Future Intended: Empowering women and girls in Hamilton

At HCF we believe that supporting and empowering women and girls is a crucial element in building a vibrant and inclusive Hamilton. Research undertaken by Women 4 Change demonstrates the impact of gender inequality and suggests that women and girls in our city need additional supports to thrive. Here are some of the latest local projects we support that are directed toward this effort.

  • Syrian Girls Leadership and Integration March Break Camp

The teenage years are a crucial time of physical, emotional, spiritual and social development for young girls. Transitioning to a new culture can be especially challenging in this context. A free program from YWCA provides young girls who have fled Syria as refugees the opportunity to develop leadership, recreational and personal skills during a week-long March Break camp session.

  • Willow Storytelling Program

From January to March, this program – a partnership between Good Shepherd Women’s Services and Steel City Stories – included women from a variety of backgrounds sharing their stories and experiences and culminated in performances that celebrate International Women’s Day.

  • Coding Boot Camp for Women

We love this program that allows women to flex their coding muscles. Last fall, a group of women had the opportunity to participate in a 12-week coding boot camp at the Eva Rothwell Centre which included building websites and digital applications. The program was a partnership between Industry Education Council of Hamilton and Mohawk College. Read more here.

  • Phoenix Place

After fleeing from physical and emotional violence, women and their dependent children face challenges in rebuilding their lives. We’re glad to support the Phoenix Place program at YWCA which empowers women and children in these situations with access to affordable housing, part of a wider strategy to end violence against women.

  • Legal Holistic Pilot Project for Women

Empowering women takes many forms. This project, sponsored by Social Planning and Research Council, empowers women to participate in legal processes by providing legal advice and accompaniment to legal appointments, facilitating conversational women’s groups, and providing links to free community resources and wellness.

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

Future Intended: Spreadin’ rhythm around

Hamilton is definitely a music town. Through a variety of funds, we’re glad to be able to support local projects and organizations that spread the joy of music. From dance and jazz to music-related health research, here are just a few great music projects that we’re supporting this year.

Hamilton All-Star Jazz Band
Did you know that grads from the Hamilton All Star Jazz Band have garnered 33 Juno nominations, 11 Juno wins, and three Grammys? The band has performed at world-famous jazz festivals like Montreux in Switzerland and has featured more than a thousand young musicians since its inception in 1984. We’re glad to give continued support to this Hamilton treasure.

Dance for Parkinson’s
We love this research project which is a partnership between McMaster University’s Digital Music Lab, St. Joseph’s Healthcare, and St Peter’s Hospital. Participants – who dance, dance and dance some more – use a screen-based app and Microsoft’s Kinect camera whose motion-sensor technology allows researchers to study the effects of dance therapy on the symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease.

Arrell Youth Centre Productions
A new music program at the Arrell Youth Centre (operated by Banyan Community Services Foundation) will help troubled youths get back on track – by laying down some tracks of their own! The program will involve building a sound studio, music education, and writing and producing music under the guidance of professional musician mentors.

Chinese Cultural Association of Hamilton
Hamiltonians with Chinese heritage have a lot to celebrate this month. This project helps residents appreciate the arts through an array of cultural activities including a dance program for kids that culminated in a Chinese New Year performance.

Resonance Choir
Kids at the Ron Joyce Children’s Health Centre will have an especially great reason to sing this year – for their health! This project which also includes partners Hamilton Health Sciences and Culture for Kids in the Arts, will look at how group vocalization and choir singing may benefit youths with physical disabilities, like respiratory and pulmonary diseases.


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

Passion, Planning, Power: HCF workshops help make the connection

Hamilton Community Foundation has an important role to play in stimulating and supporting Hamiltonians to be engaged and effective philanthropists.

One way we’re playing that role is through a new educational workshop titled Sharpen Your Impact. It takes participants through fun and interactive exercises that help them uncover what is important to them and why, and then to use that self-knowledge to build their personal philanthropic plan.

Sarah Wardrope attended a session hosted by Hamilton HIVE, a network for the city’s young professionals.  “It helped me to bring into focus the areas I am passionate about,” she says, “and to identify resources I already have, like my social media networks, that I can use to start making a difference.”

Sharpen Your Impact helps participants recognize that philanthropy goes beyond money, and to consider how they can focus assets such as time, connections, volunteerism and employment to foster the social change they envision.

Sheree Meredith, HCF’s Vice-President of Philanthropic Services says the workshop shows people how to reflect on what they are doing now – and could easily do in future. “It helps them bring together their efforts in a way that can increase the both the difference they make in the community and their own intrinsic satisfaction.”

To learn more about hosting or attending a Sharpen Your Impact workshop, please contact Jill Anderson: j.anderson@hamiltoncommunityfoundation.ca.

Excerpt from the 2017 Legacy Fall newsletter

A clearer future for kids

Five years after its launch, a local vision screening pilot program for school children is paying high-level dividends. The Ontario government recently indicated a new mandate for public health province-wide: to address vision.

HCF provided start-up funding in 2012 to the pilot at five high-need elementary schools. It discovered vision problems in 16 percent of the children screened. Of children who needed glasses, 18 percent didn’t have them. The project engaged multiple partners to provide screening space, transportation, expertise and equipment and more than 114 Hamilton schools are now involved. HCF has supported the program throughout, including subsidizing the cost for glasses.

HCF’s initial grant also helped document the project as a policy and public education tool. Now, incorporating that evidence into its broader findings, Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long Term Care has mandated all public health units to address the need for vision screening.

“HCF’s funding was critical to getting this project going,” says Laura Laverty, from the City of Hamilton’s Healthy Families Division, ”and because of that, Hamilton has a head start on the province’s new vision mandate.”


Excerpt from the 2017 Legacy Fall newsletter

Code for Advancement

Women are flexing their coding muscles at a free 12-week bootcamp held at the Eva Rothwell Centre this fall.

The program, which is supported by HCF’s Women 4 Change and organized by Hamilton’s Industry Education Council and CitySchool by Mohawk, teaches women not currently in school to build websites and applications. Guest speakers and visits to Mohawk College provide inspiration and practical information about educational pathways.

The bootcamp addresses an important need in Canada. “With cumulative hiring requirements expected to reach as many as 232,000 by 2019,” reports the Information and Communications Technology Council, “attracting and retaining top female talent in this highly competitive market has never been more critical.”


Excerpt from the 2017 Legacy Fall newsletter

Heads up!

“Brain Smart: Let’s Play Safely,” is a research project that is tackling youth concussions head on.

Concussion can have lasting impact on all areas of a young person’s life: cognitive, social, physical and emotional. The project’s objectives are to reduce the risk of concussion in organized youth sports and increase knowledge of concussion management by coaches, athletes and parents. The initial focus is on the sports with the highest concussion rates: hockey and football.

The 16-month project is funded by a Community Health and Education Research grant, led by McMaster’s CanChild Centre for Disability Research. Numerous partners include the City of Hamilton, minor sports associations, Brain Injury Services, Lifemark Physiotherapy and the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board,

The project’s five phases include a baseline survey about concussion incidence, knowledge and attitudes and existing protocols, ; helping teams to develop or refine their concussion management protocols; outreach and education sessions for teams and players; a follow-up survey; and sharing results. The plan is to eventually expand the research to all minor sports in Hamilton.


Excerpt from 2017 Fall Legacy newsletter

Positive Connections

Next summer, local SoBi bikeshare hubs will be transformed by art, and in the process, increase the artists’ connection to community.

The artists will be participants in Proof Positive, a collaboration between Centre[3] for Print and Media Arts and the Regional Rehabilitation Centre that teams up 30 people who are undergoing physical and mental rehabilitation with two local experts. The participants will learn the fundamentals of printmaking, drawing, painting and photography while producing their own work on the theme of transformation. The program will be hosted at Centre[3]’s James North studio and the rehabilitation centre at the Hamilton General Hospital.

Access to collaborative, creative opportunities for self-expression is important for people whose disabilities may prevent them from going outside the rehabilitation centre and thus may isolate them from their community. Participants in the project, which is funded by an HCF Creative Arts grant, will use art to connect and share with the larger community, breaking down barriers to inclusion and sparking conversations at SoBi stations across the city.


Excerpt from 2017 Fall Legacy newsletter

Hamilton’s Alleyway Hero

There are more than 700 alleys in Hamilton. In its oldest neighbourhoods, these alleys gave horse-drawn carriages access to homes and businesses. Today they are transportation corridors and impromptu playgrounds, bike paths and shortcuts to school or work. Some are gang-tagged and littered with drug paraphernalia. Increasingly, they are leafy, flower-lined and bordered by public art. Brenda Duke, is determined to make every one safe and beautiful. 

Brenda started cleaning the alley behind her Gibson Landsdale home in 2011. The idea caught on, and she engaged more and more local residents in caring for their local alleys – spaces that accumulate garbage and blight neighbourhoods when neglected, but generate pride and healthy activity when reclaimed.

Brenda expanded her effort into Beautiful Alleys in 2015. Since then, the group has transformed roughly 200 alleys. Some 150 volunteers do twice-annual cleanups with support from the City of Hamilton, area BIAs, businesses and community organizations, supplies from Hamilton Clean & Green, McMaster University researchers cataloguing progress, and HCF small grants.

Brenda credits some of her success to HCF’s Neighbourhood Leadership Institute (NLI). Through her 10-week course in 2015, Brenda says she “refined her skills” and made her work more effective. She built networks and learned more about dealing with conflict. She remains a valued NLI alumni, mentoring other community leaders. “NLI is always there for you,” she says. “It’s continual learning. I recommend it to other leaders and help in any way I can.”

As she gears up for the next cleanup, Brenda has an ambitious goal – to put Beautiful Alleys out of business. “When residents take over the care of their alleys, you don’t need our group to come in,” she explains. Already, the number of “new” alleys needing help is going down – a sure sign her leadership is making a difference.

Excerpt from 2017 Fall Legacy newsletter

Bistro puts job skills on the menu for those living with mental illness

Rainbow’s End assistant manager Tom Varley is a testament to the power of meaningful work

Look behind the stainless steel prep counter at The Rainbow’s End Bistro and you’ll find a pot of gold — a meaningful job for those with lived experience of mental illness.

The Bistro anchors the busy food court at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton’s West 5th location. With a focus on serving healthy, high-quality food, it’s a social enterprise providing training and employment for those living with mental illness.

One in five Hamiltonians will experience some sort of mental illness in their lifetime. Many want to return to work, but struggle to find opportunities. The Bistro not only provides its team members with training in safe food handling and exposure to a fast-paced kitchen environment, it proves they can be productive contributors to both workplace and community.

“The people who work here show us that despite some very difficult hurdles, they continue to climb,” says David Williams, executive director of Rainbow’s End. “I learned my relentless enthusiasm from them.”

Accommodations come standard. “We adjust the jobs to fit the people,” says Tom Varley, who started as kitchen help and is now the Bistro’s assistant manager. “Some people come in beaten down, with no self-confidence. Then they see they’re a vital member of the team. The change is amazing.”

Tom speaks from personal experience. “I was an addict for 25 years. You fool yourself into thinking you’re functioning but you’re not. Now I’m fully self-sufficient, and helping others, too. It’s like night and day.”

With support from an HCF grant, the Bistro is enhancing its training program with six-month paid internships and expanding its catering services. New signage, equipment and marketing help from Mohawk College students are also on the menu.

“We’re successful because of the hard work of our team members,” David says. “They belong here. They belong in the community. And they’re contributing to the success of Hamilton.”

Excerpt from 2017 annual report

Connecting community, one meal at a time

Clare Wagner brings people together around food at the Hamilton Community Food Centre

It’s a cold and rainy Saturday morning, but inside Neighbour 2 Neighbour’s Hamilton Community Food Centre on Limeridge Road West, everyone gets a warm welcome.

The centre is the first of its kind in Hamilton and only the eighth in Canada—a place that’s changing the food system through the power of a great meal, cooked with love and eaten with others.

At the Saturday market and café, a woman from South Korea and her son sample Persian tea and vanilla crêpes. A man from Dubai with a PhD in agriculture fills out a volunteer form. A woman from London, Ontario, in town to visit family, marvels at a table full of bright green chard for her mom’s Kurdish dishes. “I don’t know of anything like this in my city,” she says.

More than one in three people in some Hamilton Mountain neighbourhoods are living below the poverty line, with very few services. Programs at the Hamilton Community Food Centre are free. The market and café sell their wares at or below cost. No one is asked to prove their need.

“We aren’t teaching poor people to cook,” clarifies director of community food, Clare Wagner. “We’re creating a space for people to grow, cook, share and advocate for good food.”

Community Food Centres Canada chose Hamilton from among 24 Ontario communities for a five-year, $1 million investment. A loan from HCF’s Hamilton Community Investment Fund is helping to bring the centre to life by supporting construction, a capital campaign and operations.

The centre’s programs are filling up before there’s even a sign on the building. HCF funds support the Welcome Baby program, delivered in partnership with the City’s Public Health Department, and food-focused after-school and summer programming for children and youth.

Other popular programs are an intercultural community kitchen, lunch and dinner drop-ins, community gardens, a language exchange and community action training.

“There’s hope when we bring people from different backgrounds together around food and start talking about what needs to change,” says Clare. “This is a space where people can grow and feel valued.”

Excerpt from 2017 annual report