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Anne Arundel Women Giving Together is deeply committed to understanding, and working to help ameliorate, racial inequities in our community.
  • Our Racial Equity Study Group (RESG), now in its third year and composed of 50+ members, meets monthly to discuss a range of social justice, diversity and racial equity issues.
  • In early 2021, the RESG supported our Grants Committee in establishing a new $20,000 grants category to address the causes, not just the effects, of racial discrimination. That award will be made in May.
  • A consultant on unconscious bias was engaged to work with grant reviewers and AAWGT leadership in January and a second program will be offered to our general membership in May.
  • A Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee is being created to conduct an audit of AAWGT’s policies and procedures with the goal of implementing an action plan to address these issues as AAWGT invests, informs, and inspires.
We will continue to update members and the general public on these and other initiatives on a regular basis.

AAWGT is a women’s giving circle with 200+ members. Our mission is to improve the quality of life for women and families in Anne Arundel County, Maryland.

Since our founding in 2006, AAWGT has raised and invested over $1.2 million in local nonprofit organizations!

What is a Giving Circle?

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Our Impact: Invest, Inform, Inspire

We INVEST— pooling our annual contributions for “collective philanthropy,” thus multiplying the power of one by many. Grants focus on health and welfare, education and the prevention and treatment for violence and abuse.

We INFORM — holding in-depth education sessions highlighting issues in our county that require active attention and support.

We INSPIRE — encouraging our members to engage as leaders and philanthropists in our local community.



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.


As we mark our 15th year of collective philanthropy, we are taking the opportunity to highlight a few of our members as they describe what AAWGT means to them. We feature here a relatively new, actively involved member—Michelle Hellstern—and will include other members throughout the year.

AAWGT Member Michelle Hellstern

“My membership with AAWGT has re-energized my stewardship passion and truly allowed me to grow as a servant leader.”
------- Michelle Hellstern, May 2021

Off the Ground and Running

Michelle joined AAWGT in April 2019, having been introduced to the organization by Elaine Stanley at a Rotary Club of Annapolis meeting. Michelle is Senior Director of Corporate Compliance at Luminis Health and an Adjunct Professor at Towson University.

“What resonated with me is AAWGT’s mission,” says Michelle. So, her first step was to get involved as a Grants Reviewer to learn about the grants process. “I like looking from a bird’s-eye view, asking questions such as ‘what’s different or changed about this grant proposal from an organization we’ve funded in the past? And, when looking at potential new grantees, which we should definitely do, do all of their “ducks need to be in a row” and “I”s dotted and “T”s crossed?’”

“The grant review process is the most organized, robust process that I’ve ever seen in any organization I’ve been in. I was impressed and intrigued to learn about the county’s applicant organizations and some of the ladies on this committee,” says Michelle. “For anyone joining AAWGT, I’d recommend the Grants Committee.”

Additionally, last February, Michelle joined the Racial Equity Study Group, which she says is “another example of AAWGT’s recognition of opportunities for continuous improvement with forward-thinking ways to provide unconscious bias education for our membership and beyond. It’s such an open group and all opinions are welcome.” “I just love it,” she says.


Michelle cites three hopes for AAWGT’s future:

  • Continuing to encourage new people to join committees, bringing their fresh perspectives and voices
  • Attracting individuals from diverse groups through involvement in different communities and diverse speakers in education and other panels
  • Tailoring communications to young demographics through social media and in-person opportunities, when possible

“AAWGT has enabled me to meet some amazing women trailblazers who have taught me so much,” says Michelle. Because she lost a son last year and has gone through a year of grief and unusual isolation, Michelle hopes to carve out more time to “reconnect with her sisterhood, getting to know each person individually.” She considers all AAWGT members to be her “sisters and part of her extended family.”




Join your fellow AAWGT members on May 11 for the announcement of the 2021 grants voting results and help celebrate our new grantees. Voting will be entirely online again this year, with instructions and ballot summaries going out on May 3.

Email mocktailsarefun@gmail.com to receive ideas and recipes for a congratulatory toast to our new grantees!

TUESDAY, May 11, 2021
5:00 PM - 6:00 PM
via Zoom

This event is for members only.

Please register HERE. Follow the registration questions all the way to CONFIRM. Your confirmation should arrive within seconds. If you have any questions about registering, please contact: events@givingtogether.org for assistance. The Zoom link to join the program will be sent one day prior to the event.


Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

These events are free and open to the public. Registration and information about accessing these programs will be posted when available.


Has awarded over $1,200,000 in grants since 2007: Read about our impact
Meets 8 times a year: View our events calendar
Has committees that need your help: See where you can get involved
Has an Endowment Fund: Learn how to donate to AAWGT
Sends out a bimonthly Newsletter: Read the latest issue


Grants In Action

$20,000 Grant

Court Appointed Special Advocates

36 new children assigned CASAs
100% of judges reported CASA input informed decision making process
22 new volunteers trained

$20,000 Grant

Laptop Lab and WiFi Bar at Brooklyn Park Library

10 laptops purchased and counter constructed
Staff can provide individual and group instruction
Computers used for video job interviews and writing resumes
Students use the computers for homework

$20,000 Grant

Arundel Child Care Connections: Mujeros Surgiendo - Women on the Rise

Provided partial salaries for supervisors and Spanish Speaking instructors
Purchased computerized training modules

$15,000 Grant

Associated Catholic Charities: Sarah’s House

Funds contributed to classes, certification programs and fees
Funds used to provide free on-site daycare
20 of the 22 clients using our funds are now earning a living wage

These 4 descriptions are a sample of our grants over the last 14 years — Read About All Our Grantees here.

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Anne Arundel Women Giving Together  |  giving@givingtogether.org

AAWGT is a fund of the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County

AAWGT is a member of Philanos: Accelerating Philanthropy through Women’s Collective Giving

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