Community calls the shots

After almost 18 months of pandemic restrictions, members of Hamilton’s Indigenous communities came together at Gage Park in September to dance, heal and make an informed choice about vaccination.

The Indigenous Health Social featured food, vendors, door prizes, traditional singers and contemporary Indigenous artists, including Juno-nominated headliner DJ Shub, to attract a new crowd to an event that focused on strengthening body, mind and spirit.

The province’s mobile vaccination unit — the GO VAXX bus — was on site, but the focus of the event was not exclusively COVID-19. Recognizing the negative experiences that have led some Indigenous people to view the health care system, and vaccinations in particular, with fear and suspicion, event organizers Hamilton Public Health and Indigenous organizations in Hamilton promoted the health of the whole community. To further increase trust and decrease barriers, information was also translated into Anishinaabe.


Excerpt from 2021 Fall Legacy newsletter

A trusting relationship

Kathy Wood already had a clear picture of how she and her husband John wanted to give to charity: she had spent her career as a trust officer helping people make decisions about their money.

Kathy and John demonstrated their trust in HCF by setting up a field-of-interest fund; this means that while they identify areas they want to support (animal welfare and adult literacy), they leave specific grantmaking decisions to the Foundation.

Animal welfare is important to the couple, who understand the joy that animals bring. “We have had pets for all of our marriage of 46 years and they have given us much happiness,” says Kathy. Half of the fund’s proceeds will support organizations that house, treat, feed and help the adoption of animals in need; the rest will support adult literacy, where they expect needs to grow. A portion of the fund will also go to the Community Fund that helps to address urgent community needs.

The Graas-wood Fund is a deferred fund, meaning the donation will come through the Woods’ estates. Giving through a will is a powerful way to give, and HCF is part of a national campaign called Will Power that seeks to educate Canadians about these benefits.


Excerpt from 2021 Fall Legacy newsletter

Making the right connections

There is no overstating how the pandemic has increased both reliance on technology and the technology gap for those already facing systemic inequities. A new pilot program that connects McMaster University and community partners is working to address this need.

As part of its environmental stewardship plan, McMaster’s Academic Sustainability Programs Office was exploring ways to donate tech devices in the community. At the same time, community organizations working with racialized communities, including newcomers and immigrants, expressed a critical need for technology, particularly as the pandemic disproportionately affects these communities.

The Foundation helped connect McMaster with a group of local non-profits, including the Afro Canadian Caribbean Association, Empowerment Squared, Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion, Immigrants Working Centre, Munar Learning Centre, and Refuge: Hamilton Centre for Newcomer Health. Up to 100 high-quality tech devices will be available for re-use each semester. An HCF grant is also supporting Empowerment Squared to acquire software licenses and refurbish the donated devices for distribution.

“This pilot is an example of community coming together to address a significant challenge for many communities in remote working and learning environments,” says Rudi Wallace, Vice-President, Grants & Community Initiatives.


Excerpt from 2021 Fall Legacy newsletter

Natural value

It turns out putting a price tag on nature can be a good thing.

Supported by an HCF grant, communities that intersect the greenbelt are getting the tools and training they need to think of their natural assets as essential infrastructure. As a result, they will be able to value nature’s contributions to clean water, breathable air, healthy soil, sustainable food, flood reduction and climate stability, and include this accounting in provincially mandated municipal plans.

Hamilton is one of 10 municipalities with near-urban nature — defined as the natural areas and farmlands that surround and intersect our cities — that will complete natural asset inventories as part of the program. These inventories will list the community’s natural assets, assign a value to the services these assets provide, and model the costs and benefits of natural solutions compared to alternatives.

The ultimate goal is to protect and restore the greenbelt’s natural integrity.


Excerpt from 2021 Fall Legacy newsletter

Making life less taxing

Thanks to the Social Planning and Research Council’s free 2020 tax clinics, clients received an average refund and tax benefit of $3,359. It’s an income boost of more than 10 percent for those living on $30,000 a year that would have gone unclaimed without the program.

In total, since 2018, $9 million in refunds and tax benefits have come back to Hamilton residents living on low incomes. A grant from HCF’s Pandemic Response Fund helped keep the program running in 2021.

Program volunteers have assisted seniors, people with disabilities, single parents, working couples and others. The benefits go beyond financial. Clients report less stress and better food security. Some have been able to retain their immigration status as a result of the program.

“Many clients are terrified to do their own taxes,” one service provider said. In the words of another, “This program is a life-saver.”


Excerpt from 2021 Fall Legacy newsletter

Mapping for student success

Local students will benefit from The Hamilton Community Research Partnership (CRP) — a coalition whose groundbreaking work will provide insights into their pathways to, and through, secondary and post-secondary education.

CRP’s members are Hamilton’s two school boards, McMaster University and Mohawk College. Hamilton Community Foundation and the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario brought the group together in 2018, and are providing funding and organizational support.

The group’s purpose is to connect data housed by individual educational institutions, to provide a fuller understanding of students’ trajectories and how they could be affected by spending and other decisions. Within a secure infrastructure, CRP provides the means to share de-identified data and fill critical information gaps. This will lead to knowledge such as the characteristics and predictors of students’ likelihood to attend post-secondary and their success once there. It can provide information about the programming and assistance that may increase this likelihood, and how colleges and universities can support incoming students, particularly those who need it most.

“CRP is a good example of HCF’s systems-change work in education,” says Lorraine Valmadrid, HCF’s Learning and Evaluation Lead. “Deepening our understanding of student pathways also helps to ensure HCF’s roles as funder, convener and policy influencer are based on the best evidence.”

Like the Foundation, all CRP members will gain an improved, evidence- based understanding of how educational systems can support student success across the learning journey.

“Our interest in students doesn’t end when they leave us in Grade 12,” says Dave Hansen, director of the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board. “CRP highlights what we can do at an early stage to increase the likelihood of success later, and defines the partnership’s shared purpose: to serve the students of Hamilton.”


Excerpt from 2021 Fall Legacy newsletter

Investing in an icon

Hamilton Community Foundation will have a new home in 2023. This fall, TAS, an impact development company, announced it had acquired the historic Coppley Building in downtown Hamilton. HCF is both a founding investor in the project and a future anchor tenant.

TAS plans to restore the Coppley Building’s original character and footprint, transforming it into a community-serving hub that will include a lively mix of commercial uses and tenants. Restoration and renovation is expected to begin in mid-2022, and TAS plans to start welcoming new tenants — including the Foundation — in mid-2023. HCF’s investment is part of its impact investing commitment that targets both social and financial returns.

“For over 165 years, this landmark has meant so much to the vibrancy of the core and the lives of many Hamiltonians who worked here,” says Terry Cooke, HCF’s President & CEO, pictured above with Mazyar Mortazavi, TAS President & CEO. “We look forward to partnering with TAS to deliver a new hub for commercial and social activity downtown.”


Excerpt from 2021 Fall Legacy newsletter

Future Intended: History Matters

Learning about history is crucial to how we engage in the present and frame the future. We’re proud to support a series of programs led by, and geared to, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of colour) communities that enhance historical literacy to tackle pressing issues like colonialism and racism.

Retracing Colonial Histories in Hamilton

Hamilton, like Canada as a whole, is steeped in a history of colonialism. This is the focus of a new program from Righting Relations, a women-led, pan-Canadian network of adult educators working towards a more just Canada through political and economic literacy. The program consists of a series of workshops with historical topics like the Water Walkers, Hamilton’s Black Community, Six Nations land struggles, 1492 Land Back and the Red Hill Valley Parkway. Workshops will feature storytelling with panel discussions, witness testimonials, community leaders and activists.


This program from Filipinas of HamOnt takes its meaning from the Filipino words saysay (sense) and kasaysayan (history). Drawing on experts from the local Filipina-Canadian community, the focus is on the “hyphenated” histories and contexts of Philippine, Southeast Asian, and Canadian heritage. The program combines workshops, a networking event, and a collaborative video production in time for the Philippine Independence Day on June 12.


History can function to build character, generate pride and provide role models. A program from RAFIKI, an organization that supports Congolese and other Francophone Africans in Canada, seeks to help Black children of the French-speaking community discover their history and learn about the contribution of Black Canadians to Canada’s development.

Educating through video

TRAD started as a club at McMaster University in 2013 and has evolved into an online magazine that explores African cultures, ideas, philosophies and traditions, and serves Black youth in Ontario. An HCF grant will support TRAD in developing informative and interactive videos designed to connect local Black youth to Hamilton’s African diaspora and to one another.

Nuestra Historia

Asocacion Fraternidad Hispana (AFH) is a local organization committed to the inclusion and progress of Hamilton’s Hispanic community. A new program from AFH looks to help Hamilton’s Latin American community learn and engage with its roots. In collaboration with McMaster students, expert-led workshops (including Black and Indigenous Latin community members) will delve into topics such as race, identity and colonialism in Latin American history.

Our Future Intended blog is an ongoing series that spotlights some of our most recent granting in areas such as physical activityIndigenous communitiesliteracyfoodcommunity theatreseniors, our pandemic response and more.

Transforming Hamilton for trans-feminine folk

If you were assigned male at birth but identify as a woman, you may consider yourself trans-feminine. While some safe spaces exist where Two-Spirit and LGBTQ+ Hamiltonians can spend time with peers, a program run by Compass Community Health (CCH) is helping to address a gap in support for trans- feminine people in the city.

An Edith H. Turner Foundation Fund grant is helping CCH, along with key partners Kyle’s Place and speqtrum, to create three trans-feminine peer support groups: one for youth, one for adults, and one to encourage intergenerational sharing.

The idea came from members of the trans-feminine community. The groups will be run by two peer facilitators who will receive training and ongoing support from several organizations, including the AIDS Network and YWCA. Along with CCH staff, these agencies will also support both the development and the health of peer facilitators whose work makes them susceptible to vicarious trauma and burnout. In turn, the agencies will benefit from hearing trans-feminine perspectives. Ongoing feedback will shape program delivery and ultimately help address gaps in trans-feminine research.

Excerpt from 2021 Spring Legacy newsletter

Supporting students

Hamilton’s high-school graduation rates have improved over the past decade, but there are still pockets of the city where students struggle. With HCF support, Munar Learning Center will expand its already successful after- school programming for Somali-Canadian students using the award-winning Pathways to Education model.

Some 80 students aged 10 to 17 at Hess Street Public School, Dr. Davey Elementary School and Bernie Custis Secondary School will receive one-on-one and group literacy and numeracy support, including six hours of tutoring a week. Building on already successful relationships with families, program volunteers — which include parents — will attend parent-teacher interviews, connect with teachers regarding student progress, track student attendance, encourage parent participation and help students set academic and social goals. Students with learning disabilities will receive individualized action plans.

The program is promoted by downtown mosques and local youth-serving organization Empowerment Squared, which helps recruit volunteers.

Excerpt from 2021 Spring Legacy newsletter