AAWGT Grants $159,265 to Local Nonprofits

May 11, 2022

This year marks our 16th year of grantmaking. Since our founding in 2006, we have invested more than $1.5 million in grants to 47 different nonprofits in Anne Arundel County working to improve the quality of life for women and families.
Applications for grants were carefully evaluated by our reviewers. This year’s grants total $159,265. Voting was online and results were announced at our May 11 membership meeting.
These organizations received grants this year:

Asbury Church Assistance Network, $4,998, for mobile food pantry expansion

Assistance League of the Chesapeake, $4,998, for school uniforms for students at Tyler Heights Elementary School

Center of Help, $15,080, for their program assissting bilingual families

Charting Careers, $20,000, for their mentoring, college and career readiness and family partnership program

Co-op Arundel, $20,000, for the My Sistah’s Keeper program, which is designed to give women the tools and skills to identify and reach their goals

Community Alliance of South County, $6,125, for summer overnight camp scholarships for ten low-income children and follow-up

strong>Marshall Hope Corporation, $20,000, to purchase diapers, formula and feminine pads for the food pantry, plus supplies for the Marshall Hope Learning Center

Providence Center, Inc., $8064, for consent, healthy relationship and abuse prevention training for women with intellectual and developmental disabilities

STAIR-Annapolis, Inc., $20,000, for the Start the Adventure in Reading, including purchase of books, lesson plans and take-home books for students

Tahirih Justice Center, $20,000, to provide trauma-informed legal and social services support to immigrant survivors of gender-based violence

We Care and Friends, Inc., $20,000, for the women-empowerment program that trains and counsels women to become self-reliant entrepreneurs and business leaders

The Innocence Project: Causes of and Solutions to Wrongful Incarceration

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, The 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 innocenceproject.org/policy/maryland/) 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.

Education Meeting: The Geography and Color of Anne Arundel County Poverty

February 9, 2022

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.

Education Meeting: Who Will Save Our Mothers?

October 21, 2021

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.

Field Trip to Marshall Hope Corporation

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

Women Leaders Fostering Climate Change

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.

Racial Equity Study Group

The Racial Equity Study Group (RESG) grew out of the November 2018 Racial Equity Institute presentation at Maryland Hall, which AAWGT co-sponsored. In January, 2019, Giving Circle members who had attended came together for personal growth, to share their understanding with the larger membership, and to figure out what could be done about racial inequities. RESG intersects with the Grants and Education committees, has brought training on unconscious bias to grant reviewers and the membership at large, and has spearheaded the formation of the DEI Committee.

2022 begins our fourth year of meeting and there are several topics on the agenda including: the Study of Women in Cross-Cultural Conversations, understanding the lives of women of different races; The Voices of the Enslaved, an historical perspective; Lessons Learned from Black Authors, what a book club can teach us; and Equity in Philanthropy, how it works in the community.

Open to all AAWGT members, registration for all monthly meetings which are held on Zoom the second Tuesday of the month from 4:00-5:00 pm. is available on the members’ page on our website. Please join us!

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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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