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Leadership Letter

Welcome to 2020.

We have an incredible opportunity ahead of us—building on the success of the 2019 Steering Committee as they led AAWGT throughout the past year. As this year begins and the new decade opens, there is nothing to stop us from moving forward. 

Our predecessors led by Sue Pitchford and her colleagues on the Steering Committee ended 2019 with more members, record numbers at our events and more funds for Grants. Particularly important is the fact that the Grants Challenge Fund ended 2019 with over $26,000 in additional support for Grants because of our members’ dedication to improving the lives of women and children in Anne Arundel County. Thank you to them. 

Commitment to collective philanthropy is what brings us together to INVEST, INFORM and INSPIRE. Our support of AAWGT is evident in how many of us come together to work on committees, to support our open meetings and to attend membership events. Members of the 2020 Steering Committee, elected by our membership in November, join us in improving the lives of women and their families in Anne Arundel County.

This new year is also a planning year leading to 2021 when we will reach our Fifteenth Anniversary. That celebration will highlight how our initiatives have improved the lives of women and families and lay out the important work still to be accomplished.

Thank you to all who have joined us and to the larger community who support our goals.


Sheila Onuska, President
Elaine Shanley, Vice-President


Member Linda Eggbeer was recognized at the fall membership meeting for her outstanding service to AAWGT as she received the 2019 Founders’ Award. The award acknowledges exemplary participation in the organization, length of service, specific initiatives and achievements and their impact, history of raising awareness and broadening the image of AAWGT, and ability to inspire members to work for the collective good. 

Linda joined AAWGT in 2013. She was elected vice president in 2016, and president in 2017. She is a natural leader and has been the driving force behind numerous new initiatives that AAWGT has launched in the past few years. She has been active in and contributed to almost every committee in AAWGT including Grants, Membership, and Leadership and Development.

She led the Membership Committee in 2019 to develop new ways to attract new members and help them become engaged. Her passion for new ways to expand AAWGT membership translates into increased grant funding for non-profits in our community.

In the community, she projects the best attributes of AAWGT - commitment to our mission, and the integrity of our grants process. In the past year, she has convened a task force to investigate other possible streams of revenue for the Giving Circle. She is always looking for ways to enhance and streamline the processes of the organization and ensure its continuity. She helped author and successfully shepard an article about AAWGT in the What’s Up? magazine.

Linda has also convened a small group of AAWGT members to bring a program on racism to the Anne Arundel County community. This group, called the Racial Equity Study Group continues to meet monthly. She is devoted to keeping AAWGT relevant in our county. Her compassion and leadership have created innovative ways to profile the accomplishments of AAWGT in our community.

2019 Grantee Spotlight

Start the Adventure in Reading (STAIR) - Annapolis

It is the middle of our fiscal year and we are in full swing at 12 program sites. Start The Adventure In Reading (STAIR) - Annapolis, Inc.,continues to serve at-risk children through one-on-one reading tutoring, and the generous support of Anne Arundel Women Giving Together’s Momentum Grant has allowed us to serve MORE students and reach MORE geographic areas in our community. We are so grateful for your gift and delight in the opportunity to share the STAIR story!

STAIR-Annapolis proudly graduated 95 confident second-grade readers from our 2018-2019 school-year program. Measurable results, as shared by Anne Arundel County Public Schools’ (AACPS) Literacy Teachers, showed an average increase of 4.3 levels, using the Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Reading Assessment scale. Our students went from reading at kindergarten levels to reading on grade level or above by the culmination of the program. What a joy it was to celebrate with these hard-working young readers and their tutors, teachers, families, and special guests!

The summer was spent preparing for another successful year. Meetings with the AACPS Reading Team ensured that our program curriculum continues to align with that of the AACPS methods of teaching accuracy, fluency, and comprehension through phonemic awareness. The Bilingual Outreach Facilitator Team helped us seek effective ways to inspire more reading at home, particularly with our English Language Learners and their families. Student materials were purchased and prepped, and our STAIR libraries and games were refreshed and inventoried. We revamped our tutor training program to simplify material and deliver a more interactive introduction to our dedicated volunteers. The month of September was spent training and retraining all STAIR volunteers. We have a 96% retention rate with more than 250 tutors!

This school year (2019-2020), we welcomed 100+ new students in the STAIR program and opened a new site—the 12th—at Tracey’s Elementary School in South Anne Arundel County. October 1st was the kick-off date, and students and tutors are building relationships and working together through the educator-approved curriculum. Students have been observed as eager and energetic, and tutors are enjoying trying creative strategies to keep them engaged and having fun! We anticipate receiving mid-year reading assessment scores soon, as AACPS has shifted their testing schedule earlier this year. This will help us continue to individualize our on-site support to better serve all students throughout the duration of the program.

STAIR staff working in tandem (new Volunteer Coordinator in September 2018, new Executive Director in January 2019, new Communications Manager in February 2019) have added value to the consistency of the program delivery. Modernization of the STAIR website and regular use of online communications has directly contributed to the success of new volunteer recruitment. Print and digital communications have also been developed and shared so that gaining feedback and testimonials from our volunteers, students' families, and education partners easily allows us to respond and grow. Strategic planning and support of the STAIR Board of Directors enables us to expand and sustain our program for the communities we serve.

We are excited to continue growing as an organization and thank you for providing stability during a time of transition. AAWGT has made an impact that reaches beyond measure. From our staff and volunteers to our students and the community at large, we are inspired and eager to keep up this momentum of success!

With gratitude, Laura Iversen, Executive Director, Start The Adventure In Reading (STAIR) – Annapolis, Inc.

From Barbara Goyette, STAIR tutor at Mills-Parole: "I've been a STAIR volunteer for two years. I have tutored children and adults previously in a variety of volunteer roles. STAIR has a clear mission and wonderful resources for helping a tutor bring success to a child -- a very appealing combination. I love seeing the children at work, watching them try with a tutor what they are reluctant to try in their classrooms. My favorite STAIR moment was when my student was reading on his own to me and knew the word ‘especially’ without any prompting. He just beamed when I complimented him.”

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

  • 03/25/2024 6:00 PM
    Anne Arundel Medical Center, Belcher Pavilion, Doordan Institute, 2000 Medical Parkway, Annapolis, MD 21401
  • 04/10/2024 5:30 PM
    Blue Heron Center, Quiet Waters Park, Annapolis

Upcoming Events

February 5, 2020

6:00 PM - 8:00 PM

Education Meeting

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

Dr. Brenda Jones Harden,
Richman Professor for Children and Families at the University of Maryland School of Social Work

Bowen Theater, Maryland Hall,
801 Chase Street, Annapolis, MD 21401

This event is free, open to the public, and accessible to persons with disabilities.

Register Here

March 4, 2020

6:00 PM - 8:00 PM

General Meeting

Women and Leadership: The 10 Year Impact of Your Voice

Maggie Gunther Osbors,
RSenior Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer of the United Philanthropy Forum

Quiet Waters Park, Blue Heron Room,
600 Quiet Waters Park Road, Annapolis, MD 21403

This event is free, open to the public, and accessible to persons with disabilities.

Register Here

2019 Grantee Spotlight

Creating Communities

2019 has been an extra special year for Creating Communities and we’d like to thank the members of AAWGT not only for the generous grant but also for continuing to participate in the life of our organization. In November, several AAWGT members brought delicious, hot turkeys to our annual Thanksgiving Jam where we served nearly 130 students and families from our programs and partners. This is an event where children, volunteers and staff of many backgrounds enjoy a meal together and then create art. The Thanksgiving Jam event sort of sums up our purpose – creating a sense of community through the power of the arts.

Another wonderful way AAWGT has participated in our organizational life has been through the many years of providing hand-made yummy sandwiches for our flagship program, the summer Arts Mentorship Academy. We provide a full-scholarship arts program to 100 students from low income households each June. So, thank you, not only for the incredible grant but also for being an integral part of what we do!

Recently, I was able to sit down and chat with Barbara Goyette and Karin Rees – our grant evaluators from AAWGT. I have to confess – I was so excited to speak with them that I realized later on I probably talked too much! I can’t tell you how much I appreciate their great questions, desire to learn about Creating Communities and help us maximize the grant. So, please allow me to share a few highlights that I shared with them about our marvelous 2019.

We have a budget of $125,000 and on that small budget we:

  • Delivered five concurrent arts program in Fall 2019 including two brand new programs at Marley Elementary School (a Title I in Glen Burnie) and Robinwood (photography in public housing). The remaining three programs were Germantown Elementary, Harbour House/Eastport Terrace and Georgetown East, all places that serve youth from low-income households.
  • Sent 100 students to our multi-award winning Arts Mentorship Academy at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts where students received expert instruction from our mentors as well as water bottles, arts supplies, two meals per day, bags, t-shirts and more. Of course, many AAWGT members were on hand for our grand finale, a moving and inspirational event on the main stage of Maryland Hall.
  • Sponsored and collaborated with Maryland City Elementary (Title I near Laurel) and Germantown Elementary (Title I in Annapolis) to bring world-class musicians directly into the classroom for social studies and language arts collaborations with teachers.
  • In April 2020, Creating Communities partnered with AACPS to bring world renowned Ugandan musician and philanthropist Kinobe to two Title I schools in the City of Annapolis. Kinobe will be traveling with five youth from an orphanage in Uganda to create and connect with our students.

There’s actually so much more that we’ve accomplished but I wanted to share just a few highlights. Creating Communities’ relationship with AAWGT has come such a long way and that’s because the membership has taken the time and energy to observe our programs and ask great questions. This means so much to me as an executive director. Thank you! Our society has been conditioned to think that “The Arts” are somehow secondary to the life of our most vulnerable members of society – children. How false. In reality, children who discover their innate gifts – which are too often misunderstood or squelched by the school system – develop self-agency, self-efficacy, collaboration skills and self-esteem. Think of a world without these critical life skills, especially for our most vulnerable! Finally, Creating Communities has always had an unconventional operations model. It’s nearly entirely collaborative and decentralized. As an executive director, my chief responsibilities are:

  1. Resourcing our mentors with the best available training and tools to connect with our students
  2. Creating a fluid, supportive and transparent atmosphere with our board of directors
  3. Connecting with and creating opportunities for our partners
  4. Sharing our story with funders
  5. Creating strong, replicable programs and processes for a sustainable organization
  6. Staying out of the way as much as possible!

I think through this approach we have reached new heights in 2019 and I am calling the new year 2020 Vision. We’ve only just begun at Creating Communities and we are so grateful for funders, indeed investors and partners, like AAWGT.

With gratitude, Rob Levit

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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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