Another Great HCF Annual General Meeting

In addition to celebrating another year of solid accomplishment, today we said a sad goodbye to several board members who have completed their service to HCF. Board Members Robert Crockford, Eric Girt, Geoff Hogarth, Sarah Murphy, Graham Browne, and PJ Mercanti all leave a positive legacy of contribution. We also thanked our departing past Chair Dr. Lindsey George for her long and distinguished leadership. Finally, outgoing Board Chair Dr. Gary Warner proudly passed the torch to incoming Chair Paul Gibel. HCF tradition of strong governance continued today. Gary been a great leader at HCF and in the broader community. We move forward with confidence in our Board and Staff leadership and optimism about the impact we are making on the changing trajectory of Hamilton.

Speaking to International Revitalizing Downtowns Summit in Hamilton

I am excited to be presenting this afternoon to the Revitalizing Downtowns Summit My panel includes senior leaders from Community Foundations in both Cleveland and Indianapolis with some amazing experience in partnering to develop great public spaces. The conference also includes some remarkable people like Pam Blais and Ken Greenberg who have done so much to shape thinking about urbanism in Canada and around the world. We are really fortunate that the conference has come to Hamilton for the first time, signaling both hope about the future of our downtown and challenging us to action the lessons of so many other cities that remain far ahead of us in renewal.

The long-term view: difficult but necessary

As the parent of two students in Hamilton’s public secondary system, I was especially interested in the two guests for the Foundation’s final Vital Signs show for the season:  HWDSB director John Malloy, and board chair Tim Simmons.  While I confess that my children’s school is not one of those directly affected by the accommodation review , I know many families who are and I have a sense of the depth of emotion that goes beyond the pages of the newspaper.

I hope you will take the time to watch the program.  It presents clearly the board’s rationale for the tough decisions it is making.  Both Mr. Malloy and Mr. Simmons are clear that declining enrolment and deteriorating facilities are concerns, but the focus is on putting resources into what kids need to be successful – now, five years from now and beyond.

More important than the decisions already made are those that lie ahead, with respect to programs, boundaries and transportation; decisions that are intended to create the type of diverse learning environment in which research shows students learn better.  As Mr. Malloy states, by offering more access to the range programs that kids need to be successful, “we open doors that, right now, they don’t know exist”.  He recognizes the complexities and the concerns but asserts that diverse programming that attracts a diverse student body is one of those things that works.  Creating that kind of learning community and engaging the community around that guiding principle, he says is “important, significant and challenging work…but our work wouldn’t be finished until we went there and that’s our plan.”

Regardless of where you stand on the issue, one thing that is indisputable for me is that the school board and its trustees are making brave decisions, with the community’s best interests at heart.  They are fully aware of the associated emotion and the difficulties, but also steadfast in their belief that we must take a long-term view for the success of the Hamilton’s students.

More Recognition for Spec’s Code Red Series from Canada’s Scientific Leadership More well deserved recognition for the work of Journalist Steve Buist, researchers Neil Johnston and Pat DeLuca and the leadership and commitment of the Hamilton Spectator in producing the Code Red Series. This hi-lights yet again many of the reasons that Hamilton Community Foundation remains focused on the devastating impacts of concentrated poverty in Hamilton. 

Community Foundations of Canada Board comes to Hamilton

HCF is thrilled to be hosting the Board of Community Foundations of Canada on Thursday, Friday and Saturday this week. In addition to conducting CFC board meetings there will be a busy schedule of things happening in Hamilton. This afternoon we will be in the Beasley neighbourhood with officials from Benjamin Moore for a media conference announcing community grants for paint and expert help for community organizations doing neighbourhood improvement work.

Tomorrow the CFC Annual General Meeting will feature a keynote address by Trivaris CEO and volunteer extrordinaire Mark Chamberlain, talking about the importance of community foundation leadership to community change across Canada. The CFC Board will also be saying goodbye to our friend Vincie Travale, who will be leaving the Board after many years of distinguished service to the community foundation movement both nationally and here in Hamilton. Thanks Vincie, for all that you have done!

Using the ‘f’ word at work

In this case, the ‘f’ word is fundraising – which community foundations don’t do in the traditional sense. Despite that today I attended a presentation of our local Association of Fundraising Professionals chapter to hear what new President & CEO, Andrew Watt, had to say about the profession and the association.  He gave an interesting and compelling talk and the core messages I left with were that charities should focus on impact in their work and they should keep an eye to the big picture to maintain a focus on the long term balanced with addressing the current needs.

We often hear from the organizations in our community that in this volatile economic time the community’s needs continue to grow while fundraising for those needs remains an ongoing challenge. Andrew suggests this economic state of ups and downs is our new normal. This emphasizes the need for the organizations in our community to continue to be innovative and to change with the times.

Andrew shared a great example of increasing impact and leveraging support on a grand scale that shows the importance of being innovative and open to creative new solutions…

Bob Geldof founded Live Aid concerts in the mid 1980’s, at the time to support famine relief in Africa. This effort raised just over $245 million, no small feat. In 2005, Live8 concerts were held and instead of asking for donations people were asked for their name as a ‘global call to action against poverty’ – 30 million people obliged. As a result, one of the promises made by the G8 leaders five days following the concert was $50 billion more aid per year by 2010. More information on the promises can be found on the Live8website.

As Andrew put it so nicely, ‘it’s about change, not charity’.

Remembering A Great Teacher, Don “Doc” Ferguson

Sad to hear of the passing of Don “Doc” Ferguson”, who was a great teacher, basketball coach and mentor to several generations of Westdale kids. I was so fortunate to have had Fergy’s support, guidance and encouragement during my time as a student, athlete and coach at Westdale. It probably helped my cause that when I arrived at Westdale as a 4’11″ shrimp in Grade nine with a burning desire to play point guard on the basketball team, Coach Ferguson was a believer and the only guy in building smaller than I was. Along with many kids that had the benefit of Don’s wisdom and generosity, I was fortunate to have known this great man. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Marie and the Ferguson family.–ferguson-donald-gordon-doc

Urbanicity Turns 1!

I have really enjoyed being a feature columnist with this great Hamilton focused urban broadsheet that Martinus Geleynse publishes monthly. Urbanicity recently celebrated its first birthday and went live with a great website. Here then for your reading pleasure is one of my columns from last year on the importance of building inclusive neighborhoods.

Governor General David Johnston Wows Them in the Hammer!

I can’t end the week without a few reflections on our historic visit by Governor General David Johnston to Hamilton, hosted by HCF on Wednesday. The day started in the McQuesten neighbourhood where I had the privilege of welcoming His Excellency along with neighbourhood leader Pat Reid. A greeting party of pre-school kids had prepared a poster and scrapbook and they lined up eagerly to meet the GG outside the community centre. After warmly greeting Pat and I, the Governor General proceeded to get down on a knee and shake hands with every child while asking them about every page in their scrapbook. We then took a picture of all the children and the GG standing proudly in front of their large poster festooned with Canadian flags. It was a memorable moment that actually brought a tear to my eye. As the GG headed into our community roundtable meeting, he left the kids with “see ya later, alligator”. We were all captivated and the kids were obviously amazed.

Our McQuesten roundtable was closed to the media to encourage a frank and comfortable dialogue in which neighbourhood leaders could tell the GG about their hopes, dreams, accomplishments and challenges of trying to improve life in the inner city. It was a fascinating, multi-lingual discussion expertly facilitated by community development worker and neighbourhood champion David Derbyshire. The GG was curious, thoughtful, funny and gracious, and the residents were charmed and moved by his genuine interest and affection. The 90-minute dialogue ended with a group picture that is guaranteed to be an important keepsake for all those residents who were lucky enough to meet David Johnston.

I then had the good fortune to be able to accompany the GG in his motorcade through the city. Again, he was well briefed, interested and very self-deprecating. I got to play tour guide as we travelled along Burlington Street and talked about the challenges facing the manufacturing sector and steelmaking in particular. The GG and I then compared notes on our experiences working summers as students in the steel mills, he at Algoma and me at #2 Rod Mill at Stelco.

We continued south on Wentworth Street and I told him about the wonderful work that Don MacVicar and Larry Paikin had done to build hope and opportunity at the Eva Rothwell community centre, including the new Habitat for Humanity Homes and Ron Foxcroft’s gift of Raptor Basketball hoops for the gym.

We travelled west on Wilson Street and I told the GG the story of the wonderful City/School Board/HCF partnership that facilitated the building of the Beasley Community Centre and Dr. Davey School. He was moved by the story of the anonymous $1M gift to HCF to support programming in that challenged neighbourhood, and we talked about the importance of “quiet” philanthropy.

We turned north on James Street and I told the GG about the transformation of James North led by our vibrant arts community, including last week’s remarkable art crawl. As we arrived at LIUNA Station, His Excellency talked about the station’s history. I told him about Joe Mancinelli’s passion for Hamilton and architecture and about LIUNA’s great leadership in rebuilding both the station and the Lister Block.

Upon arrival, the GG was greeted warmly by Mayor Bratina, MP David Sweet and he warmly hugged his old friend, Waterloo Regional Chair Ken Seiling, before entering the station and shaking hands with many of the guests on hand.

At our private lunch for community volunteers, the GG spoke briefly but passionately about volunteerism and the positive work that he had witnessed at McQuesten in the morning. He then surprised us by neglecting his lunch and proceeding to visit tables to introduce himself and have pictures taken with nearly everybody in the room. His Excellency’s warmth and approachability clearly touched everyone that he met.

The program moved promptly into the large ballroom, where a standing room only crowd of about 750 waited eagerly for the GG to enter the room. As the M.C., I asked the room to stand for the Governor General’s arrival and they burst into applause as he took his seat. As the Hamilton Children’s Choir sang the national anthem, I found myself moved by the wonderful moment that was happening.

The remainder of the day was a blur. David Johnston delivered a tour de force speech calling on all Canadians to do more to build a smart and caring nation, and he saluted Hamilton and HCF for the great work we are doing to builder stronger neighbourhoods and families. To witness the GG’s magic directly, you can check out the speech here:

HCF Board Chair Dr. Gary Warner (Order of Canada)  then thanked the GG following his speech with thoughtful and wise words.

Before leaving, the Governor General took the time to meet and have pictures taken with literally hundreds of guests who were universally impressed by his wit and wisdom.

As I shook the Governor General’s hand and said goodbye as he got into the car at the end of the day, it occurred to me that I had been so lucky to have spent time with a truly remarkable Canadian. We are fortunate as a nation for Governor General David Johnston’s life and his service to Canada. We at the Hamilton Community Foundation are profoundly grateful to have been able to facilitate such a memorable event in the life and history of Hamilton.

Lessons from Hamilton: Big Thinking on Small Grants

Grassroots Grantmakers is a network of North American funders who, like Hamilton Community Foundation, help people who want to make their neighbourhood a better place to live. This week its leader, Janis Foster, led off the new year with a tribute to our work in the hubs.

It provides some interesting perspectives about our community development and small grants program. It’s great to see this approach validated, and interesting to note her acknowledgement of the patience, courage and trust required for success. We always knew this was hard, complex work that required long-term commitment. Janis’ blog is an endorsement and a thank you to the many who have believed in and supported this work for a decade. Read on.