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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.

2020-23 Events

Click on the boxes below to read summaries of AAWGT events held in 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023.

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 levels make AAWGT more affordable

    Expanded Membership Structure

    Five membership levels 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 levels previously available. Regardless of the level 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 tiers? 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!

Fifteen percent of adults in Anne Arundel County have a low level of literacy. For education on this important topic, on November 9, 2022, AAWGT presented a virtual panel discussion. Introduced by Education Committee Chair Tatiana Klein and moderated by AAWGT Vice President Susan Cook, the presentation featured three individuals actively involved in the AACo Literacy Council:

  • Jane Seiss, executive director
  • LaToya Saunders, Literacy  Council alumna and high school diploma graduate
  • Susann Felton, math and high school tutor and trainer.

Since 1977, the Literacy Council has been offering free, weekly, one-on-one tutoring to help adults build literacy skills. Approximately 300 volunteers, who receive training from the Council, provide students with tutoring in Basic Literacy, Math, GED (General Educational Development), NEDP (National External Diploma Program), and ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test) preparation, and college coursework. AAWGT awarded the Literacy Council grants to fund one-on-one literacy training in 2007 and a tutor training workshop in 2010.

A Pressing Need

The ramifications of low literacy are felt in all areas of life, including health, household income and outcomes for children. “We target as students the thousands of adults and out-of-school youth who cannot read at a functional level. Challenges such as working more than one job and lack of transportation, childcare or access to technology, stack up against these individuals,” said Jane Seiss. “Boosting their literacy through one-on-one learning can help them increase their self-esteem, raise children to have strong reading, writing, speaking and listening skills, take advantage of job opportunities, and many other essential benefits,” noted Susann Felton.

FY22 Stats

  • More than 300 trained tutors (the majority of which are actively tutoring)
  • 14 staff and support volunteers
  • 13,000+ volunteer hours each year
  • 198 active students, with 58 pursuing basic literacy, 66 English as a second language, and 74 high school equivalency or the ASVAB (to qualify to enlist in the military)
  • Student waiting list of fewer than 50 individuals

Student Goals

The student’s goals set the agenda for his or her tutoring. “One of the first things a tutor does when he/she meets with a student is to ask, ‘What are your big goals,’” described Susann Felton. Answers often include earning a high school diploma (from about ½ the students), obtaining a driver’s license, getting a job, better job or promotion, obtaining U.S. citizenship, getting into the armed services, registering to vote or voting, learning to communicate in English, and reading a book to children or grandchildren.

“About a third of our current students are non-English-as-a-native-language speakers,” said Seiss. “Our tutors work with ProLiteracy materials, around which they receive training.”

LaToya’s Story

As a requirement to retain her job, LaToya found herself in the position of needing a high school diploma within a one-month timeframe. “I tried on my own, but just could not do it. With only two weeks left to the deadline, I reached out to the Literacy Council,” she said. “I did lose my job, but I met a cool tutor who kept working with me, and in 2018, I walked across the stage to receive my high school diploma.”

Currently, she has her own cleaning business and is the supervisor for the crossing guards for Annapolis City Police Department. She mentioned referring friends and people she meets to the program, letting them know the importance of getting a diploma through the help the Literacy Council provides and encouraging them to become a student.

Felton commented this: “LaToya should be incredibly proud of what she accomplished. After losing her job, she still had to care for three younger siblings and pay the rent, so she was working three jobs. Yet, she made the time to meet with tutors several times a week. Her work ethic and performance have been extraordinary.”

Tutor Qualifications

If you can read and write, you can tutor! “You don’t have to be a teacher to be a tutor,” said Seiss. “Beyond attending a day-long training session, held in the spring and fall, usually on a Saturday in Severna Park, you just need a desire to help someone and a willingness to meet the student at a local library once a week. We will train and support you.”

Tutors spend from a month to many years working with a student, depending upon the relationship and needs. Many develop long-time friendships that are very special to them. A few tutor-student meetings occur virtually, but most meetings are in person.

What the Literacy Council Needs from the Community

Funding for textbooks, materials and technology, as well as additional staff and training, are ongoing needs of the Literacy Council. “We always are seeking public understanding of and support for literacy needs,” mentioned Seiss. “And of course, we always need volunteers.”

For More Information

If you are interested in learning more about becoming a volunteer tutor, the next tutor training workshop is planned for March 2023. A date will be confirmed in early January. For more information about the Literacy Council, see its website at or call 410-269-4419.

AAWGT members and guests learned about 19 local nonprofits working with women, children and families at our annual Grants Showcase on September 13, 2022. Eleven of those local nonprofits are 2022 grant recipients. Eight of them received grants from AAWGT in 2021, and made presentations at the event.

The theme of the evening was acknowledging the power of one, multiplied by many. By that, we mean that our members’ contributions to our Grants Fund and Endowment Fund, when added together, have an amazing impact on vulnerable members of our community. In fact, since its founding in 2006, AAWGT has awarded 121 grants to 47 nonprofits totaling close to $1.6M.

“We look forward to the Grants Showcase throughout the year, not only because it gives us a chance to meet with all of you, our members and guests, but because we have an opportunity to hear first-hand from the 2021 AAWGT grantees about their inspiring accomplishments toward helping women and families in Anne Arundel County,” said Sarah Sweeny, chair of the Post Grants Evaluation Committee, which hosts the annual event.

Sarah went on to summarize the impact that our giving circle had on those served by our grantees:

  • Annapolis Immigration Justice Network: provided legal and case management to 192 immigrants.
  • Anne Arundel County Court Appointed Special Advocates: advocated for abused and neglected children, helping to change the lives of 30 children.
  • Anne Arundel County Food Bank: expanded and stocked baby pantries serving 5,760 people.
  • Charting Careers: supported young people through mentoring, and college and career readiness, improving the lives of 100 young people.
  • Co-op Arundel: taught financial literacy, life and self-introspection skills to 30 women through the My Sistah’s Keeper program.
  • HOPE For All: provided furniture, new beds, linens and kitchen items to 863 households.
  • Marshall Hope Corporation: expanded newborn and toddler pantries serving over 3,000 people last year.
  • Rebuilding Together: provided urgent home repairs and furniture for 30 women homeowners.

We are appreciative of the many hours our Post Grants Committee liaisons devote to keeping us up-to-date on the grantees’ work during the year.

Members and guests went home that night inspired by all that our grantees accomplish. You can learn more at

When driving up to the Marshall Hope Corporation in West Annapolis on June 23rd, the first thing you see is rows of cars lined up, bumper-to-bumper, ready to receive donations of groceries, feminine products, diapers, cleaning supplies, baby blankets and clothing. Those rows of cars, along with the orderly pick-up stations, illustrate the “why” and the “how” of Marshall Hope’s monthly pop-up food pantry.

About 30 AAWGT members came to the parking lot of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Annapolis to help out on June 23 for our Post Grants field trip. Due to covid, we hadn’t been able to have our annual field trip since 2019. So it was really exciting when our Post Grants leaders, Chair Sarah Sweeney, and Assistant Chairs Bev Nash and Caroline Purdy, connected with Marshall Hope to once again give us first-hand knowledge of how our grants impact those in need.

Marshall Hope received grants from AAWGT in 2021 and 2022. The first grant was $10,000 to help with the food pantry. This year’s grant was $20,000 and was earmarked to purchase diapers, formula and feminine pads for the food pantry, plus supplies for the new Marshall Hope Learning Center. Marshall Hope’s mission is to spread hope in the Annapolis community by providing essential resources and services to members of the Hispanic community who lost their income due to Covid and do not have access to federal aid.

Our members were put right to work that Thursday afternoon placing boxes of diapers onto pallets to be taken to the first station at the pop-up pantry. Other members put portions of rice, beans and masa into bags. That food would be added to the dairy, chicken, vegetables and baked goods that are handed out.

The food pantry is a feat of organization. Marshall Hope volunteers first go car to car, marking on the windshield how many families are represented by each driver. If the driver’s families need diapers, the required size is also marked on the car. Finally, clothing size is put on a sticky note on the windshield. Drivers then go through the pantry stations three at a time, with volunteers giving them the requested items. Those in need leave with a week’s supply of food. The need was so great that afternoon that the pantry opened early, as the line of cars was reaching out to Ridgely Avenue.

Marshall Hope was founded by Amy Marshall and Diana Love. In April 2020, they joined forces to support the family of an early victim of Covid. They then got a list from an Anne Arundel County Public Schools social worker of 50 families who were desperate for food due to job loss. The organization grew thanks to generous donations of money, a refrigerated truck, and more, so that they are now serving 350 households at each pantry. The Presbyterian church also donates the use of their modular buildings for all food and donation storage. Marshall Hope works with churches of all denominations, and they partner with many local agencies.

We were proud to be able to help Marshall Hope that day, as we work to fulfill our mission to improve the quality of life for women and families in our community.

Costs of Meals Given Out at the Pop-up Pantry:

  • $30 dinner for family of 4
  • $40 diapers for 1 child for 1 week
  • $60 toiletries for a family for 1 month
  • $350 dairy for 1 distribution for 250 families
  • $1,200 rice, beans and masa for 1 food distribution

On June 8, AAWGT presented a panel discussion for members and the community on Wrongful Incarceration and the Innocence Project’s work to free wrongfully convicted individuals and improve the criminal justice system. The virtual presentation was moderated by Carl Snowden, a longtime civil rights activist, founder of Carl Snowden and Associates, and the Convener of the Caucus of African American Leaders in Anne Arundel County.

Panelists included:

  • Robyn Trent Jefferson, Innocence Project, Post-Litigation Fellowship Program, with 34 years of experience as a paralegal litigation specialist
  • Lisa Woodward Lunt, a former federal public defender now teaching federal public defenders and court-appointed panel lawyers as Attorney Advisor, Defender Services Office — Training Division, Administrative Office of the US Courts
  • Michelle Murphy, an exoneree who spent 20 years in jail due to a wrongful conviction

What Is “Wrongful Conviction” and the Mission of the Innocence Project?

Wrongful conviction is when an individual either pleads guilty to—or is convicted by—a jury for an offense that that individual didn’t commit, described Lunt.

The Innocence Project is an independent nonprofit, whose work is guided by science and grounded in antiracism. Since inception in 1992, the Innocence Project has used DNA and other scientific advancements to prove that a conviction was wrongful. The organization has helped to free or exonerate more than 200 people who, collectively, spent more than 3,600 years behind bars. Such efforts have led to the passage of more than 200 transformative state laws and federal reforms. Today, the Innocence Project continues to fight for freedom and drive structural change.[1] The Innocence Project is affiliated with 70 organizations nationally (for Maryland, see and 13 abroad.

“The Innocence Project is intrepid and dogged in identifying the problems in the legal system, which often impact people who may be innocent of offenses,” said Jefferson.

The Close Link of Racism and Wrongful Conviction

Many agree that criminal justice system reform is sorely needed. “Systemic racism pervades society and is ‘baked into’ the criminal justice system—the way policing is done, the way laws are written, and the way mandatory minimums, which have a coercive effect, are applied,” said Lunt. Innocent individuals take plea bargains rather than risk getting a longer mandatory minimum sentence following a trial. “The system perpetuates racism, often leading to a disproportionate incarceration rate for people of color,” she said.

Relevant data for Maryland:

  • Maryland has a disproportionately Black prison population: 70% of its prisoners are Black, while Blacks in the state comprise only 30% of overall population.
  • Maryland ranks #1 among the 50 states in such disproportionality. The Justice Policy Institute cited as possible reasons for such disproportionality the underinvestment in communities (particularly in Baltimore), over policing, extremely harsh sentencing and restricted parole practices. Disproportionality is most pronounced among emerging adults (ages 18-24).
  • Anne Arundel County, youth of color (ages 11-17) represent 41% of AAC’s youth population in 2020, yet 67% of juvenile complaints.

Nationwide, huge racial disproportionality is evident in the legal system, spanning arrest, conviction and sentencing. Systemic racism is baked into the overall criminal justice system and Maryland has a lot of work to do, particularly related to juvenile justice reform. Said Lunt, “It’s hard as a lawyer, particularly a new one, to come into Maryland’s detention centers and see primarily black and brown prisoners in cages, and it gets harder and harder over the years.”

Said Jefferson, “‘Junk science’ has falsely convicted a lot of people, as have faulty eyewitness identification, police and prosecutor misconduct, and incentivized testimony from jailhouse snitches, and other people. It’s up to us as part of a community to work to stem and eradicate wrongful conviction.”

Michelle Murphy’s Story: A Victim of Wrongful Conviction

At age 17, Murphy, a single mother of two young children, awoke one morning in 1994, and her 3-month-old son had been brutally murdered in her kitchen. Murphy called the police. “I was raised to believe the police were the ‘good guys,’” said Murphy. But this wasn’t true in her case.

The officer who was in the room with Murphy during her 8 hours of interrogation told her repeatedly that she was the one who committed the murder. His coercion included mentioning that the only way she’d get home to her 2-year-old daughter again would be to confess to the murder by claiming that she accidentally killed her baby. So, she confessed to a crime she didn’t commit.

In 1995, Murphy was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. “I was devastated,” said Michelle. “I lost everything.” Among other misleading evidence, at the trial, the prosecution falsely implied to the jury that blood recovered from the scene matched Murphy’s blood type.[2] Murphy spent 20 years in prison.

Then, in 2014, after a five-month effort by lawyers and the Innocence Project, a Tulsa, Oklahoma, court exonerated her of the murder of her infant son based on DNA and other previously undisclosed evidence pointing to her innocence.

The long-term impact of wrongful conviction on Murphy has been, and continues to be, immense. “What kept me alive during 20 years in prison was needing to prove to my daughter that I was not who they said I was during my trial,” said Murphy.

How to Make a Positive Difference Individually and Collectively

As described by Carl Snowden, consider these actions:

  • Research: Educate yourself about Maryland’s criminal justice system. Visit the Anne Arundel Detention Center.
  • Investigate: Ask state’s attorneys and circuit court judges about Maryland’s diversion programs to reduce incarceration. What do they do to partner with the Innocence Project? This will indicate that the incumbent or candidate is interested in assuring that people who should not go to jail, do not go to jail. Be active in your investigation.
  • Vote: Know that voices and votes do make a difference. Coming up is one of the most consequential elections of a lifetime. When you look at your ballot, don’t skip any races like a judge, state’s attorney or sheriff. These positions impact the criminal justice system in a big way. In advance of the election, inform yourself by asking the candidates questions, such as for a state’s attorney: What is she/he doing to assure that falsely accused people don’t go to prison? Will he/she be open to new discoveries of information that would lead to a new trial?

As described by Michelle Murphy, consider these actions:

  • Support the Innocence Project
  • Create local sources of help: If there’s not something available locally to help exonerees, create it. We all need help. If it were not for the Tulsa County Public Defender’s Office, I still would not be able to have a job, because the crime is still on my record and a lot of people would not hire me.
  • Inform your vote: As mentioned by Mr. Snowden, be mindful of the kind of people, like State’s Attorneys and judges, that you elect to office. Do your own investigation, not follow behind the leader blindly by accepting solely what that individual is saying in his/her campaign. Look into the candidate. It’s your vote that helps gets that person into office.
[1] From The Innocence Project website at 
[2] The Innocence Project News: 09.12.14.

Making a Positive Difference for Anne Arundel County Women and Children

On March 16, in recognition of Women's History Month, AAWGT's Leadership Development and Nominating Committee presented an energizing panel discussion for members and the community on women leaders in climate action and environmental justice. The virtual presentation included three experts in local and regional environmental issues affecting the health and welfare of women and children in our county:

  • Member and panel facilitator Kate Fritz, Chair of AAWGT’s Marketing & Communications Committee, and CEO of Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay;
  • Carmera Thomas-Wilhite, Director, Urban Conservation Initiative with The Conservation Fund, and Board Vice-Chair, Anne Arundel County (AAC) Watershed Stewards Academy; and
  • Lynn Heller, Founder and CEO, Climate Access Fund, and Chair, MD League of Conservation Voters.

Watch the full webinar here. Please click the Download button to see the video. A summary follows.

Setting the Stage

The impacts of climate change are becoming a regular occurrence in AAC. Increased flooding, destructive storms, and rising temperatures have a long-term impact on our most vulnerable citizens. Kate described AAWGT’s journey of racial awakening and desire to be a part of the solution to environmental and social inequities that create challenges for vulnerable residents. She provided facts about the county, including:

  • 550 miles of shoreline threatened by sea level rise;
  • Rapid loss of tree canopy due to developments;
  • 15% of single heads of households below the poverty level;
  • 12% of AAC residents living in “food deserts,” with no food available within one mile of their homes;
  • Inequitable access to green space across the county; and
  • Asthma rates, associated with ER admissions costs that are 1.3X higher for AAC black residents when compared to the state overall.

Among other challenges, rising waters and increased storms will result in wet basements, mold, and indoor air quality issues, and increased property damage. Rising urban heat will cause health issues in areas with minimal or no tree canopy and heat-absorbing impervious surfaces. Industrial land use is disproportionately located within the black and brown communities, resulting in decreased health outcomes in these areas.

Suggesting the use of “anti-Vegas” rules during the webinar, Kate encouraged listeners to learn, listen, and share their thoughts with others so that positive change can continue to spread. Questions and abbreviated responses from the panelists appear below.

What brought you into this space and what does this moment in time mean to you?
Carmera described how her grandfather instilled early in her life the importance of taking care of nature. He modeled the ability to speak up about environmental burdens that many communities deal with. She wants to be in the same room with the burdened, to elevate their voices and be part of the solution. Lynn describes an “ah ha” moment many years ago after hearing a speaker talk about the rapid onslaught of climate change. She decided to devote the rest of her life on the planet toward assuring that her children and their children can enjoy the outdoors in the same way she has always done.

What are the most pressing issues and how does one get started?
The two biggest issues cited were the need to be equitable across the board with available resources for improvements in all communities, and time—the clock is ticking.

What can we do to protect our most vulnerable residents?
At a high-level, answers included helping to set priorities for, and assuring accountability of, governmental agencies and elected officials. More grassroots strategies follow.

Please share an action that people could take in their everyday life to be part of the solution for some of these challenges.
Sometimes it can all seem overwhelming, and people don’t know how to plug in to help. So Lynn recommended identifying the aspect of environmental and social issues or a sub-issue you’re most passionate about (for example, the Chesapeake, equitable clean energy, etc.). Each has its own action entry point, she said. For instance, if you’re worried about the impact of flooding on the vulnerable, she pointed to organizations, like the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative, that focus on indoor air quality and improving the indoor and outdoor environment for lower-income households. You can connect in a donor way, volunteer your time, and other means. Carmera pointed to the importance of connecting to the people who are impacted by the issue you’re interested in. Knowing what the other half of the world experiences is important. Getting outside and connecting with nature is also a wonderful way to see what’s going on.

Can you talk about public access to water?
A lot of the shoreline in AAC is privatized and not accessible to the greater community, notes Carmera. The county has tried to address this by putting in public boat ramps, purchasing parcels of land for public parks, but a lot of communities don’t have equitable access. Many organizations are trying to address this, including The Conservation Fund, cited Carmera.

Does it really matter if a single person contacts their elected official about an issue?
Carmera is a firm believer that individual action or small group actions can make a big difference. Many officials really do want to hear from their constituents. Testifying or sending letters of support or lack thereof ensures that your voice is heard. If your representative is not taking action, you must hold them accountable at the next election. “Does a single vote count?” asked Lynn. “Yes, because it’s part of the collective. If we all sat home and did nothing, we wouldn’t have an impact.”

Do you think that the climate change movement does a good job in messaging? How can we do better?
Much of the messaging has been around sea-level rise, noted Kate. The communication often is at a high level and doesn’t drill down to the community level, said Carmera. When you think of the effect of something on individuals or communities, you can shift the story. Lynn adds that messaging is a work in progress. Maryland’s focus has always been water quality and the Chesapeake Bay. Now it’s much broader, but she indicated we could do a better job in messaging around the intersection of climate change and public health and safety where the impacts of extreme weather are felt.

What keeps you hopeful for the future?
Kate cited hope because environmental and social activists are now sitting at the same table. Lynn said she’s hopeful because things are moving in the right direction at the individual level, where more and more players are involved. The earth will be fine 500 or 1,000 years from now; it’s humanity that will not be fine and a lot of folks are recognizing that, she said. Carmera is hopeful because the conversation about equity has come to the attention of so many people and organizations; all want to be part of the solution. This cohesion is “building community resilience” throughout society.

Concluding Comments

Kate ended the session by mentioning that the Women in Leadership Forum is putting together a resource called “My Action Guide.” It will provide links and things readers can do related to climate change and surrounding women and family issues.

Again, the recording of the full session on March 16 is available here.

An informative presentation by Dr. Pamela Brown demonstrated that there is still much work left to do to improve our county’s impoverished neighborhoods. We hope that this valuable information assists you when making decisions and determining actions to make the best impact. We want to thank our Q & A moderator Chanel Compton who created a lovely atmosphere and commentary with Dr. Brown, helping us process all the information.

Please view the recording and slide deck HERE If you were unable to attend the zoom event.

The AAWGT Education & Program Committee presented its final program of the year on October 21 via Zoom: an in-depth discussion of Maternal and Infant Mortality entitled Who Will Save Our Mothers? Dr. Monica Jones, Systems Chair of Luminis Health, Women & Children’s Services, served as keynote speaker. Dr. Jones thoroughly explained the current state of maternal & infant mortality, both in this country and in our county. She demonstrated that America’s maternal & infant mortality is twice as high as Canada’s and three times higher than Great Britain, emphasizing that most of these deaths are completely preventable. The underlying reasons for these shocking statistics were clearly delineated.

State Delegate Shaneka Henson masterfully moderated a wide-ranging and informative conversation with Dr. Jones and a panel of community stakeholders in our state & county who working on these issues. Our distinguished Community Stakeholder Panel included: State Senator Sarah Elfreth; Joy Hatchette, Associate Commissioner for Consumer Education and Advocacy at the Maryland Insurance Administration; Dr. Michael Udwin, MD, FACOG Medical Director, Practice & Payment Transformation, CareFirst BC/BS; Dr. Glenda L. Lindsey DrPH, MS, RDN, LDN, Lecturer at Morgan State University, Co-Director of the Inspiration Factory that focuses on nutritional counseling, and Public Policy Coordinator for the Maryland Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics; Kristin Marshall, BA, Parent Educator for the Healthy Start Program sponsored by the Anne Arundel County Health Department; and Gail Coffee, RN, BSN who has been with the Health Department for almost two decades and is now working in the Healthy Start Program.

The lively and engrossing conversation covered everything from stories from patients susceptible to problem pregnancies to what the State Legislature and private insurance companies are trying to do to ameliorate these problems. A full recording of this program, speaker bios and other resources can be found on our Resource Page. HERE.

This year’s 15th Anniversary Grantee Showcase was hosted at the Annapolis Maritime Museum in Eastport on September 22. Despite the rainy weather, we were so happy to be able to get together with friends and colleagues in person on this important occasion!

Nine 2020 grantee organizations were highlighted as they described the work they’ve done and their successes during a most challenging year. The nine Grantees are:

Newtowne Community Development Corp: From Surviving to Thriving, a residence program supporting women toward personal development

The Annapolis Immigration Justice Network: Legal Fund/Family Preservation Project which enables female heads of households to obtain legal representation for their immigration court cases

AAC Food Bank: Baby Pantry which this year improved and expanded baby pantry services for low income families in spite of the pandemic

Chrysalis House Inc: Training for Childhood Development Staff which served 150 women and 59 children

HOPE for All: Turning Houses into Homes which supported 122 single women households, 83 of which were single moms with children

The Light House: Family Assistance Program which supported 240 households in finding permanent housing, of which 42 individuals were supported with the AAWGT grant

Seeds 4 Success: Student Health Wellness Initiative: which teaches youth how to improve their health habits and those of their families

Services from the Heart: Backpack Buddies/Food Backpack which distributes food to at-risk children, this year delivering 1,343 backpacks with 25 holiday meals to 106 children in three elementary schools

Touchstones Discussion Project: Expanding Women’s LifeLeadership Skills for Post-Incarceration Success a discussion-based program for women at the MD Correctional Institution. Due to COVID-19, the AAWGT grant this year was used to build internal staff capacity.

In 2021, AAWGT donated over $138,000 to eight nonprofits who shared their organization’s information and talked with AAWGT members during the evening. 2021 Grantee are: Co-op Arundel: My Sistah’s Keeper; Marshall Hope Corporation: W. Annapolis Pop Up Pantry; Annapolis Immigration Justice Network: Legal Assistance Project; AAC CASA Inc: Court Appointed Special Advo-cates; AAC Food Bank: Expanding Baby Pantries; Chart-ing Careers: College & Career Readiness; HOPE for All: Turning Houses into Homes; and Rebuilding Together: Urgent Home Repairs. We look forward to working with all of these dedicated and creative organizations over the next year.

The AAWGT Grantee Showcase is an annual event and gives us the opportunity to highlight and thank the many dedicated organizations who work diligently to improve the lives of women and their families in Anne Arundel County.

On June 9th The AAWGT Education and Programing Committee presented an engrossing panel discussion on Affordable Housing in Anne Arundel County. Kathy Koch, executive director of Arundel Community Development Services (ACDS), Theresa Wellman, chief of community development for the City of Annapolis, and Melissa Maddox-Evans, executive director, CEO of HACA are leaders in Affordable Housing in the County and were our amazing speakers, moderated by Ardath Cade, a longtime affordable housing champion. The audience was given a true picture of what affordable housing means and what funding resources are available for the seniors, disabled adults and working families that would otherwise not be able to afford to live in Anne Arundel County. We learned about tax credits or reduced debt costs for private and nonprofit developers which, in turn enable lower-than-market-rate rents to persons with limited income. And we were also informed of Public Housing with its funding problems in the past and its hopeful future.

To hear the recording of this program, please click HERE.

Additional event resources may be found here. Resources include Luke Frederick’s Anne Arundel County Public Library presentation providing a startling history of laws that have impacted affordable housing with additional resources provided by our Event Presenters including the HACA Quarterly City Council Presentation.

Affordable Housing = Public Housing?

In her introduction, Cade made clear that public housing is only one piece of affordable housing. The latter is defined as housing that serves persons whose income is 60% or less of the median income in the region. This means that a person with a median income under $44,000, including the fully or partially employed, elderly, and disabled, may be eligible for affordable housing in the County.

Theresa Wellman, Chief of the Community Development Division for the City of Annapolis, underscored the fact that many people don’t understand the breadth of individuals who need affordable housing which often includes your children, your parents and a large percentage of the nation’s workforce. A common misconception, she said, is that affordable housing doesn’t look like market-rate housing. In fact, she noted that the 25 affordable housing sites in the County (13 of which are in Annapolis), blend into their communities and come in many forms, including rehabbed homes and apartment complexes.

To ensure affordable rentals and ownership, the Community Development Division’s practices include rehabilitation of existing units, acquisition, new construction, lease/purchase arrangements, and payment in lieu of taxes. The Division also administers the federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) for Annapolis that provides help to low-income homeowners to make repairs to their homes.

Do Financial Incentives Work?

Kathy Koch, Executive Director of Arundel Community Development Services (ACDS) described how funding for affordable housing typically is made available through financing mechanisms such as tax credits or reduced debt costs for private and non-profit developers, which enable lower-than-market-rate rents to persons with limited incomes.

ACDS runs programs focused on increasing/maintaining homeownership and rental housing, providing housing to individuals with special needs, fair housing, eviction protection, and ending homelessness. Additionally, ACDS, alongside its many partners, acts as a developer, funding administrator and project manager for a variety of affordable housing and community development initiatives.

What about Attainable/Sustainable Housing?

Melissa Maddox-Evans, Executive Director/CEO of the Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis (HACA) noted that HACA serves approximately 1,100 families, with 700 receiving public housing in sites around the City and 400 receiving housing choice vouchers and tax credits. Rent increases or decreases depend on household income and the wait for housing is 1-3 years.

With a FY 2021 budget of $13.5 million, HACA is not able to meet 100% of need. Because housing authorities are not allowed to leverage their owned properties — only to manage them — there is now a $70 billion backlog in capital improvement needs for housing authority properties in the U.S. But, through the Rental Assistance Demonstration Project, HUD now allows authorities to partner with private investors that are dedicated to affordable housing.

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.

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