many Zoom meetings and discussions and email chains.

This year we formulated a statement on our website that commits AAWGT to continue to address the inequities in society that are exacerbated by Covid-19. The Racial Equity Study Group that was formed in 2019 worked with the Grants Committee to design a new Racial Equity Grant that will be open to applicants along with the Regular Grants and the Fundamental Needs Grant. The Grants Committee revamped the timetable for applications and is enhancing the training provided to applicants.

We held our annual business meeting on November 11 during which the slate of 2021 leaders was introduced. The slate was adopted and members were immediately invited to vote online. All votes are due by November 23 and the outcome will be announced in early December.

As this is close to my final opportunity to be in touch with the AAWGT community, let me just say as president that while the events of this year have not been what I anticipated on January 1, what I did know then was that I could count on the support and commitment of the Committee Chairs and Assistant Chairs and Officers. That is what has made all the difference.

Please get ready to welcome Elaine and the new Steering Committee. Even with its many challenges, it is my honor to have led this organization through 2020.


Sheila Onuska, President
Elaine Shanley, Vice-President

Grantee Spotlight: Annapolis Immigration Justice Network

The mission of Annapolis Immigration Justice Network (AIJN) is to walk alongside and support our neighbors as they navigate the immigration process. We are an all-volunteer organization dedicated to connecting asylum seekers and other vulnerable immigrants in Anne Arundel County to quality legal counsel and direct case management support. AIJN works to keep families unified and safe from deportation and is committed to the basic right to due process for all. AAWGT’s grant award of $20,000 is a tremendous support to our critical programs serving immigrant neighbors. This funding will help approximately eight female heads of household with children to retain quality, trusted attorneys to pursue their immigration cases.

To date, we have already connected two mothers and their children to formal legal representation through this grant. One of these mothers, “M,” fled gang violence in El Salvador in 2019 with her two year old son. Several of M’s relatives were gang members, and after receiving numerous death threats from her own aunt, M feared she and her son could be killed at any moment. When M reached out to AIJN for help, we connected her to legal consultation with a trusted, quality attorney. With the financial assistance from this grant, M was able to hire this lawyer to pursue her case for asylum. Legal fees for asylum cases are typically at least $5,000. In this case, our legal fund was able to contribute $3,000 toward legal fees. It may take years for this case to be decided, but we remain committed to walking alongside this family as they seek legal relief allowing them to remain safely in the United States.

AIJN is so grateful for AAWGT’s financial support. Immigrants with lawyers to represent their cases are five times as likely as those without representation to be granted relief from deportation. Retaining counsel provides both a long-term solution and an immediate, tremendous amount of relief for these families to know they have a lawyer helping them navigate this complex and difficult process.

Not a Member Yet?

Please email Margo Cook 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.

Grantee Spotlight: Anne Arundel County Food Bank, Baby Pantries

When AACFB received the AAWGT grant of $10,000 for our baby pantries, we had no way of knowing that COVID-19 would affect our way of life in Anne Arundel County and increase the need for our services.

AACFB has been helping people in need in our county since 1986. Its primary focus has always been on food, but when there is a need for something else in our county, we will create a program to address that need. AACFB began opening baby pantries in 2017 when the one agency that had been supplying baby items, FoodLink, closed its doors.

Since COVID-19 restrictions began in Maryland in March, AACFB’s pantries have seen a 300% increase in the number of people seeking assistance, and 53% of those clients have never had to go to a pantry before. AACFB’s baby pantries assisted approximately 3,700 people in FY20 (through June 30, 2020), and that number is expected to grow in FY21 as the need continues to rise in Anne Arundel County.

AACFB’s baby pantries supply diapers, pull-ups, wipes, formula (including specialized formula), infant cereals, baby food, toddler food and more to any resident in need. With more grandparents finding themselves raising grandchildren while on a fixed income, more single working mothers trying to maintain a household while dealing with the high cost of living in Anne Arundel County, and now families struggling to pay rent or utilities due to lay-offs and job losses due to COVID-19, our baby pantries help any family in need by supplying these essential baby items at no cost. These items enable parents and guardians to provide the necessary healthy nutrition their infants and toddlers require, as well as providing new, clean, sanitary diapers and wipes. Being able to help families in need with these necessary items helps those families stretch their budget and stay self-sufficient.

AACFB is grateful for the support of the AAWGT grant in helping us to continue our mission in Anne Arundel County. These funds will be used to keep our baby pantries stocked with all the items that every child needs to grow and thrive.

AAWGT Recognized for DisAbility Awareness

AAWGT was honored to receive an award from the Department of Aging & Disabilities and the Commission on Disabilities during the October 24 DisAbility Awareness Day celebration. We salute all those working tirelessly on behalf of individuals in our county with disabilities.

October Education Meeting: Elevating All Students — Eliminating All Gaps

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 Arundel 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.

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

Emerging Philanthropist Award

Congratulations to AAWGT member Ellen Shiery who received the Emerging Philanthropist Award at the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County’s Celebration of Philanthropy Awards on November 5. She has shared her expertise and passion with a number of organizations in the county and AAWGT is indeed fortunate that she brings her deep commitment to women and families to the work that we do.

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AAWGT is a fund of the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County
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