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Harvest Resources in Anne Arundel County


Harvest Resources works every day to alleviate food insecurity. They partner with families and individuals who are working toward self-sufficiency and addiction recovery by providing needed food and resources. Their AAWGT grant helped provide their clients with personal hygiene essentials.

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

2023-24 Events

Click on the boxes below to read summaries of AAWGT events held in 2023 and 2024.

Click here to download a transcript of the event.

In observance of Women’s History Month, AAWGT hosted a deeply inspiring Women in Leadership event entitled “Civil Rights, Then and Now: Empowering Women and Families in Anne Arundel County.” It took place on March 25 at the Doordan Institute, Luminis Health AAMC. Panelists included award winning historian, author, and director of the Institute for Common Power Dr. Terry Anne Scott and Maryland State Archivist and Secretary of the State House Trust Elaine Rice Bachmann. Chanel Compton Johnson, AAWGT member and executive director of the Banneker-Douglass Museum and the Maryland Commission for African American History and Culture served as moderator for a fascinating discussion of their roles in documenting and preserving the role of African Americans in our national and state history.

When asked what led to their respective choices to pursue careers in history, Dr. Scott briefly described the racism she experienced during her childhood in Chicago and how she came to understand the potential power of teaching African American history to examine and combat it. Ms. Bachmann spoke about her career in art history and the significance of the work she does now in preserving historical documents with both governmental and private collections.

Ms. Johnson then asked about the support and mentorship each had as they were growing up and in their early careers. Both spoke of the importance of their families and colleagues as their careers evolved.

Dr. Scott described the impact of writing Lynching and Leisure: Race and the Transformation of Mob Violence in Texas and trying to come to grips with the brutality described in the book. She went on to say that “lynching” continues in many forms today and we need to see these incidents (for example, George Floyd’s murder) for what they are — a call to action.

Ms. Bachmann explored the process for selecting and retaining collections for the State Archives and how important it is for all Marylanders to be able to see themselves in the state’s history. She described the Maryland 250 Commission that commemorates Marylanders’ many contributions to American history through events, programs, and opportunities to serve.

When asked what resources are available for us to learn more about, and promote, Black history, Dr. Scott and Ms. Bachmann referred to the many private collections in the State Archives, special programs offered during Black History and Women’s History Month, and books such as &ldquo:Madness: Race and Insanity in a Jim Crow Asylum” by Antonia Hylton that recounts the history of Crownsville State Hospital in Annapolis. They both emphasized the importance of being vigilant in working to safeguard African American history in the face of those working to erase it. Dr. Scott identified voting as of paramount importance — particularly for school board positions — as well as educating ourselves and engaging with young people to understand where we’ve been so that we can all forge a new and better future.

Download a resource list for this program here.

Watch the video of the event here.

Speakers on this panel were:

  • Cathy Hallenbach, Chief Operating Officer, Anne Arundel County Public Library
  • Carlesa Finney, Interim Early Head Start Director, Anne Arundel Community Action Agency
  • Keri Hyde, Executive Director, Ready At Five who was unable to participate due to illness

Linda Eggbeer, AAWGT, moderated the discussion and began by asking the two panelists to introduce themselves and their organizations. Linda spoke briefly about Ready At Five on Keri’s behalf.

Setting the discussion for the evening, panelists were asked to define the term “school readiness” and to describe the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment, when it’s administered and what it measures. School readiness is a measure of how prepared a child is when s/he enters school. Decades of research have demonstrated that the early years are critical to a child’s social, emotional and academic success. Maryland’s Blueprint for the Future requires that all entering kindergarteners be assessed by early October. The test measures four learning domains: language and literacy, mathematics, social foundations, and physical well-being and motor development. The data is used to make instructional and grouping decisions, identify and design targeted support and interventions, and communicate with parents.

Data shown on a slide indicated that only 43% of kindergarteners in AAC are deemed ready for school compared with 42% for the state of MD. Particular concern was expressed for students who speak languages other than English, who are eligible for free lunch, and who have disabilities.

In answer to the question of how the data guides their everyday work, Cathy spoke about a number of the free programs the library now offers children and their families to prepare them for school. Carlesa described the many services that EHS offers children in their early years and how EHS supports families who are often experiencing stressors that make it hard for them to offer their children the range of experiences they need in their early years. Transportation was cited as a major problem.

Both panelists, as well as Keri in her prepared remarks which were shared with the audience, spoke about the importance of getting the word out to families of young children about the many services that are available in the county. Carlesa also spoke about the Congressional attempt to cut back funding for Head Start and EHS and encouraged those listening to get in touch with their Representatives. (This information will be included in the resource list to be sent out following the program).

Florence Calvert from the Education Committee then posed a number of questions from the audience that touched on various aspects of the presentation.

The program ended with a reminder that a resource list will be sent out to all who registered for this event and a recording will be available on the AAWGT website within ten days.

Click here to download a document with links to homeless services and resources in Maryland and in Anne Arundel County.

Watch a video of the presentation here.

Program Summary

AAWGT’s Education Committee knows that homelessness is a complex social problem that affects each of us and our communities in many different ways. We also know that there could be multiple programs on this topic. We decided to approach this program by sharing the perspectives of individuals who have personal stories to tell.


  • Sarah Ryan, Director of Community Engagement, Annapolis Light House
  • Toni Strong Pratt, CEO, People Builders Consulting
  • Damika Wesley, Guest Speaker
  • Cheryl Russell, Moderator, AAWGT

Cheryl Russell, who moderated the session, engaged the three panelists in conversation through a series of questions. Each panelist brought her authentic and vulnerable self to the discussion, sharing candid stories and their accompanying emotions. Each is working every day to find more effective ways to improve a system that perpetuates housing insecurity in the County.

Cheryl began with her own moving story of experiencing homelessness and she then turned to hear from the panelists. The overarching theme from our panelists was to treat all members of our community with kindness, dignity and respect. The panelists reinforced that we are all part of a community and together we can all rise to safer and healthier lives.

What does a person experiencing homelessness look like?

  • Housing insecurity is all around us in Anne Arundel County, hiding in plain sight
  • Approximately 30% of our neighbors in the County can’t afford basic expenses and are either homeless or on the edge of being homeless
  • There is a great need to de-stigmatize homelessness by examining our stereotypes and biases since it’s not always easy to tell just by looking if someone is experiencing housing insecurity

What are some of the stressors that cause homelessness and housing insecurity?

  • Generational trauma creates a feedback loop that perpetuates an oppressive system in which children expect that they will live in insecure housing arrangements
  • Past evictions are a mark against individuals that follows them into all future housing situations. This can trigger higher deposit requirements and monthly payments, which then exacerbate the pressure on minimum wage salaries

What has changed over the last few years regarding finding and keeping a home?

  • Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Annapolis Light House has seen a 30% increase in people needing housing-related services in Anne Arundel County
  • Affordable housing is still out of reach for many members of our community because they either earn too much to access public housing or too little to pay for “affordably” priced housing

What can we do as individuals?

  • Meet your neighbors, go for a walk around your community, get out of your comfort zone and try to walk in someone else's shoes
  • Don’t assume you know what services are needed for people experiencing homelessness. Get educated through local groups supporting these populations (e.g. eviction-related policies, protection for renters, etc)
  • Meet local leaders and advocate for better support services for all

Damika was asked to share her personal story, as someone who has suffered various periods of housing insecurity. She began by saying “I am resilient” and then went on to recount some of the challenges she has faced and how she has worked to overcome them. She described homelessness as a “revolving door,” and it wasn’t until she had access to mentoring and counseling resources to help her build self-awareness that her worldview changed. “We began living, not just existing.”

AAWGT extends its deep appreciation to everyone who made this program possible, especially the speakers who helped everyone better understand “the many faces of homelessness.”

For additional resources and information regarding homelessness, please see the Homeless Services and Resources above. The link to the Baltimore Banner article mentioned during the program can be accessed here: Inside the eviction epicenter in Anne Arundel County (May 15, 2023).

AAWGT held its most well-attended Open House in our history on April 19, with 40 guests and 85 members enjoying the beautiful weather and great food. AAWGT President Susan Cook thanked everyone for attending, while Sue Pitchford, Membership chair, described how AAWGT fulfills its mission to improve the quality of life for women and families in the County. AAWGT is a component fund of the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County and its president and CEO, Mary Spencer, spoke to the group and introduced John Rodenhausen, the new director of gift planning. In addition, two members, Liz Gillette and Michelle Hellstern, shared the reasons they decided to join AAWGT. Many guests talked about the fact that having the new tiered membership levels (ranging from $175 to $1,075, with each member having full benefits and voting privileges) makes it easier to join and participate collectively in bettering our local community.
View the slide show from our Open House.

Watch a recording of the event here.


  • LaShire J. Diegue, MD, Staff Psychiatrist, University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center Group-Primary Care
  • Eve DeVaro Fowler (event moderator), President of the Board, National Alliance on Mental Illness, Anne Arundel County, Maryland
  • Aliya Jones, MD, MBA, FAPA, FASAM, Executive Medical Director of Behavioral Health, Luminis Health




Why is the issue of mental health especially relevant today?

Covid made us all aware of the prevalence of mental health issues and the challenges they bring. And mental health conditions are very common so that even if you don’t have a mental health condition or substance abuse problem, you probably know someone who does.

Our panelists reminded us that getting informed about mental health is important so that we can be a part of the solution, and not perpetuate the problem. Because people tend to turn to those who are closest to them for support, it’s helpful to know how to navigate these issues and be a resource to those seeking help. And most importantly, we need to remove the stigma associated with mental health issues.

Please give us your thoughts on living with someone with mental illness.

Mental illness affects not just the patient, but everyone the patient encounters. Living with someone who has unpredictable behavior, or you are afraid for, is stressful for loved ones because a lot of emotional energy has to be expended taking care of that person. You need to learn how to support that loved one, and yourself, and be a helpful part of the patient’s support system while not contributing unknowingly to the stress.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness has a course for families, led by families of a mentally ill patients, so they can learn how to handle these issues. Al Anon and other similar programs help because substance abuse falls into the category of mental illness. These types of support groups are helpful especially because mental illness is experienced differently by each patient, so it is exhibited in different ways. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment.

How should families get involved in treatment?

Our panelists stressed that it is best when families are engaged and involved in the patient’s treatment. But different programs have different policies. Be sure to look for a program that values your engagement in the family member’s recovery journey. Dr. Diegue noted that a psychiatrist needs to get input from the patient’s family because she can’t be with the patient 100 percent of the time.

What is the latest thinking about dealing with multiple disorders?

It is really important to follow integrated care protocols so that all issues are treated at the same time. Luckily, more dual-diagnosis programs have been developed and the medical professionals involved in the patient’s care work together. These professionals include counselors, social works, psychologists, primary care physicians, nurses, etc., in addition to psychiatrists.

Comment on the use of medication when treating mental health issues.

Our panelists noted that there are approved medications available for helping to treat certain substance abuse and mental health issues and they should not be overlooked. Dr. Diegue said that the introduction of new medications for mental illness has stagnated. Dr. Jones said that we need to be flexible and open to new ways to treat conditions. Both stressed that treatment options shouldn’t be predicated on the patient’s ability to pay, even though newer treatment modalities can be expensive.

Can you provide some advice for employers?

Supervisors need a measure of empathy, so that employees feel comfortable coming to them. Employees should not be penalized for having a mental health issue during this post-Covid time. Our panelists noted that the coverage of Senator John Fetterman’s mental health was revealing about the kind of message we are sending about this issue. As Dr. Diegue reminded us, “An illness is an illness is an illness and shouldn’t preclude someone from being able to be a functioning member of society. We should treat others with mental illnesses the same way we treat people with medical conditions like cancer.”

What are the features of a good mental health system?

Dr. Jones said that ease of access is critical because it can be very hard to figure out how to navigate the health system as it relates to mental health and substance abuse. It is also important to make sure people can transition through all the levels of care and not get lost when moving from program to program. She also noted that we need more people to work in support services, because behavior health is a multi-disciplinary field, and also that we need more psychiatrists.

The statistics regarding behavioral health care are sobering: in Maryland, the unmet need is 30 percent. For children, the unmet need is 70 percent. In Anne Arundel County, the patient-to-doctor ratio is 490 to 1.

Dr. Diegue noted how important it is to be “the change you want to see in the world.” She reminded us that we definitely need more case managers, and also that patients need support in addition to psychiatry. This support includes helping patients with transportation, securing a place to live, and putting food on the table.

The panelists ended with reminding us that when you treat a behavioral health issue, you are actually treating everyone in that patient’s family and those they encounter day to day. The impact is so much greater and widespread than just the one patient who is being treated.

Karen Smith, Chair of AAWGT’s Grants Committee, convened a panel of three community leaders on February 8 to share their personal experiences and perspectives on the breadth and depth of current needs within the community AAWGT seeks to serve through our grants. Charlestine Fairley, Ph.D., C.E.O., Anne Arundel Community Action Agency, Laura Gutierrez, Office of Community Services Manager, City of Annapolis, and Toni Strong-Pratt, community advocate and founder, People Builders Consulting responded to questions about what they see as the most pressing needs in the County, the strategies most suited to addressing those needs, the financial support that is most critical now, and what they worry about most.

What do you see as the most pressing needs in our community?

The panelists cited a number of urgent needs impacting women and families in Anne Arundel County: stable and safe housing; affordable childcare; educational opportunities; job and skill training; access to family legal services; bilingual language in all settngs; affordable healthcare, including pre- and postnatal care; a livable wage; and food security.

What strategies increase the success of efforts to help?

In exploring the most effective strategies to address these needs, Laura Gutierrez highlighted a flexible bottom-up approach centered around the family or individual served. She emphasized cultural competence, across-the-board humility, and developing a relationship to find out what’s best for the client. Charlestine Fairley emphasized that listening to the people served and having them tell you what they need are critically important. Then you’re equipped to work cooperatively to help address these needs. Toni Strong-Pratt noted relationship-building as the number one key to success. Once you start to build a relationship and get to know clients, people tend to open up and tell you what they need. We need to remember that we’re on their journey.

What are the most difficult to obtain - but most critical - dollars?

Each panelist agreed that unrestricted emergency funds that can be used to meet immediately pressing needs are the most critical but they are difficult to obtain. Flex-funds for immediate needs (eg, a hotel room or meal for a suddenly homeless family or transportation to a program that will save someone’s life) are critical. In emergencies, government help may be obtained for up to a week but then there’s a gap of two to six months when individuals are on their own, maybe in critical situations with limited support. That’s where county and local nonprofits can help if they have unrestricted funds. Emergency needs are growing. During the early COVID years, Federal funds were available and evictions were not allowed. Now, with these funds and the eviction moratorium ending, people will continue to require help to stay in their homes. Unrestricted funds can support agencies and nonprofits in meeting these emergency needs for food, transportation, housing, and other necessities.

What keeps you up at night?

Ms. Gutierrez noted that individuals and families who fall through the cracks without support keep her up at night. Keeping Dr. Fairley up is where to find funding, especially to help people stay in their homes. Ms. Strong-Pratt said she worries about both the hopelessness of people in our communiGes which leads to gun violence, overdoses, and homelessness — and the unwillingness of governmental agencies to invest in our communities. “The homelessness that we’re about to see soon due to lack of funding really keeps me up at night.”

Following a short Q&A period, the three speakers were thanked for the community work they do each day and for helping us better understand the real needs of our community.

2023 President Susan Cook moderated a special online gathering on January 11 for members and the general public highlighting key accomplishments in 2022 and focusing on what’s on the horizon for 2023.

With a current membership of 260, 2022 grants reached a new high of $160,000 with a total of $1,571,914 awarded since 2006. “ In addition to making grants, we also focus on community outreach and education and on working to build the power of collective philanthropy,” said Cook.

AAWGT’s Approach to Grant-Giving

Jean Mitchell, Co-Assistant Chair of the Grants Committee, highlighted two areas that are central to AAWGT’s continued ability to evolve relevantly and effectively:

  1. Commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) in the funding process; and
  2. Trust-Based Philanthropy, which involves partnering with non-profits by redefining the relationship between the giver and the grant recipient and trusting the recipient to know how best to spend grant money.

Trust-Based Philanthropy and DEIA are journeys that AAWGT is committed to continuing. “In 2022, we took a hard look at the questions we were asking potential grantees to ensure they were the right questions,” noted Mitchell. “We also broadened our call for proposals to include all initiatives that improve life for women and families in AAC.”

The 2023 Grants Cycle

New for the 2023 grants application process are:

  • Larger grants—to a maximum of $25,000 (up from $20,000 in 2022)
  • Applications and instructions available in Spanish

Proposals are due February 10, grants will be announced in May, and funding begins July 1, 2023.

A Continuous Improvement Process

Additionally, two ad-hoc committees have been established to make recommendations to improve our grantmaking:

  1. A Grants Visionary Committee, co-led by Cindy Whittle and Sue Pitchford, will: · Examine the current research about the best ways to fund nonprofits; · Explore the processes Giving Circles around the country are using; and · Recommend effective Trust-Based Philanthropy practices.

    Expecting to have recommendations available for the 2024 Grants Cycle, the committee will seek input from local community leaders and non-profits.

  2. A DEIA Committee, chaired by Sue Russell. “To best serve our grantees, we need to better understand the populations AAWGT assists and the issues they face, and then ‘meet them where they are.’” Russell pointed to current examples of AAWGT’s DEIA efforts:· Our website notes how we are integrating DEIA concepts · New “tiered” membership options make AAWGT more affordable

    Expanded Membership Structure

    Five membership options have recently been established by the Membership Committee:

    1. Friend - $175
    2. Ally - $375
    3. Catalyst - $575
    4. Sustainer - $1,075
    5. Lifetime - $12,000

    This represents a major change from the more limited number of options previously available. Regardless of the option at which a member wishes to pledge for 2023 and beyond, the member benefits - participation in all aspects of AAWGT and voting—remain the same for everyone.

    Why the options? Sue Pitchford, Chair of the Membership Committee, said this:

    “We want to attain and retain diversity of ethnicity, race, geography, and economics. Input from the breadth of AAC residents will help ensure we’re giving the right grants to meet DEIA objectives. People will give at the level they can give. We foresee that this will enable us to grow the grants fund to provide more grants.”

    Getting to Know Each Other Better

    “We want to get to know you better and would love to have you join us at educational and social offerings,” noted Cook. Whether you’re a prospective, new, or ongoing member, take advantage of AAWGT’s many programs and benefits to learn about and collaborate on worthwhile endeavors to improve the lives of women and families in AAC.

    Registration for events usually opens approximately 30 days in advance of the event and is advertised on our website, in our monthly newsletter, and on social media. Please join us!

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