Everyone Rides with Sobi Hamilton

HCF regularly supports organizations and initiatives that deal with poverty, health and the environment.  But it’s not every day that a project comes along that addresses all three at once, while also helping to unlock a lot more funding.

SoBi Hamilton, the popular bike sharing program, was launched with great success in 2015, but limited resources also limited the number of locations it could serve.  Now, a grant from HCF’s Losani Family Foundation Fund and the Environmental Endowment Fund is helping to expand SoBi’s reach into neighbourhoods where more low-income residents can access the service.

Peter Topalovic, Hamilton Bike Share & Smart Commute program manager with the City of Hamilton says HCF’s support to the pilot project, known as Everyone Rides, has also been the key to garnering a matching grant of $275,000 from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM).

“The community foundation was more than a partner in this initiative,” says Peter.  “Not only did its contribution allow SoBi to access the full match from FCM, the Foundation team was also very supportive in bringing their knowledge to maximize community benefit.  They really understood the initiative and the importance of having accessible transportation throughout the city.”

Through Everyone Rides, Hamilton will become a frontrunner in North America in bike share systems to serve low-income neighbourhoods.  The program also includes supports such as cycling safety and skills training to overcome barriers to bike use experienced in other cities.

By encouraging more people to ride bikes, SoBi creates sustainable transportation from which the only energy burned is calories.

From Summer 2016 Legacy newsletter

Donor leaves a purrfect legacy to local felines

A remarkable donation to Hamilton Community Foundation will help ensure local cats will be healthy, safe and wanted – forever.

The Foundation will give an annual grant of over $65,000 in perpetuity to the Hamilton/Burlington SPCA to fund feline health and well-being, thanks to the donation of an estate from lifelong pet lover and long-time Hamilton cab owner, George Seliga.

“Pets provide companionship and are important family members for so many people,” says Terry Cooke, Hamilton Community Foundation president & CEO. “We are thrilled to have helped Mr. Seliga create the legacy he wanted.” Cooke says that because the donor wanted to do something that would benefit animals forever, he established an endowed fund, meaning that the donation is invested, generating the income that will be granted to the HBSPCA every year.

“It’s just one wonderful example of the many donors who have entrusted the Foundation to help them support those things that have had meaning to them during their lives – even when their own lives are over.”

Founded in 1887, the Hamilton SPCA (“HBSPCA”) was established to protect vulnerable animals. Today, the HBSPCA protects animals at risk, cares for and rehomes neglected and homeless pet companions, and promotes respect for all animals. Donors support affordable spay/neuter programs for family-owned pets and pets belonging to persons-at-risk. Donors and local veterinarians together support spay/neuter for free-roaming cats.

“Every spring, our kennels and foster homes are filled with homeless and neglected cats and kittens,” says HBSPCA CEO Marion Emo.  “Mr. Seliga’s generous donation will help us to expand quality programs that support the three essential things that pet parents can do for their animal’s well-being: spay or neuter them, give them regular, preventative veterinary care, and have them micro-chipped for a safe return home if lost.”  Emo says that the grant will make services to rescue groups and low-income families more accessible. “Combined with education about responsible cat care, we are confident that abandoned cat populations will significantly decrease and every cat will be a wanted cat.

Good Shepherd program takes participants from the Market Place to the job market

Program builds real-world work experience

Michael Young always wanted to work as a security guard. Good Shepherd’s MarketPlace work experience program helped him get there.

The MarketPlace is part of Good Shepherd’s Venture Centre, a massive repurposed car dealership in downtown Hamilton that opened as the organization’s clothing and emergency food program in 2015 and served 69,000 people in its first year.

“It’s like a small Fortinos,” says Carmen Salciccioli, director of the Good Shepherd Centre. “There is selection and dignity. We’re a one-stop shop for everything.”

Everything, it turns out, including a job.

An HCF grant is supporting the work experience program, which builds skills to help participants be job-ready. They are interviewed, receive training, follow a work plan that they help create, get regular feedback and receive a reference letter on successful completion. The program is expected to assist 30 people during its first year, increasing to 80 annually by year three.

“It makes total sense to do pre-employment training here,” says Carmen. “Our MarketPlace program evaluation showed that the number one reason people access our services is insufficient income.”

Program participants stock shelves, work the cash, work in the warehouse and perform janitorial tasks—all skills they can transfer to a number of industries. Soon job experiences will expand to include landscaping, painting, pest control and more.

Michael is proof that the model works. He started at the MarketPlace last June and today is working in the job he wanted. “Volunteering at the MarketPlace was something I could add to my resume,” he says. “It showed my employer that I’m focused and dedicated to working and made me feel more confident.”

“With this program, everyone has some skin in the game,” Carmen says. “We do it together, not us on their behalf. The only thing holding us back is our imagination.”


Excerpt from 2016 Annual Report

Code Clubs open doors to a high-tech future for middle-school students

Canadian ICT workers are in short supply

Ten Grade 6, 7 and 8 students are spending their nutrition break learning how to make a video game—and at the same time learning they could have a bright future in technology. DSC_7600

The club at Viscount Montgomery Elementary School is one of 17 currently offered to middle school-aged students in Hamilton’s public and Catholic schools. Three years of ABACUS funding from Hamilton Community Foundation is turning the clubs from a successful but resource-strapped pilot into a stable, sustainable program run through the Industry Education Council. “Without HCF’s support we couldn’t structure the program or follow up,” says co-ordinator, Beth Gibson. “Now we have the resources to grow.”

Canada has a shortage of 182,000 information and communication technology (ICT) workers. Kevin Browne, founder of Software Hamilton and a Code Club champion, sees hundreds of local ICT jobs go to out-of-town talent because no one from Hamilton applies. “We have a pipeline problem,” he says. “If students aren’t introduced to technology in middle school they won’t take it in high school and it might as well be rocket science.”

The weekly program targets schools in Hamilton’s Neighbourhood Action Strategy but any school is welcome, particularly if it encourages girls to join (only 24 percent of ICT workers in Canada are women). Weekend clubs and summer camps are planned for the Central Library. The clubs are facilitated by post-secondary students and ICT entrepreneurs. A McMaster University study will determine the program’s impact on the post-secondary perceptions of students.

It’s only week two at the Viscount Montgomery club, but already every iPad is running a rudimentary video game that the students have programmed themselves. “It’s so exciting to see their interest growing,” says teacher Sarah Weston. “Lightbulbs are going off. They’re realizing it could be a career for them.”

“I want to see a Code Club in every school in Hamilton,” says Kevin. “Of all the things that are happening in tech in the city right now, I think this is the most important.”


Excerpt from 2016 Annual Report

Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum Fund

Hamilton treasure is HCF’s newest agency fund

Establishing a long-term endowment fund at Hamilton Community Foundation has given the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum “instant credibility” with contributors says the museum’s President and CEO, David Rohrer. IMG_8656a

“We needed to develop a legacy gifts program for the museum,” he says, “and we quickly realized that we weren’t best suited internally to manage those investments. The community foundation offers the expertise we need. We are very pleased to be affiliated with HCF in this way. It was the right step.”

David points out that placing its endowment with HCF – the organization made its initial investment in 2015 – also exposes the museum to a wider range of potential supporters. The museum has a goal of contributing 10 percent of undesignated gifts to the fund, he says, and having the endowment at arm’s length protects it from the pressures of day-to-day operations.

“We are community-based and proud to be in Hamilton,” says David, “and we are very grateful for HCF’s support of the museum’s High Flight program, in addition to the endowment fund.” The High Flight initiative offers field trips and approved curriculum to Grade 6 science and Grade 10 history students. Twenty-five schools in the region participated this year. David illustrates the influence of the program: one of Canada’s current CF-18 fighter pilots reports that he got his first taste of aviation with a visit to the museum decades ago.

“The Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum is the largest flying museum in Canada,” says Terry Cooke of HCF. “It has been a Hamilton treasure for 44 years. We are thrilled that such an outstanding organization trusts us to manage its long-term endowment.”


Excerpt from 2016 Annual Report

Marnie & Bill Brehm Family Fund

The Brehms have confidence in HCF’s decision-making


Bill and Marnie Brehm

Marnie and Bill Brehm

Marnie Brehm has been involved with Hamilton Community Foundation since the 1980s, as a Board member and a contributor. She knows it well and trusts it to understand community needs. She and her husband Bill contribute regularly to the Community Fund.

“The Community Fund gives the Foundation capacity to respond to the most urgent needs in the community,” she says. Recent examples include the Foundation’s poverty work and its ABACUS education initiative.

Marnie, an accountant, and Bill, a retired planning consultant, have volunteered their time and talents at the leadership level in many organizations over the decades and they have confidence that Hamilton Community Foundation assesses community needs effectively. That is one reason they support the Community Fund – what Bill says in other organizations might be called the “general fund.” They also like the flexibility the Community Fund gives the Foundation and the speed with which it responds to changing community needs.

Marnie and Bill both support the community in a variety of ways – through HCF and other organizations – and they feel giving to the Community Fund is an important component of their philanthropy.

“While we could choose to support a particular cause or issue – and we do that in other aspects of our giving – we think the Community Fund is crucial too,” Marnie says. “The Foundation is in a position to best determine the needs of the community and this gives them the capacity to respond.”

Bill agrees: “Marnie’s Board experience and our contacts with staff give us confidence in the Community Fund decision-making process.  The Foundation works hard to identify and address key needs to be filled in the community.”


Excerpt from 2016 Annual Report

Newest link in Cootes to Escarpment chain makes Hamilton “naturally connected”


I have found in my work with landscape painting a very interesting phenomena. I find that a location, while the image seems like it could be anywhere, is so recognizable to the people of the area. Our landscape is precious to us. Cootes Paradise is a refuge and a resource that I am honoured to have translated into my language of colour, shape and light. I ‘own’ it now. Just like Hamiltonians do too. Julia Veenstra, Artist

Buying property, they say, is all about location—especially when it comes to the purchase of two critical pieces of land in the Dundas Valley, made possible by Hamilton Community Foundation.

The properties sit in the Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System, an ongoing initiative to protect, connect and restore more than 9,600 acres of some of Canada’s most biologically diverse land. The two properties, both located in the Pleasant View area, now create a protected wildlife corridor stretching from marsh to Mountain.

“These two properties were the key to everything,” says Jen Baker, land securement coordinator for the EcoPark System. “We wanted them for years. Now there’s a permanent dark green link between Cootes and the escarpment.”

Both properties are nesting sites for endangered birds and home to wild plants. “They are significant both in terms of the role they play in the landscape and the habitat they provide,” Jen says.

The EcoPark System’s partner organizations had enough funds to buy one property and had been told the second would have a year-long closing, giving them time to raise the extra money. Suddenly the game changed: they would have to purchase both properties at once. That’s where HCF came in.

The Foundation stepped up with support on a number of fronts. A grant from the Frank Charles Miller Fund helped buy the first property, and the Heather and Ross Hamlin Fund not only provided a grant to help with the land purchase but is also offering another $150,000 to match funds raised from individuals in the community. The Foundation also provided a loan through its Hamilton Community Investment Fund.

“The whole deal would have fallen through without HCF,” Jen says. “We might have been able to go back to the table at some point, but it would have put the whole project in jeopardy for an indefinite period of time.”

“This project is not only exciting because of the land it protects,” says Annette Aquin, HCF’s Executive Vice-President of Finance and Operations. “It also uses HCF’s full complement of resources to drive positive change. When the loan is repaid the money will be directed to other important projects and the interest will be used for future granting. It’s really a win-win for Hamilton.”


Excerpt from 2016 Annual Report

Terry and Brenda Yates: Paving a path for young Hamiltonians


The beads represent objects that relate to a student’s potential through education. Each abacus bead was sculpted on a computer and then 3D printed. Steve Mazza, Artist

Terry and Brenda Yates see the community foundation’s current emphasis on education as a “natural evolutionary step” from its focus on eliminating poverty and they’ve made a significant commitment to help launch ABACUS, HCF’s community-wide initiative.

“As a former teacher,” says Brenda, “I believe that education is one of the best ways to bring people out of poverty. If you can help keep children on an educational path, they will find their way – despite difficult challenges in their backgrounds.”

Terry points to the mentoring component of the ABACUS program as one of the critical factors. “If children see someone older succeeding because of education – an older brother or an uncle or someone else they know – it makes a huge difference. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

The Yates have been actively involved with Hamilton Community Foundation since the 1990s and they appreciate its role in the community. “It’s an incubator,” says Brenda, describing the Foundation’s process of researching issues, bringing stakeholders together, and crafting shared solutions that maximize every partner’s unique contribution. They were early champions of the ABACUS idea and look forward to seeing it adopted in different ways across the community. Their new fund at HCF – the Terry and Brenda Yates Fund – is targeted at ensuring that “all children and youth have access to educational opportunities.”

“HCF is playing a unique leadership role,” says Terry, about why HCF is the home of their new fund. “The quality and commitment of the personnel at the community foundation is respected in the city. It’s recognized as an organization that believes in the future.”

Both Brenda and Terry love Hamilton and marvel at how readily Hamiltonians participate in philanthropy – with time or resources, each according to what he or she can do. While they are two outstanding examples, whose impact is incalculable, Terry just says “if you have a chance to make a difference, you should take it.”


Excerpt from 2016 Annual Report


Pro bono legal program bridges the justice gap for families with sick kids


This work depicts words overlaid with distinct shapes — the right represents the hospital staff, lawyers and funding, while the left is the family. Of interest is the independence of both shapes — never quite taking over or overlapping, but instead respecting the space and the support needed. Stephanie Seagram, Artist

When your child is in the hospital, the last thing you want to hear is you’ve lost your job because you’ve spent too much time away from work.

Thanks to the medical-legal partnership started by Pro Bono Ontario (PBO) at McMaster Children’s Hospital, low-income families can get much-needed legal support when faced with such difficult circumstances. “These are families who are already doing so much,” says lawyer, Hilary Mack. “This service can take a little stress off their plate.”

Hilary’s title is “triage lawyer”—a nod to the hospital setting and a direct reference to her role as a resource for quick assessment and referral. “Like a doctor would look at a patient, I look at their legal issue and recommend how best to address it.”

Consultations often happen at the child’s bedside but an important part of the program is training clinicians to recognize the signs of legal concerns so they can refer families. The most common concerns Hilary sees relate to family law, immigration, government benefits, employment, education and housing. She refers more complex cases to the program’s partners Ross & McBride and Gowlings, who take the cases pro bono, and the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic.

PBO has established medical-legal partnerships in five children’s hospitals since 2009. The Hamilton program is a pilot supported by the Ruth Hindmarsh Atkinson Award. A grant from HCF’s Edith H. Turner Foundation Fund is expanding Hilary’s time onsite, which is critical to keeping the program top of mind for the clinicians who refer families to the services.

PBO executive director Lynn Burns says the program not only helps overwhelmed families focus on caring for their children, but the experience at Toronto SickKids shows other long-lasting benefits.

“Families may have multiple legal problems that have been unresolved for years,” she says. “In our SickKids evaluation, none of the families had sought legal assistance prior to the social worker suggesting they contact our program—and 89 percent said we improved their financial situation. It’s a good poverty reduction strategy.”


Excerpt from 2016 Annual Report

Women influence the philanthropic cityscape


The main points of inspiration derived from this painting are the nurturing quality of women in philanthropy, the cultural diversity of Hamilton and the red symbol of the Cinquefoil flower which binds them all together. Lester Coloma, Artist

“When women give today, one thing they want to know about is the impact they are having,” says Renate Davidson.

Renate is a long-term, respected volunteer with HCF and many other organizations across Hamilton. As a founding donor to HCF’s Women 4 Change (W4C) initiative, she is struck by how women’s philanthropy “has evolved to something very different from just writing a cheque,” she says.

“A collaborative giving circle like W4C, for example, is an exciting new way to care for our community. It provides a unique opportunity to learn, to give, to work with other women and to see measurable results.”

New research confirms women’s growing influence through individual and family philanthropy, and provides detail on how they prefer to give. Women now want to contribute money as well as time, to connect with others as they give, and to have an ongoing relationship with the causes they support. They value learning about community needs and responses, and they want to see measurable results.

Meeting these expectations drives both Women4Change and HCF’s engagement with individual donors. Since its 2012 launch, W4C has grown to more than 60 women collaborating to improve the lives of Hamilton’s women and girls. At the same time, they are enhancing their own capacity as philanthropists through expert presentations, site visits, and conversations with grant recipients.

W4C builds on HCF’s long history of generous and visionary female donors, notes Sheree Meredith, VP Philanthropic Services.  “Both our first gift and our first bequest came from women,” she says. “The Chaney-Ensign sisters who made post-secondary education possible for hundreds of Hamiltonians are another of dozens of powerful examples of women whose philanthropy continues to have a transformative impact on our city.“

“I would encourage anyone to have a conversation with the foundation about how they can participate in giving to our community in ways that are most meaningful to them,” says Renate.  “This has been a lifelong learning for me, and has sensitized me to our city’s challenges and opportunities. Working through HCF has been incredibly satisfying.”

Click here to make a donation to Women 4 Change.