Catonsville Women's Giving Circle announces $28,000 in grants

The Catonsville Women’s Giving Circle announced $28,000 in charitable donations for this year, to be given to 14 organizations doing work in the Catonsville area.

The amount of money raised is a record for the group, which formed in 2010. It collects the funds through membership fees of $250, co-convener Claire Rudman said.

“Our philosophy is collective philanthropy,” Rudman said. “If we can bundle our money together, we can have a much better impact on our community.”

At a meeting last week, the 112-member group approved grant requests from organizations including Arbutus Middle School, the Lazarus Caucus at the Westside Men’s Shelter and Catonsville Emergency Assistance.

The Giving Circle’s communications coordinator, Dianne Burch, said a committee made site visits to each organization applying for a grant, then final decisions were made “by consensus.”

Bonnie Harry, director of Catonsville Emergency Assistance, said her organization’s $1,530 grant will be used to replace flimsy paper bags with reinforced bags, which she said will better hold up to the weight of the emergency groceries the group gives out every week.

“We’re really excited,” Harry said. “Knowing I’m going to get this grant is just so helpful. It’s good all the way around.”

The bags, Harry said, will especially help people who come to the center by bus or mobility transportation to get their groceries home.

Rudman said the group focuses on funding specific projects that directly impact the Catonsville community.

“The money has to be used within the year it is requested,” Rudman said. “The criteria is that the project has to have some impact on our community or foster relationships within our community.”

One grant, for instance, will fund the UMBC Foundation’s initiative to help refugees with the college preparation process, Rudman said. Another will fund scholarships for Arbutus Middle School students to participate in an outdoor educational experience called NorthBay.

The Giving Circle is both a social opportunity and a way to make charitable funds more impactful, Rudman said.

“This is really an opportunity to see money go a whole lot further than it would on an individual basis,” she said. “It’s neat to see how 112 women can come together and make a decision about what to do with our money, with no muss, fuss or bother.”

The group’s first round of grants, in 2011, totaled $8,000, according to its website. Since then, the amount has increased almost every year as membership has grown.

Rudman, a member for five years, said the Giving Circle is rewarding because she can “drive around Catonsville and get to see the fruits of our labor.”

“I think it’s a wonderful form of female fellowship,” she said.

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