Most children don't connect finding a turtle with donating to a charity — but to the children of Buffy Beaudoin-Schwartz, it makes perfect sense.

During a vacation last summer on Block Island off the coast of Rhode Island, Beaudoin-Schwartz's two children found a turtle. They were so enchanted by it, they decided to have a lemonade stand one afternoon to sell drinks to thirsty tourists. Then they donated all the money they made to the Block Island Conservancy.


"That's their perspective," their proud mother explains. "They've grown up with an awareness of civic engagement and giving back."

That awareness is due, in large part, to having a role model like their mother. As communications director for the Association of Baltimore Area Grant Makers and an original member of Women's Giving Circle (WGC) of Howard County, Beaudoin-Schwartz has made giving back to her community a personal and professional goal.

Still, it came as a surprise to her when she learned she was one of two women who will be honored later this month by WGC and The Mall in Columbia as exemplary philanthropists. Beaudoin-Schwartz and Hammond High School Principal Marcy Leonard were selected by WGC to be honored at the first "City Gives" charity event, scheduled Sept. 13 from 5 to 8 p.m. at The Mall in Columbia. The evening features food, wine, giveaways and a look at the season's hottest fashions. All proceeds from ticket sales benefit WGC.

"Through our partnership, the WGC presented us with the chance to honor Buffy Beaudoin-Schwartz and Marcy Leonard — two amazing Howard County philanthropists," says Michelle Jose, marketing manager for The Mall in Columbia. "The City Gives charity event is a fantastic way to celebrate their good works through fun, food and fashion, all while making a difference in the lives of women and girls in our community."

Mall representatives decided to host the inaugural event with a partner charity and selected WGC — a group of more than 1,000 women who partner to address the needs of women and girls in Howard County through donating time, money and expertise. Last year WGC celebrated its 10th anniversary and announced that in that time it had donated more than $1 million to area efforts, organizations and individuals in need.

"This is The Mall in Columbia's first year partnering with the WGC, which allows us to continue our strong community commitment, as well as caring for and giving back to women of all ages in Howard County," Jose adds. "Their mission statement resonated with me as a businesswoman, and we are happy to assist in developing future altruistic women."

Megan Bruno, vice chairman of the WGC executive committee, says it was an easy choice to honor Beaudoin-Schwartz and Leonard.

"We wanted to honor Buffy Beaudoin-Schwartz with an Impact Award because she's been involved in the Women's Giving Circle for so long and in so many ways," Bruno says. "She's helped sharpen what our organization has become, and she's still invested in coming up with new ideas to keep it fresh."

Leonard, who has helped promote the annual Journey camp for girls and nurtured a partnership between WGC and Maryland Leadership Workshop, will be honored with a Leadership Award.

"Marcy Leonard is wonderful at making connections where there weren't any before," says Bruno, the daughter of Yolanda Bruno, one of WGC's three founding members. "She has been instrumental in forging a partnership with Maryland Leadership Workshop that has greatly benefited the girls who participate each year in our Journey camp."

Marcy Leonard, a member of WGC for the past seven years, says she was surprised by her selection, but adds that she couldn't think of any other community where she would want to invest so much of herself, personally and professionally.

"I grew up here, and I still live here," says the Columbia resident. "This is such an incredible community to be a part of and I got so much out of growing up here that it's important to me to give back any way I can."

Of particular interest to her is the annual Journey camp for rising eighth- and ninth-graders in Howard County. Each summer 25 girls are selected to attend the one-week residential camp, which focuses on team building, self-esteem, self-awareness and empowerment as women.

Leonard has worked in the school system for 18 years, most recently as the principal at her alma mater, Atholton High, and now at Hammond High.

"The idea is to help participants tap into their own self-awareness and reinforce the message that it is OK to be who they are," she explains. "When they understand that, it becomes much easier for them to resist peer pressure and to make healthy physical, emotional and intellectual choices for themselves."


Beaudoin-Schwartz also was surprised by the honor.

"I'm so humbled and surprised because it's such an honor that they even thought of me for this award," she says. "I'm lucky enough to work in the field of philanthropy, so it's important to me professionally to be engaged in my community as well as personally so I can give back whenever I can and be a good role model to my children."

To Beaudoin-Schwartz, volunteering with WGC is more than an extracurricular activity. "It's about finding something meaningful that you care about and want to invest your time and money and energy into."

For 1,000 women throughout Howard County, WGC satisfies that need.

"I think the Giving Circle is so popular because there is no one right way to be involved," Beaudoin-Schwartz,  an Ellicott City resident, says. "You can be as hands-on or hands-off as you want. There are leadership opportunities, donor opportunities, educational opportunities and many, many ways to learn about the issues around us and the way they affect women and girls in our community."

It's also given Leonard and Beaudoin-Schwartz the opportunity to meet and work with a diverse group of Howard County women.

"It's been a great way to learn more about what is happening in our county, but it's also given me the opportunity to meet a number of amazing women I might not otherwise have crossed paths with," says Beaudoin-Schwartz.

Tickets to the City Gives event are $50 per person. For more information or to order tickets, visit www.themallincolumbia.com and click on the City Gives icon.