Empowering women to succeed

Soroptimist International of Hamilton-Burlington recognizes that education is one of the most effective means to bring positive change to a woman’s life and that supporting a woman’s desire to improve her own and her family’s lives benefits the entire community.

Soroptimist International works to improve the lives of women and girls in 120 countries. Locally, through their “Live Your Dream” program, Soroptimists provide financial assistance to women who are sole supporters of their families to pursue education improves their skills, potential and feelings of self-worth. Most of the women receiving assistance are survivors of sexual assault, poverty, or addiction.

It’s a need clearly identified in HCF’s 2018 Vital Signs Report: Hamilton women living in poverty face multiple barriers to improving their education and, as a result, the path to prosperity. Supported by an HCF grant, local Soroptimists are responding with plans to increase the number of awards.

Swimming with a mission

Hamilton children with disabilities are learning to swim, thanks to a partnership between SWAM Hamilton and Special Olympics Ontario. The program uses rigorously-selected student volunteers from McMaster University to give low-cost swimming and water safety lessons to children with special needs aged 2-18.

Drowning is the second leading cause of death for children under the age of 10 in Canada, and the risk is increased for youth with sensory-motor or intellectual limitations.

SWAM Canada is a national non-profit organization that offers affordable and accessible swimming lessons. In Hamilton, it has been providing one-on-one lessons to special-needs children for a decade at the downtown YMCA facility. Demand for the program is outpacing resources and HCF’s Ontario Endowment for Children & Youth in Recreation Fund is helping to fill the gap, with more than 100 children benefitting this year. The McMaster students who volunteer as instructors also benefit, developing leadership skills and valuable experience.


Excerpt from Legacy winter 2019 newsletter

ABACUS at three

In 2015, Hamilton Community Foundation set out  to create a pathway for more kids to graduate high school and move on to post-secondary education: college, university and the trades.

Known as ABACUS, this 10-year commitment is the primary focus of HCF’s Community Fund granting and leadership. It is unique in targeting students in Grades 6, 7, 8 — a critical transition period for young people that is key to their later success. By supporting middle school students, parents, educators and other partners, ABACUS works to help kids more effectively transition to high school, begin to set goals early and imagine a future with more possibilities.

ABACUS comprises three components: granting to increase the community’s capacity to meet the needs of this age group, an intensive one-on-one mentoring program called Grad Track, and support for systems change to address gaps that may present barriers to educational advancement.

At the three-year mark of ABACUS, Hamilton Community Foundation has funded a wide range of community-based programs. They include before, during and after-school activities such as mentoring, academic support, goal setting, and campus visits. Students are engaged through a wide variety of interests: the arts, sports, STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) programs and others. Some numbers to date include 9,000 students participating, 29 initiatives funded, and 700 parents and 460 educators engaged.

ABACUS in action
Kiwanis Boys and Girls Club’s ABACUS after-school initiative illustrates the approach. Twice a week, students get homework help and have a range of academic and life skill learning experiences. Once a month, they broaden their perspectives on the future with outings to local high schools and post-secondary institutions. Some 75 middle school students are involved, along with more than 30 parents. The program reports outcomes that include:

• Better school attendance and homework completion
• More participation in leadership activities and volunteer opportunities outside school
• More positive attitudes toward school and learning
• A developing interest in post-secondary education
• Parental commitment to nurturing their child’s potential

“ABACUS goals are challenging, and the work is complex,” says Matt Goodman, Vice-President, Grants
& Community Initiatives. “But the indications are that we’re on the right track. Working with students at this pivotal point is transforming the way they view their own potential. That’s tremendously exciting for each student — but also for the whole community. Hamilton’s competitive future depends on it.”
Learn more and watch our video at ABACUSatHCF.ca


Excerpt from Legacy winter 2019 newsletter

A family honours its roots

Lou Serafini Jr. opens new facility, with Ward 3 Councillor Nrinder Nann and Mayor Fred Eisenberger

The new Serafini Family Ice & Splash Pad, located at the Bernie Morelli Recreation Centre, is a gift to Hamilton that exemplifies the family’s personal and business roots in the city, as well as its lifelong love of recreation.

“Hamilton has been central to our family’s history and we’re honoured to support this new facility,” says Lou Serafini Jr. “It represents both the city’s role in our lives, and our desire to share the benefits and enjoyment of recreation with young people who may not otherwise have an opportunity to explore their potential through sport.”
That goal is also being achieved by the first three grants from
the new Fengate Recreation Fund at HCF, established to increase access to sport and recreation in the neighbourhood surrounding the new rec centre. They include a grant to help make skates and helmets available for local children and families with limited financial resources, another to support a girls’ running program operating
at the nearby Prince of Wales School, and a third to subsidize participation in fee-based programs at the Bernie Morelli Rec Centre.
“The new facility can be enjoyed by families summer and winter and, coupled with the grants, is a remarkable tribute to the city,” says HCF President & CEO Terry Cooke. “We’re thrilled to play a role in helping the Serafini family achieve its philanthropic goals.”


Excerpt from Legacy winter 2019 newsletter

Future Intended: Some food for thought

Virginia Woolf wrote, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” We agree that good healthy food is essential for physical and mental health and well-being. From tackling hunger to providing job training opportunities, here’s a selection of programs we support that revolve around food as a way to bring positive change to people’s lives.

  • Come to the Table at King’s Way Outreach Centre

The knowledge and skills for preparing healthy meals can be life-changing. Come to the Table empowers clients at King’s Way Outreach Centre to create healthy nutrient-dense meals. It also provides training on proper food handling and how to cook with limited food options.

  • Food4Kids Weekends without hunger

A recent grant from the Edith H. Turner Fund will help expand the Food4Kids Weekends without Hunger program to three high schools in Hamilton. Consistency of weekend food access has a significant impact on physical and mental health of students and academic development. The program, already a success in elementary schools, helps to increase the chances for all students to succeed.

  • Tackling Youth Hunger in Hamilton: A Mealshare Expansion

Buy one, give one — that’s the idea behind the Mealshare model. Mealshare teams up with local restaurants and one dollar from every order of designated menu items is donated to local charities that tackle youth hunger. Mealshare is partnering with Kiwanis Boys and Girls Club and makes its way to Hamilton this summer.

  • Wesley Urban Ministries Food Service Training Program

Vulnerable community members including youth and newcomers are getting a great start at First Start Café, a new social enterprise at Wesley Urban Ministries. The food service training program provides employment-related supports and career-development services. Clients learn independence and coping skills while increasing their chances for finding employment afterwards.

  • Food for Thought at YWCA Hamilton

Food for Thought builds on existing programs and resources at YWCA to empower women to succeed. The program works with the YWCA Employment Centre and At the Table Café social enterprise, to engage more than 60 women experiencing homelessness and other barriers. Among other things, the program increases food security, helps builds self-esteem, enhances employability, and provides leadership and life skills.

Future Intended is an ongoing series that spotlights some of our most recent granting in categories like physical activity, Indigenous communities, literacy, the environment and more.

Future Intended: Activating Hamilton’s youth

It can be easy to take fitness opportunities for granted. However, barriers persist that make access a challenge for many people. Fortunately, there are wonderful organizations in Hamilton working to make sure everybody has a chance to take part in healthy active lifestyles. Here are just a few programs we are proud to support that get kids active and having fun.

  • Start to Finish – Running and Reading Club

Kids in this program get a healthy dose of both exercise and literacy. In the Running and Reading Club, circuit training, running-based games and relay activities are followed by nutritious snacks, “word of the day” and reading with the coaches. It all culminates in a Reading and Running Challenge that includes a 5k run and a Jeopardy-style literacy game.

  • Liberty for Youth – Prodigal Sonz

Basketball, mentorship and leadership skills come together in this program at Liberty for Youth. Every practice starts with discussion led by a mentor who shares stories about dealing with challenges. Youth in the program also get the opportunity to deliver talks on a variety of issues like mental health, drugs and negative peer pressure and they learn skills relating to leadership, health, relationships, self-esteem and public speaking. In the summer, youth participate in the annual Liberty and Justice Unity Basketball Event in partnership with Hamilton Police Department.

  • Living Rock Ministries – Rock-in-Action

From ball hockey games and weekly fitness workouts to dodge ball and access to the gym at the YMCA, the Rock-in-Action program offers activities for at-risk youth while promoting social inclusion. Beyond the “basics”, the program helps decrease social isolation and allows youth to experience community in a meaningful way.

  • SWAM – Swimming with a mission

Teaching children water safety is crucial for preventing injuries. According to SWAM Canada, “disabled children are ten times likelier to suffer from a submersion injury than the general population”. The SWAM program gives preference to low-income families and uses student volunteers from McMaster University to give one-on-one swimming and water safety lessons to children with special needs.

  • Jump in Foundation – Physical Activation Program

This program is another great example of breaking down financial barriers for families seeking opportunities to keep their kids active. Through activities that are tailored to facilitate mental and physical well-being, youth suffering from mental health issues are given opportunities to reap the “emotional, physical and mental rewards” of a healthy lifestyle. Youth are even invited to bring a family member along for the fun!

Future Intended is an ongoing series that spotlights some of our most recent granting in categories like music, visual art, literacy, the environment and more.

Future Intended: Teachers edition

Teachers are some of the most important adults in the lives of students. As part of our ABACUS program with its focus on the middle school years, we are proud to offer funding through our Small Grants for Teachers program. The grants are designed to support teacher projects that improve students’ achievement and enhance learning experiences.

Check out the stories below for some inspiration!

  • All the news that’s fit to print at Ryerson Middle School

Read all about it! At Ryerson Middle School, a professionally printed monthly student newspaper is one of the ways that students are staying informed. Beyond keeping up with the big issues of the day, the paper also gave students the opportunity to enhance their critical literacy skills when engaging with media – a skill that is as essential and timely as ever!

  • Family mental well-being Fair at St. Patrick Catholic Elementary

Mental health is important at all stages of life and especially so for young students. This summer at St. Patrick Catholic Elementary School, students and their parents got to experience a fair focused on mental health. Families learned together about the different aspects of mental health as well as different coping skills.

  • Long live the arts at Queen Mary

The arts are a timeless vehicle for teaching self-expression. With support from Small Grants for Teachers, an extracurricular arts program at Queen Mary allowed children with no prior experience to perform in a stage production of Beauty and the Beast. For those students less inclined to be centre-stage, the program also offered the experience to learn professional level sound and lighting for stage productions.

  • History at Hess St. School

History buffs in the making! Two classes at Hess St. School got to visit Dundurn National Historic Site and the Military Museum last fall with the help of a small grant. Exploring what the neighbourhood was like before Confederation and discovering the role of former Hess St. School students who volunteered in the First World War is sure to pique curiosity and create some future historians!

  • Building ‘bots at Mount Hope Elementary

Sparking students’ imaginations is a great way to get them engaged in learning. And what’s more exciting than building a robot?! At Mount Hope Elementary, a small grant helped with the purchase of VEX IQ robotics kits that students used to build and program their own robots. Coding and programming are increasingly sought after skills and a Robotics Club at school is an exciting way for students to work together using their imaginations and applied learning.

Future Intended is an ongoing series that spotlights some of our most recent granting in categories like music, visual art, literacy, the environment and more.

Future Intended: Neighbourhoods leading change

Photograph courtesy of Anna Davey


As a partner in Hamilton’s Neighbourhood Action Strategy (NAS), HCF operates the Small Grants Program that supports local projects and events that help to build healthier neighbourhoods. These initiatives are organized by residents because the NAS believes that residents know best what their neighbourhoods need, and that residents already have the ideas, skills, networks and other assets to lead change in their neighbourhoods. Here are a few examples of recent projects throughout the city supported by small grants.

Riverdale: Family Fun Day

In July, community organizers, including a youth leader, put together Riverdale Family Fun Day – a day to bring newcomers and refugees together with fun activities like a monkey bus, a magician, face-painting and more. Kids made new friends – and so did the grown-ups! Inclusive community events like this work to increase a sense of belonging, and strengthen bonds between families.

Crown Point: Whitfield Ave. Food is Free project

From May to October a truck bed garden will, from time to time, provide free vegetables for neighbourhood residents. The garden also acts as a space for residents to gather and socialize while kids learn about gardening. Local partner Liberty Iron Trading provides the space, truck bed and other equipment for the project.

Sherman: safeTALK suicide prevention workshop

This September a workshop in the Sherman neighbourhood will provide training in mental health awareness and suicide prevention to coincide with Suicide Prevention Day. Erich’s Cupboard, operated by Neighbourhood Leadership Institute alumni, will plan and implement the safeTALK workshop and issue certificates upon completion. The hope is to train 30 participants who will serve as safeTALK responders in the neighbourhood.  The project also includes partners in Crown Point neighbourhood and HARRRP.

Jamesville: Youth Soccer League

Physical activity and sports have countless health benefits but they also provide opportunities for positive social development. With support from John Howard Society of Hamilton, the Youth Soccer League in in Jamesville creates an environment where kids can stay fit and socialize with one another. A small grant supports the league with jerseys, equipment and the opportunity to compete in a Toronto youth league.

Stinson: Songs from the Bishop

Inclusiveness is at the centre of this project in Stinson neighbourhood. Every Thursday in July, free performances featuring local musicians took place in Bishop’s Park. Designed in part to draw people into the park, the performances welcomed everyone, with a special focus on inviting members from St. Leonard’s Society of Hamilton who also sponsored the project.

Future Intended is an ongoing series that spotlights some of our most recent granting in categories like music, visual art, literacy, the environment and more.

Seniors’ program delivers much more than a meal

When serious complications from a quadruple bypass left Bonnie in a wheelchair and confined to home, every day presented the same difficult choice: order in from a restaurant she couldn’t afford, or not eat at all. All that changed when she learned about a free home food delivery program, co-ordinated by St. Matthew’s House, which helped her get back on her feet. Literally.

Referrals to the food delivery program mostly come from seniors themselves, who are told about the program by the Hamilton Police Services seniors’ support team, the community paramedic program or another food bank. A grant from the Edith H. Turner Foundation makes sure participants receive seven days of food with each delivery. Those with special dietary needs or who have no way to store or cook food are given nutritional products such as liquid meal replacements.

The food, however, is only the beginning.

“Seniors call us because they have an immediate need—hunger. But what makes our program unique is we marry food bank supports with intensive case management,” says interim co-executive director Karen Randell. “We don’t just deliver the box of food and leave. Our program staff are trained to explore what other needs the senior may have. Our ultimate goal is to improve the quality of life for the seniors we work with.”

Visit by visit, the food delivery team is able to develop a rapport and connect the senior to resources, including the St. Matthew’s Senior Centre, which provides weekday meals, weekend care packages, social activities and a medical clinic. “We start with preventing food insecurity and end with improving quality of life,” Karen says.

Which brings us back to Bonnie. Once she started attending the senior centre’s programs, she no longer needed home food delivery. Eventually, she no longer needed her wheelchair or walker. “I’ve come alive coming here,” she says.

Excerpt from 2018 Annual Report

A new generation of philanthropy

Hamilton is always home for Yvonne Farah. Having grown up here, she now promotes the Hamilton story to members of her international MBA program. She’s also feeling her way into her personal direction in philanthropy – a legacy from her parents Elham and Joseph Farah, who established an HCF fund in 2005 that focuses on peace education and supports the YMCA’s Peace Medal program. Yvonne has been involved with those efforts for several years and has begun exploring additional avenues for strategic philanthropy as a contributor to the Foundation’s Women 4 Change initiative.

Even with a firm grounding in her family’s tradition of giving, she says that as a “borderline millennial” the idea of philanthropy can be daunting, but it needn’t be. That became clear through her affiliation with Women 4 Change.

“I realized that we do things every day, like mentoring a younger person, without labeling those actions philanthropic,” she says. “I’m so impressed and touched by the women in the group and the work that they do.”

Getting to see HCF’s expertise in action has been exciting to Yvonne.  She is hoping to become more involved once she finishes her MBA in June and returns full-time to Hamilton and her family’s convenience store business. Even with her international focus, “home is home” she says. “There’s always a connection.” The Farah tradition of philanthropy is alive and well in the next generation.


Excerpt from 2018 Annual Report