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Full Circle News


July 2023

Message from Leadership

Here’s to Summer!

One joy of living in Anne Arundel County is the distinct seasons, each with their special pleasures. Winter’s cold gives us crystal clear views of the Bay. Spring brings us a burst of flowers—even things we don’t remember planting! And summer, even if hot and muggy, is always a favorite for backyard dinners, going to the beach or swimming at a local pool. AAWGT is taking a bit of a breather in July and August but will kick off the fall with our always special Grants Showcase (see below for details). Have a wonderful summer and we look forward to seeing you in person in September!


Susan Cook, President
Margaret Davis, Vice President

Grantee Spotlight: Assistance League of the Chesapeake

Kids In Need School Uniform Project

Assistance League® of the Chesapeake’s philanthropic programs benefit school-aged children and seniors living in assisted living facilities throughout Anne Arundel County. Volunteers support their mission (to give children in need the tools for success) with Operation School Bell® Kids In Need (KIN) school uniforms and Project Literacy programs and the Kids On The Block puppet shows. 

Through their signature program, Operation School Bell KIN program, they  provide the required school uniform, free of charge, to children in these Anne Arundel County schools: Georgetown East, Tyler Heights, Germantown, Meade Heights and Van Bokkelen elementary schools, and MacArthur Middle School. Each uniform package includes a navy blue polo shirt, khaki pants, navy blue sweatshirt, socks, underwear, and a toiletry kit for children who have been identified by their school counselors as ‘in need’ of their program. During this past school year (2022-23), they provided over 3,000 school uniforms to just under 2,400 children (depending upon need, some children received two uniforms).

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The AAWGT grant funds were critical in helping meet Tyler Heights’ request for a new uniform for every child in attendance in the fall of 2022. Of the 532 school uniforms that were purchased for these children, 160 were provided with these grant funds.

The Tyler Heights community was hit particularly hard during the pandemic, with families still recovering from financial setbacks. S. Daniels Larson, Tyler Heights community school program manager, stated, “…Many of our families work in the service industries (landscaping, restaurant, cleaning) and they continue to be impacted by reduced workloads, etc. These factors, along with rising prices due to inflation, have impacted families’ abilities to provide uniforms for their students. We rely on the work of Assistance League to meet the needs of these students and their families. The KIN program provides essential resources to our school community. Not only does the annual uniform donation provide students with an enhanced sense of belonging, but it also provides parents with the confidence that their children are dressed for success!”

AAWGT Member Highlight:

Meet Deborah Chin

Deborah Chin joined AAWGT in December 2020, having heard about it through her employer and Martha Schwieters, a long-time AAWGT member.  With an extensive career in nonprofit management, Deborah is the development associate for LETS GO Boys and Girls. The charity creates economic success for underrepresented and marginalized communities by empowering youth through STEM education and workforce development.

Deborah initially joined AAWGT’s Membership Committee and started the morning Getting Together coffees. She also created a tool for membership growth through networking. She currently serves on the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility Committee.

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“One of the biggest benefits I’ve received from AAWGT is the networking—the sharing of ideas. The vast diversity of thought and experience of the women has been so valuable. It’s also touched me personally, as I received amazing support during my father’s recent decline. The doors it opens for people I can call friends has been phenomenal.”

Nonprofits help that happen. “I think one of the great things about nonprofits, which I’ve been working for since I was a teenager, is that they give people an opportunity to gain skills and experience at a much quicker pace than is possible in for-profits. I like to say I’m a conduit rather than an influencer or some other label. If you need something and don’t know where to go, I likely know someone who can help. But I’m also a doer.”

“I come from a family that believes in philanthropy. When my mother’s family emigrated to the U.S. from war-ravaged China, they brought children from the community, eventually adopting them into our family,” Deborah shared. Prior to her current position in LETS GO, Deborah served as the SVP, Strategic Development and CAO at The ERISA Industry Committee. She earned her Certified Association Executive (CAE) credential in 2008 and is an American Society of Association Executives Diversity Executive Leadership Program alumni.

For fun, Deborah loves to cook, try new restaurants, play board games with friends and volunteer in different organizations. She also does a lot of pro bono consulting for various associations and charities.

Save the Date: AAWGT Grants Showcase

Wednesday, September 20, 6:30-7:30 pm
The Atreeum at Soaring Timbers, Annapolis

Registration will open in August.

This event is free and open to the public.

AAWGT Education Event Summary: The Many Faces of Homelessness

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

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
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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). The audio recording of the program will be uploaded to the website soon.

Post Grants Evaluation Committee at Work!

This is the time of year when the Grants Committee, after months of reviewing, evaluating, ranking and finally selecting the best grant applications for our members to vote on, passes the baton to the Post Grants Evaluation Committee (PGEC). Committee members are the first to contact and welcome the new 2023 Grantees. If you would like to get to know our grantees ‘up close’ and learn in depth how they serve our community, there is no better committee to join!

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So what’s the job of committee members? Two liaisons from PGEC are assigned to each grantee to serve as their primary point of contact with AAWGT throughout the grant year. They stay in close touch with their grantees to answer questions that might arise. Grantees are asked to complete very short interim and final reports providing information about the progress and financial status of the project. They also write a short newsletter article during the year about their organization, the clients they serve and how they’re using AAWGT funds. They are also featured at our our annual Grants Showcase so that our members can hear first-hand about the incredible programs they conduct in our community to support women and families in need.

In addition to serving as the grantee point of contact, there are opportunities from time to time where our liaisons can offer volunteer support from AAWGT. For example, if a grantee has a program of distributing food, or clothing, or baby products to a community in need, AAWGT members might help with that distribution. Our liaisons facilitate this kind of support.

Of all the roles liaisons serve, the most important is the relationship they build with our grantees. There are times this relationship provides an opportunity to engage with the clients the grantee serves. For example, a liaison was invited to participate in a discussion with incarcerated women who were learning to make better decisions. Another example is a liaison was invited to observe an online training session held by an immigrant support nonprofit on the topic of asylum and sex trafficking—a session that helped to explain the legal intricacies of navigating various visa applications and understanding legal processes. These are opportunities that only a Post Grant liaison gets so please inquire if this experience interests you!

All AAWGT members — and others inspired by collective philanthropy — are encouraged to attend this year’s Philanos conference, November 5-7 in downtown Baltimore. Philanos is the national association of giving circles and we are a member and a co-host of this year’s conference.

Sue Pitchford and Bronwyn Belling, both AAWGT members, will present at the conference, which will feature sessions on collective power + leadership, communications + technology, governance + finance, and membership + grantmaking.

More conference information can be found here.

A Warm Welcome to Our Newest Members:

Leigh Appel, Catherine de Peuter, Jan Lee, Cheryl Menke, Martha Van Woerkom, Sandy Wilson-Barnes

Find us on Facebook:
Anne Arundel Women Giving Together |
AAWGT is a component 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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