AAWGT President Sheila Sheila Onuska and Vice President Elaine Shanley were interviewed by Annapolis Spy. Annapolis Spy is an online portal for local public affairs, arts and culture. Listen HERE.

AAWGT Grants $139,381 to Local Nonprofits

May 13, 2020

The Grant Applications that will be funded by our 2020 Annual Grant Fund were decided by the AAWGT Membership on May 13. This year, because of the Coronavirus Pandemic social restrictions, all voting was online only. Though an unfamiliar process for some of our members, over one-half voted, more than ever before.
This was a year of big accomplishments for AAWGT and the Grant Fund. A record amount of money was raised for grant distribution, thanks to our generous members and the special Grant Fund Challenge. We also had 48 grant applications which was more than ever before, partly because of how widely the Call for Applications was distributed. And, it goes without saying, the amount of time every member of the Grants Committee put in to review and evaluate all the submitted grant applications was extensive. All this hard work culminated in 17 applications approved for the ballot.
New this year is the Fundamental Needs Grant. This grant has a maximum of $10,000, and the organization making the grant proposal must be headquartered in Anne Arundel County and have revenue of no more than $100,000. The program/project being proposed must address the areas of food insecurity, parenting support and/or the needs of children from birth to five years. This being the first year for this grant, the Grants Committee was pleased with the quality of grants that made the ballot.
The Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County will be distributing the $139,381 Grant Fund to eight Regular Grants plus the Fundamental Needs Grant. Each is described below. This year, because of the pandemic crisis, the decision was made to allocate all the Grant Fund dollars rather than returning the remainder after full grant amounts were awarded to the 2021 Grants Fund. Therefore, Center of Help, the first choice of the voters that could not be funded in full, will receive the remaining $3,073.


Newtowne Community Development Corporation — From Surviving to Thriving: $10,000

Provides case management and mentoring services to at least 10 single mothers in Woodside Gardens Apartments, a low-income housing complex in Annapolis helping them change behaviors so they can become effective persons and parents and move away from poverty. www.newtownecdc.weebly.com


Annapolis Immigration Justice Network — Legal Fund/Family Preservation Project: $20,000

Provides legal services, guidance, accompaniment, translation services and referrals to non-legal assistance to immigrants as they navigate the complex immigration process. www.aijnetwork.org

Anne Arundel County (AAC) Food Bank, Inc. — Baby Pantries: $10,000

Improve and expand AAC Food Bank baby pantries which provide baby food, formula, diapers, wipes and other essential items to low-income parents/guardians in Anne Arundel County. www.aafoodbank.org

Chrysalis House, Inc. — Training for Child Development Staff: $6,330

Gives the children in their care the best possible start in life, through a structured, nurturing environment, which will help break the generational cycle of addiction, crime and poverty. www.chrysalishouses.org

HOPE For All, Inc. — Turning Houses into Homes: $19,978

Provides basic goods to AAC women and families in need so they can establish healthy homes and lives after homelessness and crises. www.hopeforall.us

The Light House, Inc. — Family Assistance Program: $20,000

Supports a comprehensive program for homeless families, families at risk of homelessness and homeless individuals working to reconnect with their children to promote long-term self-sufficiency. www.annapolislighthouse.org

Seeds 4 Success — Student Health and Wellness Initiative: $20,000

Increase S4S students’ use of their health insurance and access to primary care providers as a preventative measure and move them away from using only the ER. www.seeds4success.org

Services from the Heart — Backpack Buddies Program/Food Backpacks: $10,000

Provides weekly food backpacks to 100 economically disadvantaged children in the FARM (Free and Reduced Meals) programs in Anne Arundel County at three Title I schools. www.communityservicesfromtheheart.com

Touchstones Discussion Project — Expanding Women’s Life and Leadership Skills for Post-Incarceration Success: $20,000

Delivers 42 weeks of discussion-based educational programming for 200 women at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women (MCI-W) in Anne Arundel County. Develops improved life and work skills, promotes healthy decision-making and parenting skills and reduces recidivism. www.touchstones.org

Our First Virtual Grants Showcase

September 9, 2020

On September 9th, AAWGT presented its annual Grants Showcase by Zoom Webinar. Members and guests alike embraced the new format, with 211 registrants.

This annual event is our chance to literally “showcase” the wonderful work of our 2019 grantees who just completed their grant year. This year we added a segment to shine light on our new 2020 grantees—9 organizations that together received over $130,000 to fund their work in the coming year.

Showcase Moderator Susan Cook and Post Grants Evaluation Committee (PGEC) Chair Kate Caldwell kicked off the one-hour presentation, noting that over the past 14 years, AAWGT has invested over $1.2 million in AAC nonprofit organizations.

The Webinar provided an opportunity for grantees to tell us about the challenges and successes of their grant year. Presenters included Rob Levit/Creating Communities, Jo Ann Mattson/Light House; Tony Gamboa/Organization of Hispanic & Latin Americans of Anne Arundel County OHLA, Barbara Cupp/Rebuilding Together AAC; Laura Iversen/Start The Adventure in Reading STAIR - Annapolis, and Stefanie Takacs/Touchstones Discussion Project. Kristen Strain/Tahirih Justice Center was unable to attend due to illness but Susan Cook highlighted their project.

Our 2020 grantees were highlighted in a PowerPoint presentation we created to congratulate them on their newly-awarded grants.

  • Newtowne Community Development Corporation - From Surviving to Thriving- $10,000
  • Annapolis Immigration Justice Network - Legal Fund/Family Preservation Project - $20,000
  • Anne Arundel County (AAC) Food Bank, Inc. - Baby Pantries - $10,000
  • Chrysalis House, Inc.- Training for Child Development Staff - $6,330
  • HOPE For All, Inc. - Turning Houses into Homes - $19,978
  • The Light House, Inc. - Family Assistance Program - $20,000
  • Seeds 4 Success, Inc. - Student Health and Wellness Initiative - $20,000
  • Services from the Heart - Backpack Buddies Program/Food Backpacks - $10,000
  • Touchstones Discussion Project - Expanding Women’s Life and Leadership Skills for Post-Incarceration Success - $20,000

The event closed with a thank you to our sponsors for their ongoing support and a reminder to all attendees that additional information about the grantees is on our website.

Education Meeting: Trimming Health Inequity

June 17, 2020

Barbershops and beauty salons have long been trusted gathering spaces. Dr. Stephen Thomas and the Health Advocates In-Reach & Research (H.A.I.R.) Program use the strength of this trusted relationship to bring critical health screenings and information into the community.

Our keynote, Dr. Thomas, UMD, School of Public Health, Dir. Center for Health Equity, began with the history of mistrust of doctors by persons of color due to the long history of unfair practices and mistreatment. He shared his research from the study at Tuskegee and highlighted the disparities in coronavirus sufferings. His research came to life when he showed us how life expectancy can be predicted based solely on your metro stop.

In a lively discussion, Dr. Thomas and barbers Mike Brown and Fred Spry explained how they bring nurses and physicians into their barbershop to screen for diabetes, colorectal cancer and hypertension, and to promote flu shots. The barbers leverage their trusted client relationships to save lives from the barber chair, and they teach healthcare workers to do the same.

This education program was presented via a Zoom webinar. A recording of this event may be found here.

Education Meeting: The First 1,000 Days of a Child’s Life

February 5, 2020

Keynote Speaker, Dr. Brenda Jones Harden, set the stage for a powerful conversation about the critical needs of an infant, and the long-lasting effects of neglect. Her dynamic presentation before 141 attendees, described research demonstrating that brain growth starts prenatally, with peak development from two months to three years of age. She shared brain PET scans, comparing scans from a baby with a dependable caretaker, who regularly speaks, hugs, and interacts with the baby against the scans for a baby who did not have those benefits.

The difference is striking. Neglected children suffer from long-lasting decreases in cognitive, language and social skills for the rest of their lives. Evidence-based interventions for parent and child through private home visits, Early Head Start, Judy Centers, can make a difference—and the earlier the intervention, the more successful. Shockingly, the U.S. lags behind other countries in quality earlychildcare. Tatiana Klein provided statistics from AA County. Tamira Dunn presented the wide range of services provided by the Judy Center program.

Find Dr. Harden’s presentation and more on this important subject here.

2019 Grantee Field Trip: Sarah's House

September 25, 2019

Open since 1987 as a safe haven for women, children, and families who are homeless or abused, Sarah’s House is located on the edge of US Army Fort George G. Meade and consists of eight refurbished Army barracks housing office space, emergency shelter, dining facilities, a day care center, and four apartments where clients can live while obtaining support services.

Executive Director Kathryn Philliben briefed the group on arrival and introduced her staff, all of whom have been at Sarah’s House for at least 12 years. Kathryn explained that incoming clients are initially placed in emergency shelter so that case managers, program assistants, and training staff can identify the type of assistance needed.

Each individual or family is given their own room with a door that locks, and as many clients have not experienced such security and safety in the past they are thrilled to have some privacy. Residents’ meals are donated by churches, volunteer organizations and businesses. Stays in the emergency shelter are limited to 90 days after which clients move either to one of the apartments at Sarah’s House or somewhere in the county, where they are given financial help with rent for up to a year.

Kelly Anderson, Manager of Client Services, explained how the staff is organized to help clients with multiple issues. Case managers specialize in one area, making them more efficient in obtaining assistance, whether with legal matters, mental and behavioral health issues or employment and financial needs. Staff seeks to listen and help solve problems while also instilling self-reliance. Regarding employment, Eileen Meagher, Manager of Housing and Employment Services, explained her staff seeks first to identify client interests, as the more interested in the job being pursued, the more likely the client is to stay with the program. AAWGT grant funds were used in the past year to fund many of these training and certification classes.

Sarah’s House is always open to volunteer assistance and can use donations of twin bedding, both new and gently used. Pillows must be new. If you are interested in helping, please contact them at volunteersarahshouse@cc-md.org.

Moving Forward to Reduce Racial Inequity

Following AAWGT’s sponsorship of a half-day meeting in 2018, presented by the Racial Equity Institute and attended by over 300 community members, we formed the Racial Equity Study Group (RESG). It is a safe space for members to continue to grapple with issues of racial inequity and to learn and explore what AAWGT might do in our community.

RESG worked with the Grants Committee to create a new 2021 grant category that addresses the causes, not just the effects, of racial inequity. We have brought in a consultant on unconscious bias to help prepare reviewers for upcoming grant reviews.

We’ve created a Resource Guide that captures a range of materials suggested by our members. And, we are reaching out to other giving circles and philanthropic organizations across the country to learn and to share.

The Racial Equity Study Group is a place to pursue AAWGT’s commitment to address racial inequity as we Invest, Inform, and Inspire.

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.

Annual Women and Leadership Forum—The Cost of Silence: Census 2020

March 4, 2020

“Women’s voice is vital in achieving a fully functioning society,” stated Karen Smith, chair of the AAWGT Leadership Development and Nominating Committee, in introducing AAWGT’s annual Women and Leadership Forum. She emphasized that we as women leaders need to use our voices in Census 2020 because the cost of silence is high. To drive home her point, she told attendees that during the last decade, Anne Arundel County did not receive more than $43 million in federal dollars it could have received….simply because one in five residents did not respond to Census 2010. For our community to receive the resources it needs, everyone must be counted in Census 2020.

Karen further explained that AAWGT’s annual Women and Leadership Forum is scheduled each year to coincide with International Women’s Day and designed to inspire and empower each of us as women leaders. This is especially pertinent this year as we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote in the United States.

Karen then introduced AAWGT vice president and program moderator, Elaine Shanley. Elaine introduced Maggie Gunther Osborn, senior vice president and chief strategy officer, United Philanthropy Forum. Maggie gave a dynamic and informative presentation about the challenges, misconceptions and implications of Census 2020, sharing that $1.5 trillion in federal dollars will be allocated to state and local agencies based on numbers generated by this Census. She also identified the biggest challenges to achieving a “full count”: (1) reaching the hard-to-count; (2) accessing the new online systems being used for first time this year; and (3) the lack of trust in our government’s use of Census data.

Following Maggie's remarks, Elaine introduced Charlestine Fairley, PhD, CEO of Anne Arundel Community Action Agency, and Jennifer Purcell, PhD, chief of staff, Office of the County Executive, who provided the local viewpoint and what we as individuals and organizations can and should do to ensure that everyone in Anne Arundel County is counted.

Elaine facilitated a very active question-and-answer period with our three speakers, drilling down on key questions such as data security, the Census roll-out timeline, efforts to reach the hard-to-count, and the actual cost to agencies such as the Community Action Agency resulting from undercounting. Elaine then recognized Christine Feldman from the County Library System who explained the Census education and assistance that libraries are providing to County residents – and recognized Phyllis Wai-Naftal from the US Census Bureau, who spoke of Census-related employment opportunities.

In closing the meeting, Karen called attention to our role as trusted ambassadors within our community and the importance of making our voices heard among these groups by sharing with them what we learned tonight. Together we can help facilitate an accurate Census 2020 count for Anne Arundel County.

More information about Census 2020 can be found here. An interactive map tracking data collection can be found here.

Education Meeting: Transportation—A Route to Education, Jobs, Health Care and Food

October 3, 2019

Transportation: A Route to Education, Jobs, Health Care, and Food, AAWGT’s third educational program in October, focused on an issue that is seemingly intractable in our large, spread-out county of Anne Arundel.

Dr. Celeste Chavis, Associate Professor in Transportation and Urban Infrastructure Studies at Morgan State University, used maps to illustrate the inherent inequity in current public transportation systems in Baltimore City. One example is the long commute to school facing many lower income children who must use public transportation. Dr. Chavis also defined several types of equity that can impact public planning, including procedural equity, which asks whether residents who have been historically excluded from planning are authentically included when a proposed policy change or new project is considered.

Dr. Pamela Brown, Executive Director of the Anne Arundel County Partnership for Children Youth and Families, also provided maps to demonstrate the need for improved public transportation in Anne Arundel County. She reported that transportation has ranked among the three highest every year that Poverty Amidst Plenty, a county needs assessment report, has been produced.

The final speaker of the program was Steuart Pittman, County Executive for Anne Arundel County.  Pittman recognized his Transportation Officer, Ramond Robinson, who has worked tirelessly to make incremental changes that make a real difference, as highlighted by Pam Brown's presentation. Pittman thanked Anne Arundel Women Giving Together for convening the discussion, and thanked the group for its commitment to the issues of lower-income residents of Anne Arundel County.

Education Meeting: Craving a Solution to Hunger—A Path to Food Security by 2030

June 12, 2019

AAWGT’s second educational program in June drew one of the largest audiences ever, with 130 members and guests registered. In this land of plenty attendees were given a chilling overview of the number of people in the US who are not sure when and how they will get their next meal.

Karen Bassarab, Senior Program Officer at Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, and Christine Melendez Ashley, Deputy Director for Government Relations at Bread for the World, began by reviewing the root causes of chronic food insecurity. Governmental policies, food advertising and societal norms were identified as factors in poor nutrition practices, along with more individually- based barriers to good nutrition such as lack of nutrition knowledge and unhealthy lifestyles. Limited access to healthy food due to urban “food deserts” was also identified. The overall result is that compared to white Americans, Latino families are two and a half times more likely and African American and Indigenous families are up to three times more likely to be food insecure. It also was reported that regardless of race, 30% of female-headed households are food insecure.

While causes vary, food insecurity universally creates a vicious long-term cycle of decline among affected populations. Inadequate nutrition from conception to 24 months negatively affects a child’s ability to succeed throughout life. This pattern continues through youth and adulthood, as an ongoing diet of non-nutritious, calorie-dense foods causes obesity and associated chronic diseases, ultimately leading to increased healthcare costs and decreasing the financial resources needed to purchase nutritious food.

In looking towards solutions, it was heartening to learn of recently formed county/school partnerships to combat food insecurity locally, as presented by Ann Heiser Buzzelli, RD, LDN, Community Education, Anne Arundel County Department of Health and Jodi Risse, RD., Supervisor, Food & Nutrition Services, Anne Arundel County Public Schools. After surveying the Brooklyn Park Community, Ann & Jodi encouraged a local farmer and other partners to set up the Brooklyn Park Farmers Market featuring foods with a rainbow of colors, enticing attendees to taste new foods. Jodi also applies the rainbow of colors approach to nutritious eating in school cafeterias, where students may serve themselves an unlimited number of fruits and vegetables.

The final speaker of the program was Michael Wierzbicki, a North County teacher who has pioneered a STEM education program for underserved students to combat food insecurity. Mike provides hands-on classes in growing nutritious food in urban gardens, farming tilapia, and tending honey-producing bee hives. Through these activities he teaches lessons in environmental science, nutrition, and general science, as well as principles of business. His students have started packaging their foods under the Cohort Brand, and several samples were displayed. At the completion of the program, Mike and his student assistants shared product tastings with the audience.

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