Event Summaries for AAWGT events for the past year are maintained on this site. All events are summarized in the Full Circle News, the bimonthly newsletter of Anne Arundel Women Giving Together. The full newsletter archive is available here.
Click on the boxes below to read summaries of AAWGT events held in 2019, 2020 and 2021.
AAWGT celebrated its annual Open House on April 14 - once again by Zoom. This get-together gives new and prospective members a chance to interact with longer-term members to learn about ‘who we are’ and ‘what we do.’ So far this year, we are delighted to have had 17 new members join AAWGT and we’re expecting more during our Fifteenth Anniversary year!
President Elaine Shanley opened with two videos offering congratulatory video remarks from Founder Kathy Brooks, and Lifetime Member and corporate sponsor Angie Ponatoski. Elaine then highlighted AAWGT’s mission and how we accomplish it through grant making, engaging and educating women about issues affecting women and families in AA County, and building the power of collective philanthropy. She closed her introductory remarks with a slide showing our cumulative accomplishments over the past 15 years - achieved by awarding over $1.2 mil through 102 grants to local nonprofits.
The Membership Committee, led by Caroline Purdy, Margo Cook, and Mary Ann Bleeke, presented slides describing the mission, impact and time commitment of each of AAWGT’s 10 committees. The last half of the meeting was devoted to breakout rooms to encourage participants to learn more about us by asking questions of current members and sharing what they believe are the most pressing issues in our community today. While a wide range of topics were discussed, common themes were: transportation; food insecurity, particularly during this pandemic year; getting schools back to normal and addressing educational losses, particularly for kids struggling even before COVID; mental health issues for children and families due to pandemic social restrictions; and encouraging diversity and antiracism by building - and re-building - our social connections within our community following this socially isolating pandemic year.
For current members, these discussion groups offered a chance to share why they joined AAWGT, such as friendships made with like-minded women, opportunities to learn about our county nonprofits and how they serve those in need, and participation in the rewarding work to make a difference in our local community. The discussion groups were a lively substitute for our annual in-person Open House.
Closing the meeting, Elaine announced two citations from Delegate Shaneka Henson and Senator Pam Beidle, congratulating our organization for the contributions we have made to Anne Arundel County over the past fifteen years.
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.
The first 2021 education session offered by AAWGT via Zoom highlighted three organizations: The Annapolis Shakespeare Company, The Maryland Hall Outreach Program and the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra Academy. Each has effectively reinvented how and where they deliver their arts offerings, thereby helping to ensure the continuance of a vibrant arts community in Maryland’s capital.
Our creative speakers presented ways the local arts community is using the power of the arts to positively impact youth in Anne Arundel County. Sally Boyett spoke about the Shakespeare Company and its online performances for AACPS classes. She also described extensive outreach partnerships and internships with local performing and visual arts programs. Laura Brino included videos of students, powerfully demonstrating Maryland Hall’s efforts to provide local youth with a safe environment for self-expression, confidence building and the motivation to stay in school. Netanel Draiblate described how ASO professionals teach and mentor music students regardless of income level, with full and partial scholarships offered on a financial needs basis. He also showed touching videos highlighting student performers and what this program means to them.
You can watch the entire program, including the video of Mary Spencer of the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County, HERE.
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 Ar-undel 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.
We were pleased to welcome 106 attendees to this Zoom Webinar. To access a recording of the program and further resources, please click HERE.
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 SusanbCook 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.
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.
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.
he 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.
FUNDAMENTAL NEEDS GRANT
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.s4sannapolis.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
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.
Here are some of the highlights Census 2020 jobs -
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next, Eileen Cortese, Chair of the Post-Grants Evaluation Committee, asked representatives from each of the seven 2018 grantees to describe how AAWGT’s total of $105,136 in grants were put to work over the last grant year, concluding June 30, 2019. The grantees were: Anne Arundel County CASA, Anne Arundel County Public Library Foundation, Inc., Arundel Child Care Connections, Associated Catholic Charities, Inc., Sarah’s House, Seeds 4 Success, Inc., and STAIR—Annapolis, Inc. Speakers shared their thanks and described multiple uplifting success stories. Highlights included library customers being able to conduct job interviews by video, using AAWGT-funded computers; a family whose father doubled his wages through job training paid for with AAWGT funds, allowing them move out of emergency shelter into independent housing; and almost 100 second grade students whose reading level rose from under-performing to at-grade-level due to the efforts of their tutors. A memorable moment occurred when speaker Najiba Hlemi, Executive Director of Seeds 4 Success, shared that she herself had been a “CASA kid” in her youth, a background she has in common with many of the children she helps today. Her story illustrates how local non-profits are working together to make life better for county residents, sometimes without knowing it!
Also introduced during the program were the seven grantee organizations chosen to receive a total of $112,778 in grants for the 2019 grant year, beginning July 1. They are: Creating Communities, Light House, Inc., Organization of Hispanic/Latin Americans of Anne Arundel County, Inc., Rebuilding Together Anne Arundel County, Inc., STAIR-Annapolis, Inc., Tahirih Justice Center, and Touchstones Discussion Project. Attendees were able to visit the organization’s information tables to learn more about their mission and programs, and it will be exciting to hear their stories next year.
Sue Pitchford closed the evening by announcing an exciting initiative to raise $20,000 in donations to AAWGT’s grant fund by the end of 2019 to fund an extra grant in 2020. Details on how to donate to this fund can be found on this site.
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.
As volunteers helped calculate the final tally for 12 organizations, members also learned more about the ongoing research that guides AAWGT in identifying the most critical needs in the community. Guest speaker Mary Spencer, recently appointed President and CEO of the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County, provided an overview of the foundation and its bi-annual publication of “Poverty Amidst Plenty” which surveys major social needs among area families. She pointed out that philanthropy can do much to help low-income women and their families overcome inequalities in health care, education and opportunity-disadvantages that can trap them in poverty.
Following her presentation, the results of the balloting were announced. Six organizations serving Anne Arundel women and families will receive a total of $92,778 through grants ranging from $5,000 to $20,000, for programs beginning after July 1, 2019. We also awarded $20,000 to STAIR for the second year of the Momentum Grant. Names of the organizations and details about the funded programs can be found below.
The Grant Voting Meeting on May 8 selected six 2019 Grantees as described below. The total amount of grants to be awarded though the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County is $112,778. The Grantees included the second year for our two-year Momentum Grant to STAIR-Annapolis for $20,000 following their demonstration of successful progress toward program/project objectives, plus six additional grantees whose efforts are described below.
Momentum Grant—Two-year grant for $20,000 each year
STAIR–Annapolis: Start The Adventure In Reading - $20,000/$20,000
Providing cost-free tutoring for second graders in low-income areas so that 75% of them are reading at or above grade level by school-year’s end. A summer Reader’s Theater program for 6-to-12-year-old children that is designed to maintain skills operates at two community centers. In 2019, STAIR plans to increase the number served from 78 children to 90 to 100 at 12 sites. This is the second year of this grant.
Creating Communities: Youth Programs - $20,000
Offering arts experiences for 850 low-income children after school and in the summer and supporting teachers to add more art approaches for their students. Four programs will be partially funded — (1) Arts Mentorship Academy; (2) Arts Ambassadors for students from Georgetown East Elementary School; (3) Tuesday Afternoon Learning Experience (TALE) and Wednesday After-School Arts Club; and (4) In-School Residencies to allow artists to collaborate with teachers in public schools county-wide.
Light House, Inc.: Family Assistance Program - $20,000
Providing emergency shelter, transitional housing and education for 18-26 adults as they rebuild their lives with compassion as they move toward employment and self-sufficiency. Assistance is focused on effective parenting, financial literacy, employment readiness and counseling is also offered as necessary.
Organization of Hispanic/Latin Americans of Anne Arundel County (no website): Bridge the Gap - $5,000
Partially funding an Office Manager position to supervise volunteers. This office provides pro-bono services to help Hispanic immigrants as they apply for various programs (such as food stamps and medical care) and with various legal issues (such as landlord-tenant issues). Translation services are also offered.
Rebuilding Together Anne Arundel County, Inc.: Urgent Home Renovations for Women and Children in Anne Arundel County - $20,000
Providing free home repairs for single low-income elderly women so that they can remain safely in their homes and communities. Our last $20,00 grant to Rebuilding Together made it possible to complete $143,000 worth of repairs.
Tahirih Justice Center: Protecting Courageous Immigrant Women and Girls Fleeing Violence - $7,778
Offering social and legal services for immigrant Anne Arundel County survivors who have fled or been a victim of domestic violence. The Center is headquartered in Baltimore; transportation may also be provided when necessary.
Touchstone Discussion Project: Building Women’s Life and Leadership Skills for Post-Incarceration Success - $20,000
Delivering 42 weeks of discussion-based educational programming for 200 women incarcerated in the Maryland Correctional Institute for Women in Anne Arundel County. Program develops life and work skills and promotes healthy decision-making and parenting that reduce recidivism.
Members and guests then broke into small groups and considered two questions:
These lively discussions generated new ideas that will be put to good use going forward.
Lesley shared several personal experiences, including being invited with other recognized luminaries as a speaker at a powerful Aspen Institute conference, and then being questioned in the airport “Are you the gospel choir?” On another occasion she was told with great surprise, following her presentation, “You spoke so well”. She then shared that it’s been important to her to “stop collecting evidence”, to stop counting insults, and to move forward instead. In her former role as a teacher she worked extensively with young people from 6th to 12th grade at SEED’s D.C. boarding school, encouraging them to find and use their own voices. She believes this approach, coupled with a strong academic foundation, gives students their own start to leadership.
Lesley ended by sharing that she has learned to become a bridge builder, noting that relationship-building in personal settings, such as a small group dinner, helps us appreciate our differences, and understand the racial inequities that exist. She fervently believes that it is everyone’s job not only to speak their own voice, but also to protect the rights of others to be heard. She reminded us of those in our community who for generations have remained invisible — those who ask, “Do you not see me?” She closed with a rousing final message to the audience: “Let’s be the change, together!”
Lt. General Flora D. Darpino, USA (Ret.), the first female to serve as the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General, discussed her current work as trustee and Secretary of the Service Women's Action Network, tackling longstanding gender disparity in health services for women veterans. Research on women soldiers' experience with quality and accessibility of VA health services was presented by Laura Pinnock whose firm, ALTARUM, conducted the research on behalf of the Veterans Administration. In addition, Dee Loftus, a psychotherapist with Arundel Lodge Behavioral Health Center, and Army veteran Patricia A. Craig, Chairperson for the Mental Health Advisory Council for the Washington D.C. VA Medical Center, shared their moving experiences from decades of treating post-military veterans.
Returning service women often face issues similar to those of returning male veterans - PTSD, depression, and relationship problems with children and with spouses. Unlike male veterans, however, women veterans are much more likely to have been the victims of military sexual trauma and are three to four times more likely to become homeless. One of the greatest barriers to women accessing VA medical benefits, including mental health services, is that many don't understand they are eligible. Fear of stigma, lack of child care, and long lead times for appointments are other barriers for women in need of mental health care. Despite the stories of hardships and the constant struggle to win respect and recognition of women as veterans, it was a hopeful evening, led by four strong women who are working and advocating to better the experience for active and veteran military women.