Street culture

Friendly Streets initiative builds community from the ground up

Ask what the phrase “friendly street” means and responses will vary, from safe and accessible to tree-lined and socially vibrant. “A friendly street belongs to everyone,” says Elise Desjardins, one of two co-ordinators of the Friendly Streets Hamilton project. “It’s a space where people want to be.”

Few would describe the streets within a one- kilometre radius of the Hamilton General Hospital in this way, but that’s exactly what Friendly Streets wants to change. Its goals are to improve the journey to the hospital for patients, employees and visitors, as well as the experience of living in the area.

The program, which is jointly run by Environment Hamilton and Cycle Hamilton, started by engaging hospital and neighbourhood partners in 2017 and has continued with support from HCF’s Environment Endowment Fund.

A remarkable amount has been accomplished in a short time, including a Council motion to create a “quiet zone” around the hospital, approval of a new traffic signal on Victoria north of Barton, tree planting, recommendations for wayfinding signage for cyclists, traffic calming, pedestrian accessibility, transformation of an alley into a mobility link, and discussions about changes to bus and truck routes.

Friendly Streets didn’t come in with a set agenda and just do community consultation as a formality,” says Rachel Braithwaite, a Wellington Street resident and executive director of the Barton Village BIA. “They asked: ‘Community, what do you want?’ And then ran with it.”

Now, Rachel looks forward to a day when she doesn’t have to walk her six-year-old to school beside tanker trucks, and she’s become active in the effort to make it happen. “Sometimes when you see others step up, it encourages you to do the same,” she says.

The leadership shown by the Friendly Streets Community Stakeholder Group, which includes senior hospital administrators, has been a highlight for project co-ordinator, Beatrice Ekoko. “They recognize that a patient’s journey begins long before the hospital doors,” she says. “They’ve become champions.”

“This is a vision of what mobility can be in Hamilton,” Elise concludes. Beatrice adds, “We all have a right to a friendly street.”


Excerpt from 2019 annual report

A sporting chance

Giving circle crystallizes impact through HCF

The Phantom Moms know a lot about the value of organized sports for kids. The 10 mothers spent more than a decade shuttling their sons to hockey practices, games and tournaments, then sitting together in cold arenas, starting when the boys were age six. “It was our social life in those days,” says Julie Boateng, the mom the others call the “glue” of the group.

With their sons now in their twenties, the women remain friends and continue to have coffee together once a month. Having witnessed the power of hockey to give their boys physical skills, fitness, confidence, leadership, teamwork and other life advantages, they wanted to provide those opportunities to kids who couldn’t afford to participate. For the last several years, informally, they’ve been pooling a donation to give to arenas or skate clubs for kids who needed the help. “We really wanted to give back,” says Julie, “because we saw how valuable the sport experience is for children.”

Recently, the group took steps to formalize their giving and work through Hamilton Community Foundation to gradually build a fund that will go on forever. It will support access to all sports, not just hockey, and a portion will also meet Hamilton’s most urgent needs through HCF’s Community Fund. With this new approach, their donations are receipted for tax purposes, Julie has been freed from the responsibility of organizing everything, and the community foundation is helping them make the strongest impact with their giving. The Phantom Moms hope that over time their children may also get involved in the fund.

“With this fund, we can leave a legacy,” says Julie. “I hope others can learn from our experience how simple it can be for everyday people like us to make a lasting difference.”


Excerpt from 2019 Annual Report

Walking the talk

New fund helps put mission into action

Jane Allison started her consulting business, Dovetail Community, in 2017 with the goal of helping corporations and others find ways of aligning their business objectives with their desire to be good corporate citizens.

“Corporate social responsibility is where profit meets purpose,” she says about the sweet spot where the values of an enterprise, its employees and its owners dovetail perfectly with its engagement in, and contribution to, the community. Some examples include companies that focus their hiring on at-risk youth to create a skilled workforce, include volunteerism as part of job performance and many other unique strategies that advance their business goals while strengthening the community.

As she described and refined Dovetail’s mission, Jane realized that she wanted to live those ideas herself—“walk the talk” as she puts it—even as a small start-up firm. Being familiar with Hamilton Community Foundation through her career at The Hamilton Spectator, Jane talked to HCF about creating a fund and directing a portion of each of her corporate billings into it. While the fund grows, it resides in the Community Fund; but ultimately it will become a donor-advised fund focused on mental wellness, kindness, body confidence and other issues Jane is passionate about.

She says establishing the fund is the fulfillment of a dream. The process of “really digging deep” into what she wanted to support was challenging and enormously satisfying. “You really think about what you stand for,” she says. To see her fund grow with small, regular additions to the capital from her business and personal philanthropy —along with the “miracle of invested earnings” and the expertise of HCF—pleases her immensely.

“It’s very empowering to realize that you can have an impact without having millions of dollars,” she says. “You just have to start.”


Excerpt from 2019 Annual Report

Carrying on the good news

Publisher ensures a legacy of giving

Hamilton Community Foundation is honoured to continue lifelong newspaperman Roger Brabant’s philanthropic legacy, as the successor organization to The Brabant Foundation.

Born in 1928, Roger G. Brabant entered the newspaper business as a young man with the Timmins Daily News in 1943. After newspaper stops in London, where he met his first wife Blanche, and the Niagara Peninsula, he purchased the Stoney Creek News in 1960.

This ultimately led to an office and production facility on Queenston Road in Stoney Creek. Additional Hamilton area weekly mastheads soon followed: Ancaster News, Dundas Star News, Mountain News, Real Estate News and Flamborough News. Following Blanche’s death in 1984, Roger continued to operate the growing weekly chain until 1987 at which time he sold to Southam Newspapers.

“Roger was schooled by Thomson Newspapers, where every nickel spent had to be exactly accounted for,” says his friend and executor, Bill Farrar. “So he ran a very tight ship. The cost-sensitive atmosphere that permeated Brabant Newspapers was respected by the staff and contributed to the spirit of camaraderie among them. Over the years, Brabant Newspapers provided welcome employment for many Hamilton region residents.”

Roger Brabant believed that his newspapers should be the “Good News Papers.” He felt that there was quite enough newspaper reporting of crime and other human failings. He wanted his organization to report only uplifting local news.

After he sold his newspapers, he felt a very strong desire to “give something back” to the Hamilton community in recognition of the success he had enjoyed within its boundaries. He founded The Brabant Foundation in 1987 with a significant portion of the proceeds from the sale of his business. In 1989, Roger married Lois Hill and together they collaborated on granting The Brabant Foundation funds to local Hamilton charities such as hospitals, food banks, churches and social assistance organizations until his death in 2017. To ensure a continuing legacy, Roger designated Hamilton Community Foundation as the successor to his foundation.

Roger chose Hamilton Community Foundation as the vehicle to carry on The Brabant Foundation’s work because he was satisfied that the community foundation was in the best position to continue to deliver his ‘good news,’ now in the form of financial assistance, to the Hamilton area,” says Farrar.


Excerpt from 2019 Annual Report

Back on track

Three-year Grad Track program builds resilience in middle-school kids

Somewhere in Hamilton, a Grade 8 student is researching the high-school courses she needs to become an electrician. Another plans to study translation at university so he can help others the same way he helps his mom every day. A third is connecting with film and theatre professionals to learn about a career in set design.

These anecdotes may not seem overly remarkable—until you understand that these middle-school students didn’t enter Grade 6 with big dreams for their future. So what is prompting them to imagine something more?

The answer is Grad Track, Hamilton Community Foundation’s three-year pilot program to help two groups of middle school students—one in each of Hamilton’s school boards—discover what they’re good at (and enjoy) and develop the learning skills they need to stay on track toward futures they’ve chosen for themselves.

Grad Track is part of ABACUS, HCF’s initiative to put more students on the path to post-secondary education, including trades and apprenticeships. Grad Track reaches out to middle-school students who could benefit from ABACUS programming but who are not as likely to show up for traditional
extra-curricular activities. The program combines one-on-one mentoring, enrichment opportunities, goal setting, peer interaction and parent involvement to encourage each student’s social, emotional, cognitive and academic growth.

Jen Pearson is Grad Track’s learning coach. Over the past three years she has seen each of the 40 students almost every day, by turns playing the roles of mentor, caring adult and supportive friend. She has helped students learn to trust, cope with uncertainty, recover from setbacks and identify potential careers.

“Back in Grade 6, a third of them wanted to be YouTubers,” Jen says. “Two years later, they’re talking about being vet techs, civil engineers, firefighters or journalists—careers that match their interests and personalities.”

Formal evaluations also show promise. Students are more responsible, resilient, kind and collaborative after two years in Grad Track. They’re better advocates for themselves and they can talk about how short-term actions could have an impact on their long-term goals. As one student says, “When you make mistakes it teaches you how to fix them.”

Resilience is probably the most important thing students learn. “I can’t say: yes, this kid is on a clear and steady path to go to post-secondary,” Jen says. “These kids live in a complex world and anything could happen. What Grad Track does, is help instill an ability to overcome the odds.”

Jen will stay with the Grad Track students through their transition to Grade 9 this year, helping them connect with mentors and resources in their new schools.
HCF will apply what is being learned to shape ABACUS’s future directions. Time will tell whether Grad Track has made a difference: an evaluation initially funded by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario is planned to follow the students beyond Grade 8, with the potential to track indicators such as high-school attendance, grades and post-secondary enrollment.

Jen already knows that the interpersonal component of Grad Track has made a difference. “Kids won’t show up unless they trust you. Parents won’t get involved unless they know your name.

“Programs alone don’t change people,” she says. “It’s the relationships that do.”


Excerpt from 2019 Annual Report

A picture of health

National initiative draws on local knowledge

Green Shield Canada (GSC)—the country’s only national not-for-profit health and dental benefits provider—is partnering with HCF to create a new model of corporate philanthropy that draws on the unique knowledge of local community foundations.

Through GSC’s new Six 4 Six community granting initiative, the company is investing $1 million in health care in each of six Canadian communities and is working with HCF to facilitate the design, implementation and evaluation of the entire program nationally. The approach aligns well with Green Shield Canada CEO Zahid Salman’s overall vision for the organization. “Access to better health for all Canadians is the core of our corporate mission. We are confident that our philanthropic partnership with Hamilton Community Foundation advances that goal and will leverage services for Canadians in the critical areas of oral and mental health.”

In Hamilton, GSC’s $1 million investment includes $780,000 for granting to local priorities and a permanently endowed fund for continuing impact. Locally, oral health is an urgent—and mostly overlooked—need. More than 185,000 Hamiltonians have no dental insurance, for example. The Six 4 Six investment is already improving life for hundreds of them through grants which enhance the City’s Dental Health Bus, provide dentures for low-income seniors, and fund a pilot project to help people on Ontario Works resolve oral health issues that are preventing them from gaining employment.

“We want our giving to have more focus and align with our corporate strategy of creating shared value,” says GSC Board Chair Sherry Peister. “Because of the expertise and relationships community foundations have, they can help us reach deeper into local communities to address the most urgent priorities, and then evaluate and measure the impact we are having.”

The partnership has been a learning process. “There is a lot of trust and transparency as we work out this new model,” says Sherry. “The community foundation has been wonderful to deal with.”

“GSC is values-driven; investing in the community is in their DNA,” says Matt Goodman, HCF’s VP Grants & Community Initiatives. “But they are also evidence-driven. Working with our community partners, HCF can provide the data about local needs and interventions that work. It’s an exciting, effective model.”


Excerpt from 2019 Annual Report

A bridge over healing waters

Musical connects newcomer students to Indigenous ways of learning

In Denise Montgomery’s Grade 6 music class at Hess Street School, students are learning about pitch, volume and pacing. They’re also learning about the symbolic importance of Indigenous instruments, the role of women in Métis communities, how to pronounce words in Michif and the proper way to ask for an Elder’s help.

The Song-Bird and the Healing Waters is an innovative musical production facilitated by the Métis Women’s Circle. Dr. Carole Leclair, a Red River Métis and a Circle member, has helped the students learn a song. “The play is about the healing energy in the natural world and how to care for it,” Carole tells the 21 students who stand in a circle around her. “The song has sounds, not words. That way, everyone can sing about caring for the earth, whatever language they speak.”

Carole believes strongly in the power of the project to build a bridge between Indigenous cultural values and Hess Street students, who come from more than 30 countries. “Newcomer students are sometimes confused by expectations around integration,” she says. “They respond very positively when I talk about the comfort and affection Indigenous people have for our heritages—that we can take part in the Canadian mainstream and still cherish our values.”

Students perform a variety of roles in the production. Some are singers and drummers. Others will work with a Métis sound engineer to record nature sounds and incorporate them into the score. Then there are the actors, who will learn from renowned storyteller, Aaron Bell, how to embody their animal characters. Others will learn about the interconnection between music, nature and animals from acclaimed Ojibwe flute player and artist, Rene Meshake.

Denise, the music teacher, is Métis-Cree-Dene and also a member of the Women’s Circle. She adapted the traditional Indigenous tale into the musical. “I wanted people to see the beauty of our culture and the importance of taking care of Mother Earth,” she says. The students are paying attention. “Canada is a country of diversity and we need to acknowledge the traditions and culture of the people who were here first,” says the Grade 8 student who narrates the play. “It’s not like a regular play,” says a Grade 6 student. “This is actually important. If we keep polluting the world, there will be no world to live in.”


Excerpt from 2019 Annual Report

Joy ride

Bus service connects rural seniors to more than shopping

The five-seat minibus stops outside Linda Wildhagen’s Waterdown home, and the driver gets out to help her gingerly make her way down a slippery driveway. She’s hardly settled in her seat before she’s enveloped in the warm chatter. How are the grandchildren? How has she been surviving the recent ice storms? Did she know ground beef was on sale?

The rural seniors’ grocery bus, which runs twice a month in Flamborough and Ancaster and once a month in Glanbrook, is ostensibly a low-cost, door-to-door transportation service for ambulatory seniors who can’t easily get to the store without depending on friends and family for a ride. In reality though, the $7 round trip is about much more.

“It’s a social occasion,” Linda acknowledges. “Most of us are on our own. Because of the bus, we know about each other’s families. We send birthday cards. We go to other social events together.”

Flamborough Connects is the lead partner on the project, with assistance from Glanbrook Community Services and Ancaster Community Services. Initial funding came from the Ministry of Transportation. Support from Hamilton Community Foundation has allowed the project to continue while the three agencies collaborate on a long-term sustainability plan. The service is popular in each of the communities, and some weeks there’s a waiting list.

A primary goal is reaching seniors at risk of social isolation. One in five residents in Hamilton’s rural area is over 60 years old, says Amelia Steinbring, executive director of Flamborough Connects, and without the grocery bus, some of them don’t get out at all.

“Helping seniors stay in their homes and manage independently is a huge motivator for us to keep it going.”

For Linda, the bus represents freedom. But it’s also proof that people are paying attention. “When you’re elderly, you’re invisible,” she says. “This bus makes you feel special. We’re so grateful that there’s a community out there that cares about our age group.”


Excerpt from 2019 Annual Report

Future Intended: Taking pride in positive change

We believe in creating a city where everyone feels that they belong, can be who they are and love whomever they choose. In honour of #PrideMonth, we’re spotlighting five programs we support that serve LGBTQ+ people.

Queer and trans youth collaborative

  • After the closing of the Well, Hamilton’s only LGBTQ+ resource hub at the time, the Queer and Trans Youth Collaborative working group came together. Support from HCF helped provide training to youth-serving social service organizations to better engage with young LGBTQ+ Hamiltonians.

The Rainbow Railroad

  • For many LGBTQ+ people around the world, the threat of state-enabled murder, violence and persecution is a daily reality. Toronto-based Rainbow Railroad helps them to escape from these home countries and relocate somewhere they can live their lives in peace and comfort. We’re proud to support this important and life-saving work via the Ray Brillinger and Cy Hack Fund. Watch this powerful video on the work of the Rainbow Railroad.

Rainbow Prom

  • Every student deserves a prom – one that’s safe, welcoming and joyful. In 2008, the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board initiated the Rainbow Prom, a positive and safe place where all students can express their gender identities and sexual orientations. We’re proud to support this now annual tradition in Hamilton.

Trauma-sensitive yoga

  • Post-traumatic stress can have a negative impact on mental and physical health. This program at North Hamilton Community Health Centre addresses the high rates of trauma in the LGBTQ+ community and the lack of physical and mental health programming specifically for LGBTQ+ folks in Hamilton. Through yoga, participants engage in a healing experience in an affirming, safe and supportive space.


  • Sometimes folks just need a place to engage with others and feel comfortable. The Kaleidoscope program, a partnership between Kiwanis Boys and Girls Club and NGen Youth Centre, is a LGBTQ+ youth circle that provides a safe and positive space for participants to share experiences, receive peer support and simply be themselves.

Honourable mention: The Unicorn Fund

  • “All LGBTQ+ people need places of support, opportunities to shine and a chance to speak their brilliant truth.” This newly established fund will directly benefit LGBTQ+ kids and their families through granting.

Our Future Intended blog is an ongoing series that spotlights some of our most recent granting in areas such as  
physical activity, Indigenous communities, literacy, food, community theatre, seniors and more.

Future Intended: Supporting seniors in Hamilton

The latest Vital Signs data on seniors in Hamilton suggests that the number of people aged 65 and older is significantly increasing. Hamilton can and must be an age-friendly city. We are working towards that goal by supporting a number of programs that provide services for seniors.

Hamilton rural seniors’ grocery bus project

  • At St. Matthew’s House, this program that starts with preventing food insecurity ends with improving quality of life for seniors, as the food delivery team develops relationships with seniors to find out the other needs they may have. Read more about this program here.

Music for Memories

  • The power of music is truly wondrous. Sweet sounds of the past can ignite memories even for people suffering from dementia. The Music for Memories program at Alzheimer’s Society of Hamilton and Halton gives patients access to iPods and specially curated playlists. The result – happy memories associated with the music – can be extremely beneficial to quality of life.

Senior Women4Change learning series

  • If knowledge is half the battle then this series of workshops from Hamilton Council on Aging is a major boon for seniors looking to improve their health and well-being. From housing and transportation to recreation, financial entitlements, community services and civic engagement, the workshops, run by volunteers, serve to inform seniors about the resources available to them.

Seniors’ symphony experience

  • Love classical music? Love being a senior? You’re in luck! Designed with seniors in mind, the Seniors’ Symphony Experience at Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra includes a series of perks including discounts, free performances, a Talk & Tea series, Classical 101 talks at senior centres and more.

Aging Artfully

  • Creative expression is an important part of the human experience at all ages. Seniors in Dundas have an amazing opportunity to access the arts through the Aging Artfully program at Dundas Valley School of Art. By offering this program for free, DVSA is able to engage seniors who may be facing social, economic, physical and mental health challenges.

Would you like to learn more? Check out this Vital Signs chat with experts discussing the latest data on seniors and aging in Hamilton. You can also watch this episode of Vital Signs TV called Is Hamilton an age-friendly city?

Our Future Intended blog is an ongoing series that spotlights some of our most recent granting in areas such as  physical activity, Indigenous communities, literacy, food, community theatre and more.