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AAWGT: Making a difference in our community!

Founders’ Award

Purpose:  To further the work and the ideals of the AAWGT by recognizing and celebrating the efforts of a member who has demonstrated exemplary service to the organization, the AAWGT Founders’ Award is presented to the recipient at the annual  Members Only Meeting.  The Award consists of a printed citation of thanks and a memento engraved with AAWGT and the name of the honoree and year.

History:  The award was established in 2007 in keeping with the community-minded spirit and generosity shown in 2006 by AAWGT’s original 15 founders: Colleen Baldwin, Patricia Barland, Joy Beer, Kathleen Brooks, Shauna Chabot, Anna Greenberg, Barbara Hoffstein, Betsy Kimrey, Becki Kurdle, Debbie Daugherty, Lynda Salamon, Sharon Stewart, Susan Swayze, Helene Tenner and Abbie von Schlegel.

Criteria:  The award is based on a member’s outstanding participation in the organization; length of service; specific initiatives and achievements and their impact; raising awareness about and broadening the image of AAWGT; innovation; and breadth and spirit to inspire and raise the capacity of other members for AAWGT’s collective good.

Read about the Founder's Award recipients below.

Laurie Sharp Running with Scissors Award

Laurie Sharp was a woman who saw no barriers to success. She always had an idea and a plan! A plan that included creativity, problem solving, inclusiveness, transparency, and implementation. She had a desire to improve the world and create opportunities for leadership.  In doing all of this – and with her wild and zany sense of humor – Laurie would say she was “running with scissors.” She did run with scissors, but always with the best of intents and for the right reasons! She left a wonderful legacy for AAWGT and we honor her contributions with this award. (Laurie Sharp – AAWGT Member from December 31, 2007 – March 21, 2014 and President 2013).

Read about the Laurie Sharp Running with Scissors Award recipients below.


Founders’ Award Recipients

Click on the recipient’s name to read more.

Caroline Purdy and Karen Smith, 2018

At the fall membership meeting, AAWGT members Caroline Purdy and Karen Smith were presented with the Founders’ Award for their outstanding service to the organization. The award acknowledges exemplary participation in the organization, length of service, specific initiatives and achievements and their impact, history of raising awareness and broadening the image of AAWGT, and ability to inspire members to work for the collective good.

Caroline Purdy

Caroline Purdy exemplifies the “Giving” in Anne Arundel Women Giving Together. Since she joined in 2010, Caroline has freely given her time and talents to AAWGT. She started as a grant reviewer, graduated to team leader, assistant chair, and then chair of the Grants Committee in 2016. She continues to be active on the Grants Committee, serving as a team leader. She also served for two years as a liaison on Post Grants, and currently is assistant chair of the Leadership Development and Nominating Committee. She will chair that committee next year. In addition, she has participated in the Book Club since 2013, as well as sandwich making for the Lighthouse Shelter.

Few members have made as much impact as Caroline on grantmaking. While she was a team leader, AAWGT converted its database to Foundant, an online grantmaking tool. Caroline spearheaded the transition from manual to online and dramatically increased the efficiency of the process. Caroline continues to be involved with the continual improvement of both the process and tool customization. Caroline was intimately involved with the subcommittee that recommended our new Momentum Grant, which was awarded for the first time in 2018. She coordinated the process to help determine the requirements and details of the new initiative. She thinks through the many facets of each change and is always coming up with new ideas on how to improve the grantmaking process.

Caroline’s enthusiasm for AAWGT and grantmaking is contagious. She works tirelessly to recruit grant application reviewers and team leaders, working with each to adjust the application updates, expectations of the teams, and detail of reviewer input, always keeping the highest level of integrity in the review discussions and decisions.

Caroline has presented multiple times in the January applicant training session. She worked throughout the year on editing and improving the application and the training presentations to clarify the basics and the updates to both educate applicants to submit better applications and to improve the thoroughness and quality of member reviews.

Karen Smith

Karen joined AAWGT in 2011 and, since that time, has been an indefatigable force in moving the organization forward in many areas. Initially active on both the Education and Grants committees, she also served on an ad hoc committee to explore the creation/implementation of AAWGT’s Endowment Fund, which has grown steadily over the years and is an important source of additional dollars for the annual Grants Fund. She was also instrumental in developing the Lifetime Membership Fund, which launched in 2015 and has served as a second important vehicle for ensuring AAWGT’s sustainability. Both of these initiatives required creativity and persistence and she has both in spades.

In 2014 she became president of the organization and brought her positive and professional approach to reviewing and improving functioning of all committees and systems. She made a special effort to reach out to new members and to mentor and encourage them to engage in AAWGT's work, thereby broadening the ideas and perspectives coming in.

In 2016, she was asked to chair the 10th Anniversary Committee, charged with creating celebratory materials and events marking our tenth year. She pulled together a group of longtime and new members to produce, among other things, an especially successful leadership event at St. John’s College in March of that year, and a retrospective of AAWGT’s history and impact that was presented at the September Grants Showcase.

Karen served on the Governance Committee in 2017 as it worked on conflict of interest issues and committee charters. This year she has been an active member of the Membership and Outreach Committee and LDN. She has been recruited as assistant chair of LDN for 2018.

To work with Karen is to join in her delight in the possibilities of this organization and in attracting talented and passionate women to join us; to be exposed to a fountain of new ideas offered in a thoughtful way but cheerfully withdrawn if other ideas prevail; to learn how to embrace process but not let it derail effective and timely decision-making. We could not have a better ambassador for AAWGT and our mission than Karen.

Melanie Teems, 2016

Melanie Teems was recognized at the fall membership meeting for her outstanding service to AAWGT as she received the 2016 Founders’ Award. The award acknowledges exemplary participation in the organization, length of service, specific initiatives and achievements and their impact, history of raising awareness and broadening the image of AAWGT, and ability to inspire members to work for the collective good. Melanie has done all that and more!

Melanie was deeply involved in 2007 in developing criteria for nonprofits to apply for AAWGT grants and was active in the process of first distributing grant applications. She has gone on to serve on the Grants Committee and as a reviewer and team leader. The individual who nominated her said it this way: “Her involvement with the Grants, Post-Grants and Grantee Connect Committees during AAWGT’s formative and later years helped ground our organization’s professionalism and image.”

In addition, Melanie created a number of policies, documents, and presentations designed to train applicants to understand the requirements of AAWGT funding and learn to write comprehensive, well-thought-out proposals. This preparation has been instrumental, particularly with smaller organizations, in helping them “up their game” when applying for funding from any source.  She also developed a grant reviewer worksheet with a comprehensive list of questions for reviewers to use in evaluating applicants as well as a tutorial for reviewers on preparing for and completing an efficient, thorough, fact finding site visit.

Most recently, Melanie served on the 10th Anniversary Committee to plan events to commemorate AAWGT’s first decade of service to Anne Arundel County. Again quoting from her nomination: “Melanie’s selfless and steady involvement in AAWGT represents the bookends of the organization from its fledgling start in 2006 to its now robust state in 2016. Melanie inspires all to be and do their best.”

Sandy Sweeney, 2015

The 2015 Founders’ Award recipient is Sandy Sweeney. A member since 2006, Sandy was involved first in the Post Grants and Evaluation Committee and for 2014-2015,  has served as Chair of the Grants Committee.

Sandy has an uncanny ability to see the “big picture” and then fill in the pieces to create a complete, professional, transparent system. She has taken the Grants Committee to new levels in the two years she has been Chair. Using group facilitation techniques to get consensus and buy in, Sandy has resolved issues and improved the grants process to add a new layer of fairness and transparency.

In 2015, our new online grant management system Foundant was implemented. The development of this system took over a year. Training ensured applicants understood the new process and reviewers were able to get into the system easily.  Sandy worked tirelessly with her partners Judy Coughlin, Barbara Haight and Bronwyn Belling to accomplish this.  Sandy also developed stronger voting criteria by enhancing the language on the ballot to give members real outcomes for each grant application choice.   Sandy’s leadership has also brought in many new reviewers.  She also produced a new Grants Policy that is a culmination of the last ten years of grant making.    

Sandy’s quiet, dependable, creative, and thoughtful leadership has elevated our professional standing in the community and made our members more educated and informed grant makers.

Eve-Marie Lacroix and Diana Rode, 2014

This year's award is unique in that for the first time, it is being awarded to two women.  We have been very fortunate to have the talents and energy of these two women in advancing AAWGT by helping us build significant infrastructure, taking our technology to a whole new level, assisting us in communicating with our members more effectively, rebranding the AAWGT image with a new and professional look and raising our visibility as thought leaders in the community.  

This year’s first awardee’s accomplishments include:

  • Serving as AAWGT’s Webmaster since 2009
  • Leading the research, selection and implementation of a new online platform for AAWGT—Wild Apricot, which has enabled our continued growth
  • Managing the Wild Apricot system by managing member data, facilitating communication with our members and creating an online presence for AAWGT
  • Keeping our website fresh and updated; even being on top of everything while on vacation
  • Patiently teaching Steering Committee members how to use Wild Apricot to support their work and empowering them with new skills and knowledge.
  • Adapting the Wild Apricot system to meet our needs and creating functionality that allows us to remain current and relevant
  • Exhibiting a “can-do” attitude that is infectious as well as being patient with all of us who lack her technical skills

This year’s second awardee’s specific accomplishments include:

  • Leading the Marketing committee as Chair or Assistant Chair and serving on the Steering Committee for the past four years
  • Designing, distributing and archiving every issue of our newsletter since 2010
  • Designing, formatting and producing all of our educational session programs for the past five years
  • Videotaping four major educational sessions, editing and then positing the video on our website and on the AAWGT YouTube channel that she created
  • Organizing, archiving and captioning hundreds of AAWGT event photographs for our online photo gallery
  • Supporting the maintenance and enhancement of our website and serving as a member of AAWGT’s IT/Web Team
  • Providing technical support to our members on Wild Apricot’s web-hosting systems, our Google Drive archives and the Foundant   technologies’ Grant Management System currently being implemented
  • Setting an example of being willing to do anything, such as frequently setting up and breaking down seating at various events
At this point, it&squo;s probably no surprise who both of these women are!  Both women have worked tirelessly and put in countless hours on behalf of AAWGT—all without fanfare and little public recognition.  Words used to describe both women include:  tireless, patient, gracious, "“hands on” and leading by example. 

It is my honor to announce that the AAWGT 2014 Founders’ Award recipients are Eve-Marie Lacroix and Diana Rode.  Unfortunately, neither one of them was able to be here this evening.  They have been notified and are deeply honored to receive this award. 

— Gloria Martin-Pressman, AAWGT Past President and Chair of the Founders Award Committee, December, 2014

Susan Swayze, 2013

Susan Swayze was announced as the recipient of this year’s Founders’ Award during the November 13 membership meeting. The Founders’ Award is presented annually to a member who has demonstrated exemplary service to the organization. The award is based on a member’s outstanding participation in the organization; length of service; specific initiatives and achievements and their impact; raising awareness about and broadening the image of AAWGT; innovation; and breadth and spirit to inspire and raise the capacity of other members for AAWGT’s collective good.

Since 2005, Susan has been engaged with AAWGT as one of the 15 original Founders. She served as a member of the original Grants Committee and then went on to serve as a grants reviewer, review team leader, Assistant Chair and Chair. She has also served on Steering Committee, Fundraising/Leadership Development and Nominations Committee and the Endowment Committee.

Former Leadership Award recipient Tara Clifford, who chaired the nominations committee, announced this year’s awardee, saying, “Never willing to say no, [Susan] has been extremely generous with her time and her talents. The entire AAWGT organization has benefited from her leadership and her unselfish devotion.”

Photo:  Tara Clifford (r) presents Founders’ Award to Susan Swayze.

Laurie Sharp, 2012

At the November 14, 2012 meeting, AAWGT President Laurie Sharp was announced as the recipient of the 2012 Founders’ Award, which is presented annually to a member who has demonstrated exemplary service to the organization.  Tara Clifford announced this year’s awardee, saying, “She leads.  She advocates.  She understands.  She relates.  She inspires.  She encourages.  She’s systematic, happy artistic, resourceful and positive.”

Lynne Davidson, 2011

Lynne Davidson is the recipient of the 2011 Founders’ Award.  Lynne joined AAWGT as a Founding Member in 2006.  Early on, Lynne chaired the Education and Program Committee with great distinction, then served as Vice President in 2009 and as President in 2010, bringing her considerable organizational skills and talents together to lead our organization.   Lynne has demonstrated incredible forward thinking and planning skills, and has shared her many valuable and longstanding connections with the community and  its nonprofits. AAWGT has also benefitted immensely from her strong communication and marketing background.  Lynne understands the need for AAWGT to be both a ‘high touch’ organization through ongoing member communications like newsletters, meetings and events–including the recent and well-received educational session on immigration—as well as a ‘high tech’ organization through efficient use of new technologies.  AAWGT is extremely grateful for Lynne’s wisdom, generosity and kindness.

Gloria Martin-Pressman, 2010

The AAWGT Founders’ Award recognizes a member who has demonstrated exemplary service “over and above the normal duties” by contributing significantly to our growth and structure, and raising awareness of/broadening our image.  The 2010 recipient, announced on December 8, is Gloria Martin-Pressman, whose multiple nominations applauded both her extraordinary mastery of leadership skills along with her “from the trenches” contributions, including serving as Past President, Membership Assistant Chair, leading our first strategic planning effort, creating our new membership buddy network, regular lunch maker, shameless membership promoter, and hostess par excellence.  To quote one of the nominations, “AAWGT is fortunate to have Gloria as a member, leader and friend!”

Tara Clifford, 2009

It was with great pleasure that prior recipients Sharon Stewart (2007) and Bronwyn Belling (2008) announced at the December meeting that the 2009 Founders’ Award recipient is Tara Balfe Clifford.  Tara’s service to AAWGT is extraordinary:  one of our original founding members, she has single-handedly recruited more members than any other member, helped launch the Grants Committee and has generously shared her expertise and wisdom, gathered in part from the Baltimore Women’s Giving Circle.  Tara also designed and implemented the first Post Grants Evaluation Committee, has graciously served as an AAWGT goodwill ambassador par excellence and has performed admirably as meeting hostess and guest photographer. 

Tara Clifford has been a model of resourcefulness, leadership, and enthusiasm—the qualities that have helped to make AAWGT what it is today.  And she has done all of this with a most humble and generous spirit.  

Bronwyn Belling, 2008

Bronwyn Belling was presented with the AAWGT’s 2008 Founders’ Award.  AAWGT is grateful to Bronwyn for her tireless work over the past two years as Chair of Grants Committee and for setting up the Grants Committee procedures, which have been so successful.  Her professional background as a grantmaker and grantee provided a unique combination of skills from ‘both sides of the table’ as our grantmaking got underway.   As one of the original Founding Members of AAWGT who first joined in 2006,  Bronwyn has contributed countless hours to helping AAWGT grow and thrive,  including assisting with events as needed, and providing calligraphy for our member and guest nametags.    Bronwyn was recognized this year for her ‘Exemplary Service and Leadership.’


Sharon Stewart, 2007

Sharon Stewart  received the first annual Founders’ Award, presented at the December 12, 2007 AAWGT Meeting.  In presenting the award, Kathy Brooks recognized Sharon as “someone who has dedicated much of her life to the non-profit world, someone who very quietly, but with grace and dignity takes on challenges others might ignore.  Without her tireless efforts, patience and great vision, we would not have accomplished all the work and great results we celebrate today.”  We thank Sharon for everything she has done, and for the inspiration she has given all of us. 


Laurie Sharp Running With Scissors Award Recipients

Click on the recipient’s name to read more.

Bronwyn Belling, Judy Coughlin, Barbara Haight, and Sandy Sweeney, May 2015

As an evolving women’s giving circle, AAWGT has been developing its grant program for eight years. Lo and behold there came a time when the complexity and growth of the system clashed with the ability of AAWGT to keep track of its process using paper and pens and clunky IT. But it came to pass that several visionaries in AAWGT had a glimmer of an idea.  Would it be possible to change the course of the grants cycle by placing it on a new and stronger platform.  First, there was the need to get buy in from strategic leaders!  Following that, were many months of rigorous research as well as miles traveled for discovery!  Finally, there was the quest for funding for the first three years of operation.  The initial process took well over a year and yet another to implement the plan. Persistence and patience dominated!

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! The “running with scissors” idea has blossomed from plan to reality! AAWGT now has a brand new on-line grant process that ensures a future of procedural integrity as well as continuing historical and statistical perspective for our philanthropy.
AAWGT prodigiously thanks the following women for their incredible steadfastness and leadership in birthing and developing this new tool for the Giving Circle.

Judy Coughlin: for her vision of seeing the need for sustainability of the grants process.
Barbara Haight: for technical expertise in programming and implementing the data for the on-line program.
Sandy Sweeney: for her dedication to making sure the essence and heart of the grants process was included in the new innovation.
Bronwyn Belling: for her continuing historical perspective and hands on labor of love for improving the grants process and AAWGT.
We hereby designate the above four AAWGT members as the First Inaugural recipients of the Laurie Sharp Running with Scissors Award.

DATE: May 13, 2015
Maureen Cavaiola, President 2015
Mary Grace Folwell, Vice President/President Elect 2015
Karen Smith, Immediate Past President 2014

Caroline Purdy

Bess Langbein, former Executive Director, CFAAC, September 2015

Since the very beginning, AAWGT and CFAAC (Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County) have been closely intertwined.  CFAAC board members Becki Kurdle and Anna Greenberg were intimately involved as founding members who recruited other community leaders and helped get AAWGT off the ground.  In 2007, CFAAC lost its then Executive Director and for a short period considered dissolving the foundation and making it a Donor Advised Fund of the Baltimore Community Foundation.  Would Anne Arundel County no longer have its own community foundation?  Then, in steps Bess Langbein – a dynamic young woman who had already made a name for herself in the community through her fundraising consulting with a number of nonprofits, including the Boys & Girls Club.  As the interim executive director during that time, I had the pleasure of meeting with Bess and being blown away by her maturity and abilities.  Fortunately, the community foundation board agreed, too. Taking over as Executive Director in February 2007, Bess immediately set to work making CFAAC a well-known name in the community.  In many ways, her style was very “Laurie Sharp Running With Scissors” – doing what needed to be done, but with an engaging and playful spirit that comes from her deep love for our community.  She has an incredible gift of connecting with people from all walks of life and instilling in them a desire to “make a difference.”  Like the little red-haired girl in the comic strip Peanuts, Bess has a special place in our hearts. We all admire her and hope that she admires us, too.

In the midst of transforming CFAAC, Bess also was very involved in supporting AAWGT.  CFAAC provided support as our fiscal agent, partnered with us on community events and grantmaking, and helped recruit new members.  In fact, it has sometimes been difficult to remember whether CFAAC board members were involved first with the giving circle or the community foundation!  But, that’s the joy of the symbiotic relationship that has developed between AAWGT and CFAAC. 

Bess, we hope that you will continue to be a member of AAWGT and part of our wonderful family of smart women. Like Laurie Sharp, in your role as Executive Director of CFAAC, you have left a wonderful legacy for our group as we enter our second decade.

Citation: AAWGT is forever grateful to Bess for advancing philanthropy in Anne Arundel County, making our community a better place for all, and supporting and expanding the work of AAWGT.

We hereby designate Bess Langbein as the recipient of the Laurie Sharp Running with Scissors Award.
DATE: September 16, 2015
Maureen Cavaiola, President 2015
Mary Grace Folwell, Vice President/President Elect 2015
Karen Smith, Immediate Past President 2014

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