Moving the fire from one longhouse to another

They’ve planted corn, beans and squash. Learned a 3000-year-old seed song. Beaded with porcupine quills, visited McMaster University and Mohawk College, made corn husk dolls, listened to stories told by elders, cooked with wild rice and learned to count lunar cycles on the back of a turtle shell.

This isn’t your typical school program. It’s NYA:WEH Elementary, a program co-ordinated by Niwasa Kendaaswin Teg to engage and support First Nation, Métis and Inuit students in Grade 6, 7 and 8. Formal activities are offered during nutrition breaks and after school, but students are encouraged to drop by to smudge, sing, bead, talk or drum any time the program is available. Students from every background are welcome; on any given day, between 15 and 40 children attend.

ABACUS funding supports NYA:WEH Elementary’s focus on helping middle-school students successfully transition to high school and beyond. The program operates at Prince of Wales, Queen Mary and Gatestone schools. Many of the students will eventually attend Delta Secondary School, where there’s a NYA:WEH high school program.

“The students are introduced to NYA:WEH Secondary staff long before Grade 9, so they already know they’re safe and supported,” says program co-ordinator Lauren Williams. “Once I know what high school they’re going to, I take them their project box so they can transition from one NYA:WEH to the other. It’s a physical representation of moving the fire from one longhouse to another.”

Jake Cruickshank is an Indigenous recruiter at McMaster University and connects with the kids at his monthly visits to NYA:WEH Elementary .

“I never thought about going to university until Grade 12, and by then I had a lot of catching up to do,” he says. “We’re starting early to help these students see post-secondary education as an option for them.”

The program builds confidence by building community. “By Grade 8 these kids know elders, people at the school board, high school staff and people at the post-secondary level,” Lauren says. “They have all these people wrapped around them, like a big hug.”

Excerpt from 2018 Annual Report

Looking back on a lifetime of giving

Lifelong Hamiltonian Frank Miller has a passion for travel — he has circled the globe four times — and an equal passion for his hometown and its citizens, tirelessly giving to local endeavors that have meaning to him.

“A light went on” says Frank when he realized that his resources were enough for him and he could indulge his philanthropic nature – a nature that was sparked by his mother when he was just a teenager. “She encouraged me as a boy to volunteer and to give away some of my earnings from my first part-time job.”  Frank’s mother remained supportive of his giving until her death at 100.

Frank’s philanthropic interests are wide-ranging and he enjoys seeing his gifts in action.  He has an extensive collection of teddy bears, and has shared this love by founding the Miller Bear Program at The Children’s Aid Society of Hamilton (CAS), through which child protection staff can give bears to children who come into care, or who are in situations where they need comfort.  Dominic Verticchio, executive director CAS describes the impact of this gesture

“The Miller Bears put a smile on the young faces of those who come to us as the most vulnerable and fragile members of our community.”

Through the Frank Charles Miller Fund at HCF, Frank supports nursing and medical students, St Matthew’s House, natural heritage projects like the Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System, and many other community efforts. He is also a long-time supporter of his church.

A successful entrepreneur, Frank wryly describes himself as “an infamous tightwad” for most of his adult life, but his record of giving belies that description. As he looks back – and ahead – he puts his philanthropy in perspective.

“The more you give away, the more you get back,” he concludes.


Excerpt from 2018 Annual Report

Robertshaw fund ensures the show will go on

Alfred and Joan Robertshaw met on stage at the Players’ Guild—a love story with a legacy, thanks to the fund Joan established to honour Alfred’s 40-plus years in community theatre.

“The performing arts have brought much joy to both our lives, not to mention lifelong friendships,” Joan wrote at the time. “Alfred realized how important it is for such organizations to have financial support in order to encourage creativity and often foster those who go on to professional careers in the theatre.”

With Joan’s passing in 2013 the Alfred & Joan Robertshaw Memorial Fund continues to support the couple’s passion for community theatre as well as heritage preservation efforts in Hamilton.  This year’s recipients included Hamilton Theatre Inc., Players’ Guild of Hamilton Inc., Theatre Ancaster and Village Theatre Waterdown.

“We really believe in community building,” says Village Theatre president Corrie Giles. “We want Waterdown to be a vibrant place where people can find their entertainment close to home.”  Village Theatre has used its grant to build a new website, rent costumes from Stratford, support a bursary for Waterdown high school drama students, create banners and signs, construct the set of an English country house, and purchase equipment. They also plan to host a professional workshop for young sound and lighting technicians.

Attracting the next generation is a priority. “We take our development role quite seriously, but we haven’t always had the money to do it,” Corrie says. Village Theatre encourages high school students to complete their volunteer hours learning makeup, set construction, and the technical booth. A recent production had two Grade 9 boys learning how to work the lighting board alongside a woman in her 60s. Over the 43 years that Village Theatre has existed, a number of volunteers have gone on to local and national careers in theatre.

“When the community foundation gives us money, many people share the benefits,” Corrie says. “And because it is an operating grant, we have the flexibility to use it where it’s needed. We can make it go a long way.”

Excerpt from 2018 Annual Report

Keeping women and children safe, in Jared’s memory

Anne (not her real name) is a respected professional in our community. She is also a victim of domestic violence who fled her abuser, only to become locked in a succession of legal battles that have put her $100,000 in debt. No longer able to afford a lawyer, today she represents herself in court, cross-examining her abuser in order to protect her children, her job, her home and her name. But thanks to Jared’s Place, she’s not alone.

Jared’s Place helps women experiencing violence and abuse navigate the legal system, whether it’s an immigration, family, child protection, civil, housing or criminal matter. The free program is named after Jared Osidacz, an eight-year-old boy who was killed by his father while on an unsupervised court-ordered access visit.

“Jared’s mom went through the system and no one was helping her,” says Nancy Smith, executive director of Interval House of Hamilton. “That’s why she let us name the program after Jared.”

The program relies on grants and community donations. Funding from HCF helps support the legal advocate, who is a specialist in violence against women and is well versed in the legal system. The advocate can clarify a woman’s rights, provide information, attend court, review court orders, help with paperwork and make lawyer referrals. Safety planning is the first priority. Almost as important is building a woman’s confidence to engage with people and institutions that have power, since perpetrators often try to manipulate the system to continue the abuse.

The legal advocate is also a witness. Before Anne knew about Jared’s Place, her abuser tried to run her down outside the courthouse. Now, Anne is never alone at court and she always has someone to call.

“Jared’s Place offers a woman hope,” Nancy says. “In a traumatic situation one’s clarity isn’t there, but the legal advocate is—every step of the way, if that’s what a woman wants.”

Excerpt from 2018 Annual Report

Hashtag unites Hamilton in welcoming newcomers

Hanan is a high school student who dreams of being a nurse one day. James is an electrical engineer who likes to bike from Dundas to downtown. Aref is a dedicated community volunteer who loves Hamilton’s libraries. And Shahd? She’s a recent marketing graduate who has discovered the best ice cream in town is on Duke Street.

They’re all immigrants to Hamilton and ambassadors for #HamiltonForAll, a campaign that helps newcomers and longer-term Hamiltonians find common ground.

“The campaign ambassadors serve as a human library,” says Yohana Otite, executive director for Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion, which is co-leading the campaign with the Hamilton Immigration Partnership Council. “They tell their stories on our website and at schools and events so we can discover our commonalities instead of focusing on what separates us.”

Myth busting is one component of the campaign. One myth is that Canada doesn’t need immigrants: a 2017 University of Toronto survey shows that one in five Canadians would support an end to immigration. The fact is, according to the Conference Board of Canada, our country will need 350,000 immigrants annually by 2035 to meet its workforce needs.

Supported by an HCF grant in partnership with the Community Fund for Canada’s 150th, #HamiltonForAll includes posters inviting people to post a welcome message using the hashtag, and a website listing inclusive actions anyone can take. “Welcoming newcomers is usually left to settlement agencies,” Yohana says. “#HamiltonForAll inspires everyone to play a role.”  Activities across the city are being plotted on a map to be shared at Hamilton’s first Newcomer’s Day this summer.

The hashtag was trending on Twitter when the campaign launched. Since then, people and organizations have been showcasing the posters, planning events and posting on social media. The impact has been widespread and personal. As one person tweeted: “Thank you for launching a campaign like this. I cannot tell you what this would’ve meant to me as a child.”


Excerpt from 2018 Annual Report

Drumming up a solid future

When Community Living Hamilton established its agency endowment fund with HCF in April 2016, they didn’t expect it to be a teaching tool for their clients.

Like other agencies, they established the fund to support the future of their organization in perpetuity as well as to access Hamilton Community Foundation’s investment and other expertise. But when it came to making a decision about what programs to support with the earnings from the fund, they invited input from their client base.

The result was impressive.

Community Living Hamilton struck an advisory committee, made up of seven of their service users – people with a range of developmental abilities. The group began by learning what an endowment fund is (they used an image of a tree and its seedlings) and then laid out criteria for projects they might fund. They then weighed various possibilities against the criteria and, after discussion, recommended one project to the organization’s board.

“I was incredibly impressed by their presentation,” says Community Living Board member Judy Colantino. “It was so thorough and thoughtful. We accepted their advice unanimously.”

The recommendation? To grow the money another year and then support the agency’s award-winning, 35-member drum corps trip to Indianapolis, where they will represent Canada. If their rehearsals (and track record) are any indicator, the visit is sure to be an overwhelming success – thanks in no small measure to the additional funding provided from their endowment fund.

Excerpt from 2018 Annual Report

Future Intended: Celebrating Indigenous communities

To mark Indigenous History Month and Indigenous Peoples Day we’re highlighting HCF-supported projects that leverage Indigenous knowledge, experiences and communities in Hamilton.

  • McMaster Indigenous Research Institute
    From Indigenous research reform to innovative interdisciplinary research and knowledge translation, the McMaster Indigenous Research Institute (MIRI) is one of the only institutes in Canada dedicated to study that centres Indigenous ways of knowing as valid scientific knowledge. Read more here.
  • Reconciliation through music
    Intercultural understanding, empathy and mutual respect are laid out in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action. Through this music-based program from Métis Women’s Circle, kids at Hess Street School experience traditional Metis dancing, singing, drumming and teachings over an eight-week period, a wonderful example of reconciliation in action.
  • NYA:WEH Elementary
    NYA:WEH Elementary, co-ordinated by Niwasa Head Start, engages and supports First Nation, Métis and Inuit students in Grades 6, 7 and 8. Students are encouraged to smudge, sing, bead, talk or drum and can re-engage with NYA:WEH at the secondary school level once they’ve graduated.
  • Endaayang Knowledge Keeper
    Endaayang, which translates to “our home” in Ojibwa, is an initiative of the Hamilton Regional Indian Centre that gives housing support to Indigenous youths at risk of homelessness. A key component of the program is connecting youths with their culture through elders who serve as “knowledge keepers”. Read coverage of the program in the Hamilton Spectator here.
  • Strawberry Thunder Festival
    The first annual Strawberry Thunder Festival is a multicultural celebration that took place earlier this month and featured Indigenous singing, drumming and crafts. We’re proud to support this community celebration from Keith Neighbourhood Community Hub.

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: #HamiltonVitalSigns

Our 2018 Hamilton Vital Signs report is out now! In this special edition of Future Intended, we highlight some new key Hamilton stats from the report alongside some recent projects we support that relate to the issue.

“According to the Canadian Community Health Survey, 14.8% of Hamiltonians reported experiencing some food insecurity in the last year. Additionally, 4.2% reported severe food insecurity, which means reduced food intake, skipping meals, and disrupted eating patterns.” (from Low Income)


Maple Leaf Centre for Action on Food Security
Advancing food security is the mission of the Maple Leaf Centre for Action on Food Security. It does so at a local level by partnering with organizations that help address problems like availability of healthy food. In Hamilton, we’re proud to support McQuesten Urban Farm in providing affordable fresh produce in the neighbourhood’s “food desert”.

“While women make up just over half the population they were under-represented in every sector ranging from a low of 14%in corporate boards to 47% in the voluntary sector. Visible minorities make up 19% of Hamiltonians but in leadership positions occupy a range of 11% to almost none across sectors.” (from Citizens and Engagement)

DiverseCity OnBoard
This program connects under-represented groups like women, visible minorities, and Indigenous people with board governance opportunities. DiverseCity OnBoard is a national program and we’re proud to support it locally via Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion.

“Less than half (46%) of Hamilton youth, 12-17, reported being active for the recommended daily 60 minutes, significantly below the 60% provincial and national averages.” (from Health and Well-Being)

Empowerment Squared youth soccer league
Empowerment Squared helps newcomer and marginalized youth get access to sports and recreational activities with its soccer league that address financial barriers to sports participation. Through team building and leaderships skills development youth stay active and have fun.

“In 2016, there were 2,205 artists living in Hamilton – a 31% increase from 1,680 in 2006.” (from Arts and Culture)


The Artistic Leadership and Entrepreneurial Training Program (ALERT) at Hamilton Festival Theatre Company helps emerging artists develop the skills needed for theatrical production including curation, publicity, financial management and technical coordination. Last year’s participants were key in producing the hugely successful Frost Bites Festival this past winter.

“In Hamilton there are just over 200km of designated bike lanes, an increase of 130km since 2007.” (from Getting Around)

Friendly Streets Hamilton
Cycle Hamilton and Environment Hamilton want to make Hamilton streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists. With a pilot that started in the area around General Hospital, the program has expanded to engage community stakeholders in Beasley, Keith, and Gibson-Landsdale neighbourhoods. This toolkit is a great way to learn more.

Read the Hamilton Vital Signs 2018 report and share your thoughts on social media using #HamiltonVitalSigns. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and start a conversation! When you’ve read the report please fill out our short survey.

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: Supporting a greener Hamilton

It’s Earth Week! To celebrate, we want to tell you about some great local programs and organizations we support that help protect the environment in different ways including land conservation, natural stewardship, urban farming, and ecological consideration.

  • Save the Bees!
    Hamilton students are saving the bees! Through a combination of reading material, interactive presentation, a field trip and more, HWDSB’s Save the Bees program teaches kids the importance of honeybees for the health and biodiversity of our local ecology.
  • Pollinators Paradise
    The importance of local plant life to our well-being is at the core of the Pollinator’s Paradise project, a collaborate initiative of Environment Hamilton and Hamilton Naturalists’ Club. The goal of this project is to work with community members to create an uninterrupted pollinator corridor across the city.
  • Bruce Trail Conservancy
    With its main trail stretching 890km and more than 400km of side trails, the Bruce Trail is Canada’s oldest and longest marked footpath – and the Bruce Trail Conservancy stewards it for our collective enjoyment (the Iroquoia Section runs through Hamilton). We’re proud to give continued support to BTC as it works to preserve this beautiful “ribbon of wilderness” in Southern Ontario. 
  • Edible Garden Club
    This great program, an initiative of Green Venture, gets youth excited about learning how to grow their own healthy food. Activities include growing from seed, vermicomposting and aquaponics farming.
  • Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark
    This natural corridor in the Hamilton-Burlington area now protects over 1,500 species of birds, trees, plants and wildlife. We’re proud to be one of ten project partners working to ensure this 4,700 acre area stays protected forever. Check out our story on the purchase of two key properties in the Dundas Valley in 2016.


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: Hamilton has art in its heart

The arts have become a major facet of Hamilton’s rejuvenation. Art – in one form or another — is also important for a thriving community. From the perspective of a community foundation this means support for programs with a variety of objectives including access to the arts, art appreciation, and more. Here are a few recent and forthcoming arts programs we’re proud to support in our city.

  • Pathways Photostory Project
    Finding your way into an arts career is no easy task – and this difficulty can be compounded by income inequality. That’s where community partners North Hamilton Community Health Centre and CreatOf Studios are stepping in with a project that helps youth acquire the knowledge and skills they need to explore careers in photography and the arts.
  • Art Spin Hamilton
    Last summer’s Art Spin Hamilton, an event based on a Toronto initiative, brought together two scenes that are bustling in Hamilton – cycling and the arts. The installation of site-specific works in alternative, bike-accessible venues throughout the city allowed Hamiltonians to appreciate works of art while engaging in fun physical activity.
  • AGH film education program
    The AGH has helped make Hamilton a great city for film lovers with the monthly ilovefilm series and the World Film Festival every fall. Now a younger audience can delight in the wonder of cinema thanks to a film education program that guides students through film appreciation. In February, students celebrated Black History Month with a screening of the powerful documentary Unarmed Verses and interactive discussion and performances with Hamilton Youth Poets.
  • My city, my home
    This summer Indigenous youth in Hamilton will have an opportunity to engage with artists in a series of workshops held at Centre 3 for Print and Media Arts in partnership with Hamilton Indian Centre. Activities will include screen-printing t-shirts and posters. Up to 50 youth will get a chance to participate in the workshops.
  • Nurture the Ability through the Arts
    This program at Dundas Valley School of Art offers a series of workshops to people with Down Syndrome in which participants get to experience different forms of art-making culminating in an art showcase. We’re proud to give continuing support to this great program.


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