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

Canada 150 funding helps Hamiltonians be the face of change

Sandi Bell is one of the allies declaring their commitment to the Truth and Reconciliation commission’s calls to action

Canada’s history when it comes to Indigenous people is nothing to be celebrated, but an HCF grant is working to help Hamiltonians heal and move forward together.

In partnership with the Community Fund for Canada’s 150th, HCF is supporting 43 wide-ranging projects across Hamilton that inspire understanding, build healthy communities and engage a broad and diverse group of people.

“I Am Committed” is a campaign co-led by YÉN:TENE—the Indigenous justice initiative of the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic—and the Professional Aboriginal Advocacy and Networking Group. It will help celebrate Canada’s 150 PLUS, the Indigenous-led reimagining of Canada’s sesquicentennial.

I Am Committed asks friends and allies of Indigenous people—some well-known and others not—to have their snapshot published as a symbol of their commitment to the calls to action contained in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report.

“We don’t want people to just read the report,” says Indigenous justice coordinator, Lyndon George. “We want them to put it into play in their everyday personal and professional lives.”

Photos will appear on posters, banners and the web. Content will be shared in English, French and Mohawk. Organizers hope newcomers, as well as people whose families have been in Canada for generations, will step forward to make a commitment. “Broken promises and abuse are part of our shared history,” Lyndon says. “A move to reconciliation must happen together, nation to nation.” YÉN:TENE, in fact, is Mohawk for “You and I will go there together.”

You might see Sandi Bell’s face on a poster. Her Indigenous heritage was lost when she was adopted. “I didn’t grow up with my traditions,” she says. “The Black part of me, the Canadian part of me is definitely an ally.” As chair of the legal clinic, she expects the diverse faces of the campaign to inspire people to listen, learn and join in, across Hamilton and beyond.

I Am Committed follows the model used in YÉN:TENE’s successful I Am Affected campaign, which used photos of Indigenous people to start conversations about the intergenerational trauma caused by Canada’s residential schools.

“This project is all about belonging,” Sandi says. “It’s about Indigenous people belonging in Hamilton and being free to follow their dreams. And it’s about the residents of Hamilton coming together to make sure people belong.”


Excerpt from 2017 Annual Report

Tutoring program helps students make the grade in their new home

Mentors who share a common experience with students are an important part of the Homework Circle

Using everything from fraction games and make-your-own-book projects to soccer tournaments and campus tours, Empowerment Squared’s Homework Circle is helping newcomer youth imagine a brighter future through education.


The program is supported by ABACUS, HCF’s 10-year initiative to increase high-school graduation and post-secondary access in Hamilton. Through ABACUS, the Homework Circle will provide one-on-one tutoring, mentoring and academic goal setting to remove educational barriers for as many as 100 at-risk and newcomer middle-school students each year.

Executive director Leo Johnson says that 75 percent of the youth have first languages other than English. Ninety percent have been placed in a grade much higher than their academic ability. “Without support, they won’t have enough credits to graduate high school,” he says.

ABACUS support expanded the Homework Circle program to middle-school youth, but it builds on seven years of success. Past participants are now a lawyer, psychiatric nurse and chiropractor. Twelve-year-old Nawel wants to be a doctor. “I’m in Grade 6 now but sometimes they give me Grade 7 work,” she says. “This program changed my life. They never give up on you.”

Participants can often see themselves in the mentors, many of whom come from McMaster’s African Students Association, Muslim Students’ Association, Nu Omega Zeta (Canada’s first Black-focused sorority), McMaster’s Polish Society and Mohawk College’s Living Lab Program.

“My family immigrated to Canada,” says a Nu Omega Zeta mentor. “I understand the kids’ struggles. And I know how important literacy is to university.”

The Homework Circle integrates ABACUS findings that show parental engagement directly affects how likely children are to pursue education beyond high school. A six-week digital literacy program teaches parents key computer and Internet skills, including how to use online translation tools and navigate school board websites, so they can better participate in their children’s education. They leave the program with a fully loaded computer.

Additional support from HCF’s Edith H. Turner Foundation Fund has allowed the program to handle the overwhelming demand, including from Syrian youth.

“Our biggest success is when kids trust us enough to say they don’t know something,” says Leo. “Once we get them to a place of self-confidence, they amaze us.”

Giving with confidence: Losani Family Foundation Fund

Shelly and Fred Losani believe in the importance of involving their children in philanthropy

Shelly Losani didn’t expect that being  engaged in responding to community needs would feel so natural — and so important.

After years of family and corporate giving she says the feeling  she has when she visits an organization and meets the people they are helping is more than satisfaction: “It’s a feeling of ‘yes of course’ — this is how it should be.”

Shelly’s husband Fred Losani, CEO of Losani Homes, has spearheaded their corporate and family giving over many years and also feels a deep responsibility to the community, both locally and internationally. The couple’s three children are involved too, learning new skills from hands-on experience and input into decision-making.

The company has encouraged the philanthropy of its corporate partners, with tireless help from employees. The family and staff of Losani Homes have worked around the world on housing, clean water, health, and other issues. They support Me to We and local charities like Hamilton Food Share, Good Shepherd, St. Matthews House and many others.

Hamilton Community Foundation is now home to The Losani Family Foundation Fund, offering the family the knowledge and professionalism of the HCF team.

“Initially, we just found our way,” says Shelly. “But we’ve grown. Now, with HCF, we have someone locally to guide us, make sure we are on track, organized and making an impact. That gives us comfort of mind.” She appreciates the Foundation’s knowledge and experience, and the role it plays in sorting through funding requests. ”We know what we want to do,” she says, “and having the Foundation involved means we are giving with a lot more confidence.”

“We’ve been fortunate and we’ve achieved success in our business,” says Fred. “I’m equally proud of the work we are doing through the Losani Family Foundation Fund. Every one of us has a responsibility to make a difference.”

Excerpt from 2017 Annual Report

High-quality end-of-life care

Linda and Bruce Hutchinson and their family are carrying on the vision of Linda’s parents through an HCF fund

Linda Hutchinson is ensuring that high standards continue in hospice and palliative care — a legacy that began with her father, Dr. Bob Kemp, a passionate crusader for quality end-of-life care. He played a critical role in bringing palliative care and the Dr. Bob Kemp Hospice into existence in Stoney Creek/Hamilton.

This year, to further her parents’ goals, Linda and her husband Bruce have established the Dr. Bob and Mildred Kemp Palliative Care Education Fund to provide educational awards for health professionals (physicians, nurses and others) to improve their knowledge and skill in the practice of hospice and palliative care. As the need for end-of-life care grows and increases in complexity, specialized education is crucial.

“We have started this fund and as we build it up we are making one award each year,” says Linda. “We hope that others will contribute also so that the capacity of the fund to make educational awards will grow in the years ahead.” The couple has also involved their children as part of the advisory group to the fund, to encourage them to carry on the vision and generosity of their grandparents.

Linda and Bruce, whose careers have been in education, feel that locating their fund at Hamilton Community Foundation will help attract the broad community support they hope for. They encourage Hamiltonians who care about end-of-life care to contribute to either (or both) of the funds: the Dr. Bob and Mildred Kemp Palliative Care Education Fund for training and education, and the Kemp Hospice itself through the Dr. Bob Kemp Hospice Endowment Fund. Both funds are at HCF.

“I know it was Dad’s hope,” says Linda, “that people in the community would recognize how important high-quality end-of-life care is and that they would support it.”


Excerpt from 2017 Annual Report

Regiment ensures its legacy

Hamilton’s “Rileys” pre-date Confederation. Their HCF endowment will support community impact forever

The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry’s long and rich history in this community now has another tie: a permanent endowment fund at Hamilton Community Foundation.

Known as the “Rileys,” RHLI is a professional, combat-capable army reserve regiment. It is the oldest combat infantry regiment in the Hamilton-Burlington area.

“The regiment’s history is Hamilton’s history,” says Honorary Colonel Peter Young, noting that the RHLI began in Hamilton in 1862 — before Confederation. Through every conflict since then, and many humanitarian crises, Hamilton families have sent soldiers overseas and across Canada with the RHLI.

The RHLI Endowment Fund will, in perpetuity, “look after the regimental family,” says Honorary Lieutenant Colonel Don Cranston.  “And that family includes not only soldiers and their families, but also our two cadet corps, ceremonial guard, our band, our museum, our veterans association and our historical artifacts.”

As an agency fund, the RHLI endowment will support its wide-ranging programs such as bursaries for returning soldiers to pursue post-secondary education, loans and help with job transitions, a variety of family support services, maintaining the regiment’s archives, and other crucial services. Over time, the RHLI hopes to build the fund with legacy gifts and other contributions from families who share a history with the regiment.

The RHLI chose Hamilton Community Foundation to house its fund because of the “depth and breadth of the Foundation,” says Don. “Its great governance, its professionalism and track record, its brand recognition in Hamilton — all this is a huge assistance to the RHLI.

Local action for peace

Ray Cunnington wants to protect the principles of peace through his fund at HCF

Ray Cunnington’s passion is peace. And he believes that individuals, not just nations, create the conditions for peace both locally and around the world. He’s a perfect example of putting that idea into practice.

Ray has a long history of peace initiatives. At age 96 he recently published a book on peace called Towards Less Adversarial Cultures. The previous year he was awarded the Hamilton-Burlington-Brantford YMCA Peace Medal. Three years ago, he established a fund at Hamilton Community Foundation to provide support for Culture of Peace Hamilton, a United Nations-backed group which works with others in the community to promote non-violence locally. The group holds monthly meetings, sponsors a public peace lunch and discussion twice a year, and has made significant donations to the city’s Peace Garden. It continues to uphold the UN doctrine that peace involves individual commitment.

In 2000 the UN proposed six practical suggestions for people who wanted to promote peace — clear, straight-forward acts like rejecting violence and preserving the planet. More than 75 million people around the world pledged to follow them in their daily lives.

Six principles of peace in everyday life:

  • Respect all life
  • Reject violence
  • Share with others
  • Listen to understand
  • Preserve the planet
  • Rediscover solidarity
    The United Nations’ Culture of Peace Manifesto 2000

But times change.  The world has gradually shifted away from personal responsibility back to governments and nations. Concerned that these very good suggestions might get lost or forgotten, Ray looked for a way they could be preserved and protected.

He found a home for Culture of Peace at HCF. He saw Terry Cooke on television, and “Terry made it seem so simple to set up a fund for a good purpose” Ray says. “The Foundation is a respected organization of thinking people who want to do something good for the world.” Ray is certainly one of them.


Excerpt from 2017 Annual Report

A place to call home

New complex coming to Melvin Avenue

A striking new project near the intersection of Parkdale and Barton promises to transform both a local landmark and the lives of the people who will live there.

The site is currently occupied by George & Mary’s Tavern,  a long-standing fixture on Melvin Avenue in east Hamilton, but one that has fallen into disrepair. Supported by a mortgage loan from Hamilton Community Foundation’s impact investing fund, the property will be completely revitalized over the next year by Indwell, a creator of affordable housing communities that “support people seeking health, wellness and belonging.”

“Hearing the stories of vulnerable people who’ve experienced trauma due to their housing situations is overwhelming,” says Indwell executive director Jeff Neven. “We’re transforming a site that has always been an anchor for this community from a place of dereliction into one that people will want to call ‘home.’”

The rejuvenated property will provide a minimum of 56 affordable, accessible, energy-efficient apartments, 3,000 square feet of retail space and a large-scale teaching kitchen. Most of all, it will offer immense potential to improve the lives of its future residents. Results from Indwell’s other projects show a number of improvements in tenants’ situations, including an increase in housing stability by an average of 3.5 years, fewer required emergency services, improved mental and physical health, rebuilt family connections and an increase in community participation.

“This project is about so much more than bricks and mortar,” says Terry Cooke, HCF President and CEO. “We’re thrilled to be able to use our assets in new ways to support this kind of positive change.”


Excerpt from Spring 2017 Legacy Newsletter

Rain management 101

Into every life a little rain must fall—and managing it where it goes helps both homeowners and the environment.

With support from HCF’s Dougher Fund, a home visit program from Green Venture offered Dundas residents a personalized 90-minute assessment of their property and basement by a certified RAIN Home Guide.

Homeowners learned three simple principles—slow it down, soak it up and keep it clean—and specific techniques to manage stormwater and reduce water consumption, including rain harvesting and rain gardens. A customized report highlighted each homeowner’s five most pressing areas to address. A follow-up survey with participants showed 100 per cent of participants had taken or were preparing to take action on the recommendations.

Managing storm water means more flood-resistant communities, fewer wet basements and mould problems, more green spaces and cleaner local waterways. The Dundas program will help reduce the amount of water entering Spring, Sulphur and Spencer Creeks from the storm water system and overland drains during the extreme weather events that are becoming more common with climate change.

Excerpt from Spring 2017 Legacy newsletter