The Ron and Gina Fraser Fund

Ron-Gina-Fraser Gina Fraser wants to invest in the future by helping young people, who would not otherwise have the opportunity, to pursue a career in the trades. She turned to Hamilton Community Foundation to help her carry out that vision.

Though they had no children of their own, Gina and her late husband Ron had what she calls a “soft spot” for kids, and shared a passion for helping disadvantaged youth to pursue education. They established bursaries to support local students, and fellowships in health sciences. Gina has maintained an interest in many of the young people and their careers over the years. But her interest in skilled trades has a special significance, because of Ron’s long career as a president and CEO in the home construction industry.

“University isn’t for everyone,” says Gina. “Tradespeople built our country and it can be a really interesting and rewarding career. Many young people have a natural instinct for the trades, but they may not be aware of those instincts or know that there is a good living to be made until they experience expert guidance and training.” Gina has known about the Foundation for many years, but her interest was piqued by a story in an HCF publication about a grant to the Threshold School of Building, providing youth with training in home construction and renovation.

“I knew what I wanted to do,” says Gina, “but until I saw that story I just didn’t know how to make it happen.”

Gina established The Ron and Gina Fraser Fund at Hamilton Community Foundation as a tribute to Ron and to carry out her philanthropic goals. Her intent is to establish a bursary for young people wanting to study the trades. Meeting with HCF’s grants team provided her with knowledge of the importance of engaging kids early so they are exposed to the options before finishing high school.

As a result, last summer, the first grant from the fund supported an innovative pilot project at Mohawk College’s Skilled Trades and Apprenticeship Research, Resources and Training Institute. It combined education summer jobs, mentoring and fun. Bringing together partners from the college and the YMCA, it gave 12 youth from a low-income neighbourhood the opportunity to learn about and experience a number of trades.

Gina Fraser couldn’t be happier. “You might think that it would be simple for kids to enter the trades as a career, but they often don’t even know it’s an option. This fund will help to open that door.”

Excerpt from 2009-2010 Annual Report

The Foxcroft Family Youth Fund


Ron Foxcroft knows the value of sport. It has opened doors for him in business and in life. He wants that chance for all kids.

Owner of Hamilton-based Fluke Transportation Ltd. and Fox40 International Inc., Ron’s legendary community support has been recognized with many awards, among them 1997 Hamilton Citizen of the Year, and an Honorary Doctor of Laws from McMaster University.

Ron is also renowned as a professional basketball referee. That career spanned 35 years and 1600 games in 30 countries – including the 1976 Olympic Gold Medal game – and earned him a place in both the Canadian and the Ontario Basketball Hall of Fame. In 2007, REFEREE magazine named Ron one of the “52 Most Influential Officials in North America.” He also invented the revolutionary Fox 40 Pealess Whistle.

“There wouldn’t be a Fox 40 whistle without the mentors and coaches I had growing up,” Ron says. “It was from them that I learned teamwork and leadership.”

Research supports Ron’s personal experience. Quality recreational activities lead to “a lifetime of better health, increased self esteem, social and leadership skills,” in the words of McMaster University’s Dr. Gina Browne. Opportunities like camp, playgroups, swimming lessons, and team sports help children improve their academic performance, increase their social skills, and develop a sense of belonging. Especially important, high-risk behaviour goes down.

But for some children, access to recreation is limited. Cost can be prohibitive. Transportation is often a barrier. Children of new Canadians can face cultural or social hurdles.

Ron, his wife Marie, and their sons Steve, Dave and Ronnie aim to break down those barriers through The Foxcroft Family Youth Fund. It will also help with the huge number of donation requests Ron’s companies receive.

The Fund is working closely with HCF’s Ontario Endowment for Children & Youth in Recreation Fund, which Ron chaired when it was established with challenge funding from the province and matching funds from local donors. “I realized then that the community foundation is the jewel of Hamilton,” Ron says. “Working with the Foundation, I know our family can maximize our impact for youth.”

Excerpt from 2007-2008 Annual Report

Fengate Community Foundation Fund

Fengate Corporation

Fengate Corporation has called on HCF to enhance the effectiveness of its charitable giving tradition. From left: Marco Di Carlantonio, Senior Vice President; Lou Serafini Jr., President and Louis Serafini Sr., Founder & Director.

Charitable giving and volunteering have always been important to Fengate Corporation’s corporate culture. Now, the company has enlisted the help of Hamilton Community Foundation to structure and inform its community support.

“We started a fund at HCF for a number of reasons,” says Lou Serafini Jr., Fengate’s president. “First, we want to recognize our Hamilton roots. The company started here and while we’re now national, we remain committed to Hamilton’s well-being. Second, HCF has the specialized knowledge of charities to help us effectively direct our support and third, this will enhance our culture of giving and volunteering. Our team is very engaged in the community and we value the idea of supporting their charitable efforts outside the workplace.”

The company puts its policies behind those words. Staff are given days off to volunteer and participate actively in corporate giving decisions. In addition, an award is presented annually to a staff member whose community involvement is outstanding.

Founded in Hamilton in 1974 by Louis Serafini Sr., Fengate has grown to a national enterprise with over 400 employees. The company is a Canadian market leader in asset management, developing infrastructure, commercial real estate and seniors housing. Since 2007, Fengate has been recognized as one of Canada’s 50 Best Managed Companies.

“I’m very proud of these achievements. However, success is about more than the bottom line, it’s about giving back in ways that make our community a better place to live,” says Lou Jr. “We have a social responsibility as a corporation and it is important to share our success with those who need help.”

The donor-advised Fengate Community Foundation Fund will support projects focused on children, youth and seniors within the fields of health, education and the environment. The fund will also direct 20 percent of its annual granting to HCF’s Community Fund.

Through the process of establishing the fund, Lou Jr. was impressed with HCF’s expertise and low management cost. “It gives us great confidence that this relationship will multiply Fengate’s charitable impact,” he says. “There is tremendous value in HCF’s knowledge of the community’s needs and its understanding of the best opportunities to help. We’re very excited about this partnership.”

Excerpt from 2009-2010 Annual Report

The Farah Family

Elham and Joseph Farah

Elham and Joseph Farah

Elham and Joseph Farah weren’t familiar with the community foundation concept until recently but they discovered a true meeting of minds when a friend referred them to Hamilton Community Foundation.

For this globally-conscious couple, it became an easy decision to develop their family foundation – a long-time goal of theirs – within HCF. “I like the way the Foundation operates and the work that they have been doing in the community,” says Elham, a learning resource teacher for children with special needs. “At the Foundation we are with a group of people that share the same vision, who want to bring people together and improve life in Hamilton.”

Joseph, a busy entrepreneur who owns the Farahs Food Mart, Hasty Market and Mini-Mart convenience store chains, adds that HCF’s experience in managing endowment funds was a strong selling point. “We’d be in a learning process, and I don’t have the time to do it. This way, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel and we have the comfort of being part of a successful foundation.”

Parents to three children, all young adults, the Farahs make time for volunteer work, with Joseph sitting on the Hamilton Health Sciences board of directors, and Elham active in the Canadian Club and the Canadian Institute of International Affairs.

The Farahs are both from Nazareth, the largest Arab-populated city in Israel, and have made Hamilton their home since the late 1970s. It’s no coincidence that their interest leans toward creating forums for education and understanding. “We were born and raised in a different culture,” Elham explains. “I believe it’s important to share the human experience, to exchange ideas and knowledge. As a society we need to pay more attention to human development.”

The Farah’s fund will support educational and cultural projects that promote tolerance and understanding.

Excerpt from 2005-2006 Annual Report 

Howard Fairclough Organ Scholarship Fund


The late Ellen Fairclough’s contributions to public life are widely known: her groundbreaking leadership as Canada’s only female Member of Parliament in 1950 and her status as the country’s first female federal cabinet minister in 1957.
But Dr. Joan Heels, a vocal and piano teacher, remembers her as “Aunt Ellen”, a caring and thoughtful woman who both contributed to and carried on her family’s strong tradition of musicianship.

Ellen Fairclough, nee Cook, grew up playing piano, and shared her talent by playing the organ at local churches. She even had a live show on CHML Radio with her younger sister, Mary, Joan’s mother, who sang to Ellen’s accompaniment on piano. Joan says her mother told her that they earned about $5 per show and promptly spent some of it on sheet music for their next performance.

Ellen and Gordon Fairclough’s son, Howard, started piano lessons at age five and his cousin Joan, just a year younger, tagged along. “Howard played in dance bands in Toronto and he was fabulous,” Joan recalls. “He could play anything off the top of his head; you should have heard him at parties.”

Howard, whose health had been weakened by a bout with polio in his teens, died in 1986. Afterwards, Ellen and Gordon met with Hamilton Community Foundation to talk about how they could both honour Howard’s memory and assist budding musicians in Hamilton.

Ellen was no stranger to Hamilton Community Foundation, having served as a board member and chair of the board in the 1970s. She appreciated the opportunity the Foundation provided for Hamiltonians to leave a legacy and contribute to a permanent endowment fund for the city’s benefit.

The Howard Fairclough Organ Scholarship Fund at Hamilton Community Foundation was created by Ellen and Gordon Fairclough to benefit young people with talent and the potential to become professional-level organists. When Ellen passed away in late 2004 at the age of 99, a share of the residue of her estate was added to the fund.
“A lot of people don’t know that Ellen was a musician in her own right, and also an artist,” Joan says. “And certainly she was a caring mother and a very devoted aunt. I always looked forward to our time together.”

Excerpt from 2005-2006 Annual Report

Jeff Dickins Memorial Fund

Jeff Dickins

In the whirl of deadlines that constitutes the newspaper business, it’s easy to forget about people, whether it’s those who once made news or those who once reported it.

But Jeff Dickins’ colleagues at The Hamilton Spectator haven’t forgotten the slight, rumpled sportswriter who captivated readers for 26 years before his unexpected death two years ago at the age of 48. They started the Jeff Dickins Memorial Fund at Hamilton Community Foundation to honour Jeff’s love of high-school athletics.
Spectator Sports editor Denis LeBlanc says Jeff’s own beliefs and values guided the criteria of the bursary, which recognizes a high- school student who demonstrates skill in athleticism, academics, and community involvement. “Jeff sometimes found the world of professional athletes a bit discouraging,” Denis says. “He liked the high-school and university players who just play for love of the game. And he recognized there are many kids involved in sports without being top athletes, so our bursary recognizes broad involvement in athletics.”

Saltfleet District High School student Mawusi Sosoo was the first recipient of the $500 Spectator bursary, which was matched by the local B’nai Brith organization. She received the award at the annual B’nai Brith dinner in February 2005. The energetic young woman plays rugby, works the score table at school basketball games, volunteers in a basketball league and has a handful of academic awards to her credit. Mawusi also works part-time, helps out at blood donor clinics and volunteers at her church.
“I think Jeff would have said that Mawusi could teach professional athletes a thing or two about dedication and commitment,” Denis comments.

Excerpt from 2004-2005 Annual Report

David Davis Memorial Fund

NOTE: next application deadline is October 1, 2021. Apply online here.


David Davis 1951-2006

David Davis was born in Nova Scotia and educated at Dalhousie and McGill Universities. He came to Hamilton in 1984 as Organist and Choir Master at Christ’s Church Cathedral and Artistic Director of the Hamilton Children’s Choir. David led this highly acclaimed Choral group for 17 years and then in 2002 took on a different challenge as Music Director of the Canadian Orpheus Male Choir. At the same time he was Organist and Choir Master at St Luke’s Anglican Church in Burlington and Artistic Director of the Ars Antiqua Chamber Choir in Burlington.

In addition to his musical abilities David will be remembered with fondness for his eccentricities, his zest for life and his wonderful quirky sense of humor. His youthful enthusiasm was infectious.

David Davis was passionate about promoting the value of music in our lives and encouraging the development of musical talent.
To honour David’s memory and to celebrate his life, a Fund with Hamilton Community Foundation has been established by the Canadian Orpheus Male Choir and the Hamilton Children’s Choir.

Excerpt from 2007-2008 Annual Report

Giovanni and Grazia Criminisi Literacy Fund


Giovanni and Grazia Criminisi

While Giovanni and Grazia Criminisi never had the opportunity for formal education, they believed strongly in the power of literacy to achieve prosperity. Now, their five children have chosen to honour those values through a fund at Hamilton Community Foundation.

Economic circumstances forced Giovanni to leave school after Grade 1 to work as a shepherd in the Italian countryside.  He could not read or write throughout his life.  Grazia completed Grade 5, then left school to help raise her younger brothers, and was unable to fulfill her quest for further education.  When the couple immigrated to Hamilton in the 1950s, they devoted their time and effort to make sure their children succeeded in school.

Their oldest son Charles, a Hamilton lawyer, fondly remembers his dad watching him intently for hours, as he studied at the dining room table, far more engaged by the act of learning than by TV or music.

“My father was a very smart man without an education,” says Charles.  “Both my parents instilled in us that learning was the key to a better life.  My mom taught herself to read English and could check that we had done our homework. There was no question in our house:  hard work and good marks were an expectation.”

The Criminisi siblings chose HCF for their philanthropic tribute, because the Foundation serves the city where the family put down roots and they like the permanency of an endowment. The Giovanni and Grazia Criminisi Literacy Fund will assist children and adults to acquire functional literacy that could lead to opportunities for education and employment.

“We want to replicate for others what our parents did for us,” says Charles, “to create literate, successful citizens.”

Excerpt from Spring 2010 Newsletter

Amanda Marie Cowan Memorial Scholarship Fund

Amanda-Marie Cowan

2001 Graduated from the University of Western Ontario with a Bachelor of Science, Honours Human Ecology.

2004 Graduated from The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of The University of Toronto (OISE) with a Bachelor of Education.

On September 8, 1978 Amanda was born in Brampton, Ontario. On her first birthday she moved to London, Ontario. She grew up there with her parents, Pam and Frank, and her older brother, Matthew and her younger sister, Kathryn.

As a young girl Amanda enjoyed playing sports such as baseball and basketball, exhibiting some “tomboy” tendencies. She was not fond of wearing dresses and on the occasion of her First Communion she announced that she would not wear a dress again until her wedding day. Amanda’s determination and certainty about how she would live her life were already evident.

Amanda always had a way that drew people to her – she made everyone feel that they were important. She had a great capacity to love and be loved. With her amazing blue eyes and her natural smile, she brightened up any room she walked into. People felt better just being around Amanda. She was always quick to forgive and forget. Her warmth and sincerity were genuine and she acted on these feelings. She wanted to help those less fortunate and for a time considered adopting a child in Africa. After thinking about it, she decided there were many people around her that could use the money. People in her life would find a few dollars tucked into their knapsacks when she knew they were a little short.

Amanda did not just live her life, she owned it. She approached everyday with passion and lived it to the fullest – at work and at play. As hard as she worked (she was known to have 3 jobs at one time), it was equally important to her to have FUN. Amanda did not cook, but she always knew where to find the best restaurant. Having a bad day? – “Let’s go shopping!” Having a really bad day? -’Let’s go dancing!” Having a really, really bad day? – “Let’s party!”

Amanda had unique little quirks. Her hair was straight but she was always straightening it; she would suggest trying a new drink called a ‘Mojito’ because it ‘sounded good’ and then say, “Let’s keep drinking it ’cause it smells like Grandma’s house”. Some of her friends found her taste in music and TV questionable- Boy Bands and reality TV shows – ‘Survivor’ was one of her favourites.

Amanda’s standards to live by were very clear and they were hand printed on a white board and hung on her bedroom wall. She was reminded every morning of how she wanted to live: ‘Whatever you want to do, do it NOW. There are only so many tomorrows.’

Amanda’s love for outdoor activities remained with her. She tried all the things that she could fit into her busy life including white water rafting and mountain climbing and dreamt of combining her love of travel and sport with a trip to Africa to conquer Mount Kilamanjaro.

Amanda loved to teach and felt the most joy when she was teaching her class of Resource Students. She brought her love of fun and her matter-of-fact attitude to the classroom. This was best summed up by a student when she wrote ‘decimals were a blast with you’…’thanks for smiling at me everyday when I walked in!’

Perhaps Amanda knew that she needed to live each day as if it was her only day. On November 17, 2006, Amanda was told that she had untreatable cancer and as with everything in her life, Amanda took the time she needed to adjust to the enormity of this pronouncement and then made the most of her days. She longed to live until spring – and she did! Spending her time in her family home she lived – she did not wait to die – with the love and support of all the people that were so special to her. Amanda remained in control of her day to day life and took every moment one at a time. She did not dwell on what she could not do, but did everything that she could do. She was courageous in her ability to adapt to the new challenges that were presented everyday.

On Sunday, July 8, 2007, Amanda passed away. Some would say that the cancer had won. But although Amanda accepted the inevitable outcome of her struggle, her spirit was strong and it inspired The Amanda Marie Cowan Memorial Scholarship Fund. This fund will allow her sense of hard work and fun to be carried forward to other aspiring teachers that share Amanda’s standards to live by. Amanda’s message to each recipient: “This is your lucky day – go out and live it.”

The Amanda Marie Cowan Memorial Scholarship Fund will provide an academic award for a deserving student at The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. The Award, to be made each year on Amanda’s birthday, will recognize both the student’s academic promise and financial need.

Bill and Petra Cooke

Bill & Petra Cook

“You can see results of HCF’s work right here,” says Bill. “Everybody knows somebody who needs help and we get a lot of satisfaction knowing that people in our area are benefiting from the projects the Foundation supports.”

Bill and Petra arrived in Hamilton from England and Scotland (respectively) in 1964, met in Hamilton and stayed here. Bill retired from a 34-year career in the production department of The Hamilton Spectator and Petra, a nurse, was the transfusion coordinator for Hamilton Health Sciences Corporation. Active in many local organizations their three children and five grandchildren have also been firmly rooted in the Hamilton area.

In addition to being steady contributors to the Foundation’s Community Fund, the Cookes also helped build the HCF Ontario Endowment for Children and Youth in Recreation Fund and had the chance to meet with a few young grant recipients. “We were very impressed,” said Petra at the time. “It was a very worthwhile initiative and it really touched our hearts.”

When asked if they had a message for others in the community who might be thinking about directing their giving through Hamilton Community Foundation, Petra responded. “I’d say it is focused on the local community, and the results are tangible. “It’s a very accountable organization – you know where the money goes, you’re kept up to date – and it’s well run. We’re very happy with the Foundation and we’ll continue to support it – no question.”

Excerpt from 2002-2003 Annual Report