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GT E-News - Issue 2, Fall 2014

GT Hosts Spring HeART Show

Members and other GT donors enjoy a glass of wine and hor d’oeuvres while admiring the sensational art work at the HeART Show.

Giving Together held its annual spring fundraising event at the Chevy Chase Village Hall on April 23 – a celebration of our five-year anniversary. More than 80 GT members and guests attended the HeArt Show and Auction, which featured the work of 10 local artists. The artists, who were brought together by GT member and professional painter Nikki Vanasse, exhibited 25 paintings, drawings and photos and generously donated half of their sales to GT’s Emergency Fund for Individuals and Families. As in previous years, all donations raised at the spring event go to the fund, which helps families in crisis make urgent payments for rent, medicine and utilities. [Note: All costs for the event were underwritten by GT members and board members.] In total, the HeArt Show raised over $6,000 for the Emergency Fund, which is distributed through the Community Foundation of Montgomery County's Neighbors in Need organization. Its matching grant program doubles GT’s contribution, giving us lots of bang for our bucks. While doing good, GT fans also had a good time at the event. We feasted on delicious hor d’oeuvres, socialized with friends and gazed at the art – all while listening to exquisite chamber music played by area musicians.

GT Members Visit the Glenstone Museum

“Thank you so very much for a truly memorable day – exploring the unique Glenstone Museum with a private tour, followed by an elegant lunch at Jeanne’s beautiful home!” That’s GT E-News Issue 2, Fall 2014 one member’s reflection on GT’s special event of March 26th, when 25 GT members, in two groups, had the opportunity to tour the Glenstone Museum in Potomac. Glenstone is home to the personal collection of Mitch and Emily Rales and houses rotating exhibitions of modern and contemporary works created since WWII, including outdoor installations. We viewed the current exhibition – the works of duo Peter Fischli and David Weiss – before it moved onto the Guggenheim in New York City.

In addition to the exhibition, museum-goers were welcomed to the home of GT board member Jeanne Spivak for a luncheon of poached salmon and an hour of conversation with fellow members and their guests.

Glenstone is a hidden gem, located right in our own backyard! Those who haven’t had the opportunity to visit can make a reservation on the museum website:


GT Annual Meeting September 30, 2014

GT Volunteers for our Grantee Organizations

GT’s grant program isn’t the only way we help low-income children and families in DC and Montgomery County, MD. Every year, our Community Service Committee plans volunteer projects with the organizations who’ve received GT grant awards. Recent activities of the committee, which is made up of GT members and supporters, included projects with our two 2013 awardees:

George B. Thomas, Sr., Learning Academy Saturday School: The Saturday School is a highly successful program that provides additional instruction for under-served youth in Montgomery County. Last year, GT awarded them $20,000 to purchase 30 laptops and a mobile tech cart.

In March, GT volunteers visited the school to help students with their Saturday morning lessons and got to see our grant dollars in action! The volunteers arrived at Wheaton High School during the morning kick-off session, before students broke into grade-level classrooms. Several small groups of GT volunteers spread out among the classrooms, where they had the opportunity to interact with young students and assist the teachers with classroom work. A big highlight of the morning was seeing the new laptops, which were purchased with our GT grant dollars. They were used by students for exercises in reading and math.

Touring the premises with the George B. Thomas site coordinator, GT volunteers stopped by middle-school and high school classrooms, where students were using the new GT computers for SAVE the DATE!  GT Annual Meeting September 30, 2014 more sophisticated instruction. Everyone felt the laptops are a valuable addition to a critical program for helping young people reach their potential in Montgomery County.

Urban Alliance: GT’s volunteer project with Urban Alliance took place in July. Members were asked to serve as judges for UA’s annual graduation exercise, when hundreds of student interns do PowerPoint presentations demonstrating their accomplishments with UA. The event was held at the World Bank – one of the sponsors of the UA internships, along with Marriott Corporation and many other area employers. [Pictured at the World Bank are GT judges Jeanne Spivak (l) & Rose Downes, with fellow judge Jeff Cohen.]

GT’s 2013 award of $20,000 to Urban Alliance was used to buy the computers and projectors that made the PowerPoint exercises possible.

After the GT volunteers participated in an orientation with other judges, they were all asked to rate the interns on a scale of one to four, based on five specific criteria. Students whose total scores surpassed 80 percent were given awards of $100 each. The GT volunteers were overwhelmed by the professionalism of the presentations and felt the interns were headed for bright futures.

An awards ceremony followed the PowerPoint exercises, along with a buffet lunch. DC Executive Director Nathaniel Cole thanked the GT volunteers for participating in, what all agreed, was a terrific day. [Nate Cole was recently interviewed for an article in The New York Times – June 28, 2014 – entitled “Giving Back to Teenagers” by Elizabeth Olson. Cole, 27, described how the Urban Alliance mentors and trains disadvantaged high school students for internships with DC-area employers, noting that he participated in the program himself as a teen.]


Rachel’s Women’s Center: In addition to the projects with our 2013 grantees, GT volunteers organized a recent activity with our 2011 grantee, Rachel’s Women’s Center. In May, the daytime homeless shelter in downtown DC welcomed GT for our third afternoon of service. Volunteers served lunch, played bingo with the women, and chatted while polishing their nails. A good time was had by all! [Photo: GT volunteers prepare lunch at Rachel’s.]

GT Welcomes Corporate Gifts

Many private companies in the DC-Montgomery County area contribute to local charities and Giving Together would like to benefit from their philanthropy. There are several ways we can receive corporate gifts. First of all, any corporation can make a gift to GT. As a charitable organization, we’ve been awarded 501(c)3 status by the IRS. Therefore, contributions to GT are tax deductible for both companies and individuals.

In most cases, a corporation is introduced to GT by one or more of our members with whom they have a special relationship. Also, a GT member herself may own a business with a charitable giving program or work for an employer who has a matching gift program. “If you can access a corporate contribution for GT in one of these ways, we urge you to exercise the option,” said GT Membership Development Chair Ann Nichols. “By augmenting your annual membership dues with a matching gift from your employer, you may be able to double or triple the value of your own contribution.”

In the past, GT has received corporate gifts from stock brokerage firms and real estate companies that do business with GT members. “So be creative,” Ann said, “and give your favorite company the chance to help GT help area families.”

Project Create Opens Studio Space

Project Create is a DC-based organization that promotes positive development for disadvantaged children and families through accessible arts education. While not one of GT’s major awardees, it was one of the four finalist in our 2014 grant cycle. Now, this terrific organization has big news to share. Project Create recently signed a lease for its own program and studio space at 2028 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE in Anacostia. Funding support came from the Share Fund of the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region. Project Create is currently in the process of transforming the former office space into versatile art space. “We cannot wait to open our doors to our new neighbors in Ward 8,” said Director Christie Walser. “Stay tuned for news of our grand opening in Fall 2014!”

Interview With a GT Member: Renee Licht

Where are you from originally, Renee? GT knows you’re retired, but what was your occupation before retirement? Tell us a little about yourself.

I am originally from New York, but have spent the last 40 years in Washington, DC. I attended college and law school in Washington, then spent nearly 30 years as a lawyer and senior executive at the Federal Communications Commission. I had a very rewarding career, which included some high profile broadcast cases. Along the way I got married and had two children, both now in college. Once our children arrived, I shifted away from the high pressure legal jobs and into the more predictable world of agency administration, where my work included the agency budget and information technology. Now, I enjoy weekends in Rehoboth Beach with my family, travelling abroad, and learning Italian.

What drew you to Giving Together? How long have you been a member?

Initially after I retired, I was extremely busy with many deferred projects. After a few years, my house was well organized and completely redecorated, my files were in order, and my kids were complaining that I was too involved in their lives. In 2010, I learned about Giving Together from Cheryl Baird, one of GT’s founding members, and decided to join. I was intrigued by the idea that members could leverage combined charitable contributions to have a much greater positive effect on a problem in the local community than each of us could accomplish working on our own. The opportunity to volunteer at local non-profits was also appealing. I was also looking to meet other women from the DC area interested in doing charitable good works. Lastly, the chance to socialize occasionally at events like the Spring Pot Luck, the Holiday Party and the Annual Meeting was also very appealing.

Do you work with other philanthropic organizations, non-profits or charities?

I serve on the board of Resources for Inner City Children (RICH), a local non-profit dedicated to providing free, high quality educational support to high school students in the city’s poorest wards. RICH provides academic support to struggling students to help them get back on track and graduate high school. It also provides enrichment and college prep to more gifted students. Just recently, RICH decided to pilot a program to provide career development support for program alumni.

I spend most of my time helping RICH improve the quality of its grant proposals. Having served on GT’s grants committee for several years, I thought it would be challenging and fun to be on the other side, helping to write effective proposals. It’s definitely not as easy as it may seem!

You chair the GT Grants Committee. Why did you want that job? Is there something about the grants process that you find particularly appealing?

When I joined GT, Cheryl Baird was chairing the grants committee, and looking for a co-chair. I agreed to serve rather reluctantly, not sure I had much to add to a process she was managing very effectively. But I quickly discovered how satisfying the job was. Being involved in grant making provides a bird’s eye view of the local non-profit sector. It has also enabled our members to become more knowledgeable about some of the problems facing our community. Learning about the wealth of local organizations quietly working to make a positive impact on the lives of people facing adversity has been humbling and inspiring. I think the opportunity to be involved in the grant making process has also played to my strengths as an analyst and a writer, skills that I was able to hone over my long career in the government. I would encourage anyone with the slightest interest in learning more about our local non-profit sector to attend one or more grants committee meetings. Membership is open, you can do as little or as much as your schedule allows, and we have a great group of members.


For more information on Giving Together, contact President Paula Norwood at or visit the GT website:

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