Like so many days in this job, yesterday was both fun and educational. I spent it in Buffalo touring a number of sites that reinforced both the promise and the problems facing this struggling but beautiful Rustbelt city. My co-pilot for the trip was Graham Crawford, who shares my love of cities and is a thoughtful and passionate believer in Hamilton. Check out Kathy Renwald’s excellent piece on Graham’s “curating” of his gracious south-west Hamilton home in today’s Spec ( http://www.thespec.com/living/style/article/583439–stately-home-in-the-right-hands).
Our host and tour guide for the day was my old friend Bruce Fisher. Bruce is now a professor at Buffalo State and widely published and respected author, but previously served as Deputy County Executive (City Manager) in Erie County. (look for Bruce’s soon to be released book Borderland http://www.sunypress.edu/p-5347-borderland.aspx, a fascinating series of essays on the challenges of Great Lakes Cities on both sides of the border including Hamilton)
Among the many sites we visited yesterday, the high point may well have been the Fontana Boathouse, a remarkable Frank Lloyd Wright designed structure that now serves as a home for the West Side Rowing Club, welcoming the public and capitalizing upon Buffalo’s extraordinary architectural history (check it out herehttp://www.wrightsboathouse.org/building.html) .
We had a great discussion about some of the common challenges facing Buffalo and Hamilton and particularly lessons that we can take-both good and bad-from some public policy decisions that have shaped Buffalo’s recent history (here are some thoughts on that subject from an old Spec column of mine)
A very proud moment for us at HCF happened last week when we issued the first loan from our Community Investment Fund! For those who don’t know, HCF established a Community Investment Fund with $5 million of its unrestricted funds. Find more on community investing link here
In HCF’s case, the first loan has been made to Hamilton Artists Inc. a long-standing artist-run centre that “supports and reflects the diverse environment in which we live”. HCF provided HAI with a bridge loan while they worked to complete the construction of their new building at the corner of James and Cannon. Have you seen it yet? If not, prepare yourself for a stunning transformation at one of Hamilton’s most visible corners!
While it is HCF who has ‘made’ this loan, it is in fact a team effort. Critical support and expertise was provided by Nora Sobolov and her colleagues at the Community Forward Fund. And staff, volunteers and board members at HAI were diligent and responsive throughout this process. Their comments embody why HCF is committed to this project and to the premise of community investing.
“Thank you to the whole team at the Hamilton Community Foundation for supporting this project and enabling our confidence and security to restart the project and complete it with your loan providing the capacity to do so.”
With many other potential community investment opportunities emerging, I look forward to sharing here more stories of HCF using its assets in unique ways to support positive change in Hamilton.
Over the past few years I’ve had the opportunity to connect with many people who are committed to making their neighbourhoods safe, quality places to live, work and play. One of these people is Rebecca Doll – volunteer extraordinaire in the South Sherman hub and owner of the “Heart of the Hammer” café at King and Sherman.
I knew that Rebecca had the café for quite some time, but never had the chance to visit until this week. Suzanne Brown and I were doing a walkabout in the area and stumbled across the café. The timing was great since by this time we were dying for a cup of tea. What a lovely surprise to find this oasis tucked within a street that is obviously going through difficult times. From the bright and cheery art on the walls to the comfy couch and chairs, there is truly a sense of community in the café. It is a gathering spot for neighbours and friends to hear music, discuss their aspirations for their neighbourhood and enjoy the most wonderful brownies I’ve ever had.
If you are looking for somewhere to ease the stress of the day, grab a coffee or light lunch, stop in – and give my best to Rebecca. More information is available atwww.heartofthehammer.wordpress.com.
A powerful reminder by my friend Andria Spindel here http://modcpresidentblog.ca/ of the importance of tolerance and the celebration of diversity. Richard Kall was a colleague of mine at Ontario March of Dimes and an extraordinary man. We miss him.
This week, with two cars and three drivers in the house, I have been walking from my house near the Mountain brow to my office downtown.
What a difference in perspective from my usual driveway-to-driveway experience!
From the top of James Street stairs overlooking a bustling city and a gorgeous harbour, past St. Joseph’s Hospital, the eager patrons at Steve’s Open Kitchen (voted #1 breakfast in town), the beautiful architecture of the terraces, James Street Baptist, St. Paul’s, the old Bank of Montreal and the Landed Bank and Loan Building, on into Gore Park, it provided a whole new and more insightful view of some of Hamilton’s better and lesser-known assets – and a great start to the day.
Today as I write this, it is hard to believe that my husband and I were part of the 300,000+ crowd on Parliament Hill celebrating our country’s 144th birthday. We were part of that sea of diversity, all wearing red and white, each of us waving Canadian flags.
One of the highlights of that afternoon celebration was hearing our Governor General David Johnston’s address. He said, “I want all of you to look at your neighbourhoods, your communities and this country, and ask yourselves what you want Canada to look like”. He went on to invite all Canadians to share his vision of “a Canada where families and children are supported and given the chance to thrive; where learning and innovation are strengthened to provide for a prosperous tomorrow; where volunteerism and philanthropy are encouraged as part of our daily routine.”
I have to say that my own personal pride swelled knowing that my city, my Hamilton, has embraced working towards making our city the best place to raise a child.
It swelled even more knowing that since 2004 Hamilton Community Foundation has been working towards reducing our city’s unacceptable poverty rates using a neighbourhood-based approach. Yes, we have much to be proud of.
I encourage you to read His Excellency David Johnson`s full address. I hope you too accept his invitation.
And, by the way, we did get a great photo of Will & Kate!
It’s not my usual practice to blog. However, following our June 21st AGM, I am choosing today to step out of my own personal “comfort zone” to do so.
There was an amazing spirit and sense of warmth around the table and once again I find myself counting my blessings to be part of the HCF family.
While all the expressions of thanks were more than well deserved, there was one acknowledgement, in particular, that truly resonated with me. It was Dr. Lindsey George’s thank you to our tiny but mighty force here at HCF…. Sharon Charters!
On June 13th I celebrated my 10th anniversary with HCF. During these ten years I have had the extreme good fortune and pleasure to work directly with Sharon. Not only is she one of the most loyal colleagues I have ever known, she is truly a gem in Hamilton’s crown. There isn’t a program in Hamilton that Sharon isn’t aware of, a co-ordinator that she hasn’t met, or a participant that she hasn’t helped or encouraged.
So, Sharon, 10 years later I cannot tell you what an important person you have been in my life, both professionally and personally.
Hamilton is lucky to have you…and so are we!!!
The Century Foundation provides a troubling but thoughtful analysis of the growing divide between rich and poor in the United States. http://takingnote.tcf.org/2011/06/graph-of-the-day-the-return-of-the-gilded-age.htmlThe piece underscores clearly the dire consequences of public policy choices that directly contribute to the shrinking of middle class America.