Making a Difference for Women and Families in Anne Arundel County

Making a Difference for Women and Families in Anne Arundel County

By Julie Crudele

Anne Arundel Women Giving Together

Anne Arundel Women Giving Together (AAWGT) began in 2005 when a small group of local women who believed that substantial change can be achieved in small financial increments, came together to make a difference in the lives of women and children who lived in their communities.

They recognized the need to tackle locally heartbreaking issues like poverty, hunger, trauma and abuse, which for the most part affect just women and children in Anne Arundel County. In spite of being an affluent county, the 2000 U.S. Census found there were more than 26,000 people, nearly two-thirds of whom are children, living in poverty. Many of these children live in single-parent households headed by women.

The Power of Collective Philanthropy

In order to harness their collective ability to make meaningful change, AAWGT formed as a women’s giving circle. Giving circles are a growing philanthropic trend in the U.S. and AAWGT recognized that using this model would allow their members to leverage the impact of many small charitable contributions by pooling their resources, and then making grants to local groups with innovative programs to improve the lives of women and families in Anne Arundel County.

Circle members also have the opportunity to connect with the community, and to participate in a social network of women who learn from, and are energized by one another while learning and working together toward shared goals to make lasting, long-term change. There are many opportunities for members to learn about philanthropy as a vehicle for social change through monthly meetings where expert guest speakers talk about needs in the county, and share the latest approaches to making long-term, positive change. All events are free and open to interested women.

Since being founded in 2006, AAWGT has grown from the 12 women to well over 100 members. They have also made close to $100,000 in awards through two annual grant cycles to programs serving county women, families and children, particularly in the areas of education, health and welfare and prevention of violence and abuse.

The 2009 grant review process is currently underway and will award $64,000 at a Grants Showcase Event to be held on June 10. The event is open to the public, and will give interested women an opportunity to learn more about AAWGT. Grant awards in 2008 included the following:

Annapolis Area Ministries, Inc., for its Building Futures Program, which provides a self-sufficiency program and a program of mentoring, skills training and family rebuilding for victims of homelessness and domestic violence.

Anne Arundel County Court Appointed Special Advocates, where funding is needed to support its training program and reach more children. CASA volunteers advocate for and support abused and neglected children who are involved in juvenile court proceedings to ensure their right to a safe, stable and permanent home.

Rob’s Barbershop Community Foundation – for its Gifts for Grooming program, which addresses the knowledge, skill and financial needs of Anne Arundel County foster parent households in providing appropriate and adequate hygiene for foster children.

Sarah’s House, where funding provides childcare services for homeless children aged six weeks to six years, and an aftercare program for homeless school children who are residents of Sarah’s House. Sarah’s House serves homeless children and their families and provides safe shelter, meals, counseling and dignity to women and children in a nurturing environment.

Women Entrepreneurs of Baltimore (WEB), for a pilot outreach program to empower low-income women from northern Anne Arundel County to start their own businesses. The program’s success in Baltimore has led to this expansion, where disadvantaged women will be accepted into the program through a competitive process and thorough screening.

YWCA of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County – for their Life Skills Training program, where grant funds will be used for a weekly life skills workshop at Arden House, the only safe house for victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault in the county. The program provides skills in parenting, employability, good nutrition and budgeting.

Membership

Participating in a women’s giving circle is an interesting and fun way to meet other dynamic women in the community.

Members are women of all ages, from diverse backgrounds and live in all parts of the County. The only requirement for membership in AAWGT is a contribution of $550 annually or $275 for women who are age 35 or under. Membership fees support grants awarded in the following year. There are lots of opportunities for members to be involved in the grants decision-making process, including reviewing and making recommendations on grant proposals as a member of the Grant Reviewers Subcommittee.

For more information please contact the Membership and Outreach Committee Chairwoman Martha Hoyer at (410) 647-6690 or at sycamore34@aol.com or Bess Langbein, executive director of the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County (AAWGT is a fund of the foundation) at (410) 280-1102 or at bess@cfaac.org AAWGT’s Web site is www.givingtogether.org where you can download a membership form.

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