One-stop infant shop

In this store, everything is free.

Barton Street’s Baby Depot Boutique on Barton Street is a one-stop shop for families struggling with the costs of supplies for a new baby. Last year, more than 150 families hard-hit by the pandemic and rising inflation were able to select all the diapers, gently used clothing and other essentials they needed during their baby’s first year.

Customers are referred by local social service agencies and shop by appointment. “It’s about dignity of choice,” says Stephanie Greenaway, program co-ordinator.

“We need to show our neighbours they are not alone,” says Maggie John, who founded The Baby Depot in 2013 and is excited by the transition from a hamper program to a shopping experience. “By choosing the clothing for their baby and picking the stroller, crib and toys, they feel encouraged in their role as caregivers to provide healthy and stable homes for their families.”

Excerpt from 2023 Spring Legacy newsletter

Nature is everywhere

The GO Explore Nature Education Program connects urban Hamilton students to nature, often for the first time.

Run by the Hamilton Naturalists’ Club, the program combines in-class learning and two field trips: a neighbourhood walk that gives students the tools to find nature close to home, and a trip to the Sheelah Dunn Dooley Nature Sanctuary where they will use what they learned during the neighbourhood walk to look for plants and animals. Both excursions see students participating in stewardship activities, including garbage cleanup, managing invasive plants and planting native species.

The program aims to spark a passion for nature in students, turning them from learners into conservers.

“Students can’t develop a conservation ethic if they have no connection to nature,” says Jen Baker of the Naturalists’ Club. “The project shows them that nature is everywhere and they can help in a meaningful and practical way.”

Excerpt from 2023 Spring Legacy newsletter

Connecting through culture

Thanks to a new program in Hamilton, a senior has affordable housing after unknowingly losing his place on the waitlist. A newcomer finds a job where the owner speaks Arabic. A family receives furniture for their first home in Canada. And parents learn how to access government-funded medical supplies for their child.

The Sanad program is an initiative of Mishka Social Services. Supported by a grant from HCF, it connects Muslims, racialized families — and anyone needing help in Hamilton — to resources, shelter, funding and social services in a culturally informed way.

Sanad, which means “support” in Arabic, is about bridging gaps and eliminating barriers.

“These are families that some organizations consider complex, which can add delays,” says Omar Mahamed, team lead. “We offer an extra layer of support that requires cultural understanding.”

Support comes in many forms. Online workshops offer families a general roadmap to programs and services, while a community service worker addresses specific needs. Informal one-on-one conversations with workers at other social service agencies encourage cross-cultural understanding. Formal involvement with the Children’s Aid Society helps Muslim youth feel culturally and spiritually at home in foster care.

Sanad has helped 72 families since last year, with referrals coming from the community, agencies, schools and hospitals. They hope to help 48 more families currently on a waitlist. Services are available in several languages.

“People don’t like to come forward with their problems, but the stigma is being broken down,” Omar says. “Three people came up to me at the mosque the other day to tell me of families that needed help. We’re building trust.”

Excerpt from 2023 Spring Legacy newsletter

Baby book club

More than 300 children in Hamilton’s lower city are receiving a new, carefully selected, age-appropriate book addressed to them in the mail every month until they turn five, courtesy of Imagination Library.

The program, which is designed to improve early literacy rates, was founded by Dolly Parton in 1995. It came to Canada in 2006 and has been run by the Eva Rothwell Centre in Hamilton since 2017.

“Children who are read to from a young age develop bigger vocabularies, become better readers and are more likely to succeed in school,” says Sam Campanella, the centre’s executive director. “We aim to provide books to families who may not otherwise have the means to access them at home.”

Thanks in part to funding from HCF, the program plans to expand to 355 children by this summer, including those on a 200-child waitlist.

Excerpt from 2023 Spring Legacy newsletter

A natural penchant for giving

A mutual love for nature connected Ted and Karin Bossence. Their fund at HCF is an expression of this passion and their belief that the natural environment should be available for future generations to enjoy.

The Ted and Karin Bossence Fund supports protecting the natural environment with a focus on Hamilton, Halton and Niagara regions. A portion of their granting is directed to the Community Fund, which allows HCF to help address the most urgent needs in Hamilton and undertake its community leadership initiatives.

The Bossences met in the 1980s through the Halton Outdoor Club (then called The Halton Cross Country Ski Club) and connected because of a mutual love of hiking and cross-country skiing.

Though the couple live in Burlington, Ted thinks of himself as a Hamiltonian, having worked as a chartered accountant and lived in the city for 37 years, enjoying the natural environment of the west mountain from childhood. Hamilton Community Foundation’s fund size and efficiency were both appealing factors for the Bossences.

“We really have developed a love of nature throughout our life and want to see nature preserved rather than paved over,” says Ted.

Excerpt from Spring 2023 Legacy newsletter

Putting community first

Compassion, trust and action are a winning combination.

Last winter, Karen Turkstra read a Hamilton Spectator article about a snowstorm that had left many unhoused people struggling to stay warm. The story highlighted the first-hand experiences of those directly affected, as well as those of frontline service providers including the Hamilton Social Medicine Response Team (HAMSMaRT), an organization that provides health services to vulnerable residents. Moved by what she read, Karen contacted Marcie McIlveen, outreach co-ordinator at HAMSMaRT, and made a donation. That same day, supplies were being delivered to the people who needed them.

“This was a really incredible experience to have met a person of such dedication and knowledge and to have had an immediate impact on the problem,” says Karen. “It did not solve the problem, but hopefully satisfied an immediate and urgent need.”

But it didn’t end there. After a meeting between Karen, HAMSMaRT and HCF staff, Karen and her husband Peter made a grant from their HCF fund to support HAMSMaRT’s longer-term sustainability. The couple put no parameters on the grant’s use, nor did they request any kind of reporting, deciding instead to trust those doing the work.

“In this case, we believed that leaving it to the professionals and people on the ground was best,” says Karen. “They know where the funds are needed the most.”

Excerpt from 2022 Fall Legacy newsletter

PAWS for a cause

There’s a saying that pets leave paw prints on our hearts.

Unfortunately, the times when the companionship of animals is most beneficial can also be the times when some owners find it most difficult to afford their care.

PAWS (Progressive Animal Welfare Services) is a volunteer-run organization that facilitates access to medically necessary veterinary care and removes barriers to social services for Ontarians with animal companions. Clients include those who are unhoused, fleeing violence, receiving government assistance and experiencing a health crisis. In response to a sharp increase in applications locally, HCF is supporting the PAWS Essential Medical Fund for Hamilton through the Vera & Percy Tomlinson Fund that includes a focus on animal welfare.

The program provides subsidies for vaccinations, neuters and spays, prescriptions, vet-recommended diagnostic tests and emergency procedures. Applicants must meet certain criteria, and payment goes directly to the vet clinic. It is also well-timed, given the Hamilton Spectator’s recent report that high inflation is prompting more families to give up their animal companions.

Excerpt from 2022 Fall Legacy newsletter

Mentoring diversity in the arts

Red Beti Theatre is helping the next generation of producers find both their voices and their audience.

Hamilton’s only Indigenous, Black and People of Colour (IBPOC) theatre, Red Beti commissions and presents live performances created and written by Canadian IBPOC women. One of those women is Narika Reddy. In 2021, HCF provided a grant from the Alfred and Joan Robertshaw Fund for the theatre’s mentorship program, which saw this up-and-coming producer build her skills in project management, technical production, budgeting, grant writing, contract development and negotiation.

Under the guidance of artistic producer Claire Burns, Narika helped three playwrights develop their scripts and organized a staged reading of the pieces at the inaugural Decolonize Your Ears online festival—all during a global pandemic.

As Narika shared in a blog on the theatre’s website, “The challenges we faced were definitely out of the ordinary. I left with more knowledge in terms of adapting original ideas to newer ones, which would later serve our audience, sponsors and partners more efficiently.”

Excerpt from 2022 Fall Legacy newsletter

Listen, learn, respond

This fall, local organizations are receiving grants that touch three key areas of community need.

One granting stream helps support children’s healthy development through a “whole child approach” that recognizes a student’s overall development — not just their academic achievement — is especially important on their post-pandemic return to school. A second grant focus is on meeting basic needs — food, transportation, shelter — for people experiencing marginalization. Not all the grants fund programs directly.

A third granting focus was on building the capacity of local organizations who work to meet the needs of equity-deserving groups including racialized people, newcomers, people with disabilities, 2SLGBTQIA+ and Indigenous people. These grants (see below) help build sustainability so the organizations can more effectively advance their missions, and include support for board, leadership and volunteer development.

Priorities for the three granting streams were refined through community consultation, research and understanding the changing community landscape. The funding came from HCF’s “field of interest” funds, where donors may identify an area of interest, but trust HCF to determine the best use of the grants. This process was assisted through an open call to the community, which also prioritized small-to-mid-sized organizations whose resources to fundraise may be less.

“Unrestricted funds like these allow HCF to help with the most critical local issues,” says Rudi Wallace, Vice-President, Grants and Community Initiatives. “Open calls also provide information that enhances our own knowledge about local needs and emerging strategies that can be shared across the community, including with donors.”

In total, 21 organizations were funded through these grants; a complete list is available here.

Supporting sustainability

Hamilton Community Foundation has a goal to increase the capacity and health of equity-deserving organizations and communities to address systemic barriers, through funding and non-financial supports such as convening, advocacy and relationship-building. Here are three recent grants that work toward that goal:

Somali Community in Hamilton

Established in 2004, Somali Community in Hamilton (SCH) provides services to the significant number of Somalian immigrants who now call Hamilton home. These services include youth programs, legal advocacy, elders programs and employment assistance. The Foundation’s conversations with SCH resulted in a successful application for volunteer training on grant proposal writing. It also includes a “grantmaking 101” workshop to help provide long-term sustainability.

Rafiki Hamilton Rafiki

Hamilton serves the city’s Congolese community and other local Francophone Africans. A capacity-building grant from HCF is supporting Rafiki with charitable incorporation, leadership development for staff, and volunteer support.

Munar Learning Centre

Munar Learning Centre serves Somali communities in Hamilton by creating bridges between Somali refugees, the education system and service providers. Munar is using the grant to strengthen its board recruitment planning, administrative policy development, a fundraising plan and its application for charitable status.

Excerpt from 2022 Fall Legacy newsletter

Growing community

Come play in the dirt! That’s the invitation Hamilton’s kids received from the Children’s Garden, a resident-led project that has transformed a corner of Gage Park into a safe place where children of all ages can play freely outdoors, connect with nature and grow flowers, herbs and vegetables.

The garden opened earlier this summer with contributions from landscape architects, community volunteers and City of Hamilton staff.

Supported by a grant from HCF’s Environmental Endowment Fund, the garden hosts pop-up education sessions, planting events and field trips, as well as opportunities for spontaneous play. Children, their families, gardeners and community members take care of planting, maintenance and the harvest. An Indigenous-led section features the Three Sisters Garden and a medicine garden and is intended to be an inclusive space for strengthening Indigenous presence, health, community and knowledge sharing.

 “Working together in a children’s garden helps instill togetherness and a common purpose,” say founders Juby Lee and Hazel Cho. “While children are learning a lifelong love of growing things, we can create community.”

Excerpt from 2022 Fall Legacy newsletter