Like many of us, Helen Kirkpatrick grew up in a family where opportunities – piano lessons, learning to swim, weekly visits to the public library – were part of the rhythm of family life.
“I was lucky,” she says. “The chance to learn new things was a normal part of growing up for me and my siblings.”
She hopes to make those same opportunities available to children living in poverty in Hamilton’s downtown, through the Kirkpatrick Fund – a field of interest fund at Hamilton Community Foundation.
Helen’s commitment to the downtown core and to its residents stretches back 20 years. She has been active in planning consultations and volunteer groups that have helped to preserve the historic downtown and green its streetscape. She and her husband own and operate a guesthouse, where they also live, in a beautifully-restored heritage home on MacNab Street North.
Helen began thinking about establishing a fund when dealing with will and estate issues after the deaths of her mother, Eileen, and her brother, John. She has built the fund up over a couple of years.
Helen received her PhD in nursing in 2005 from McMaster University where she is an assistant clinical professor. She co-ordinates implementation of nursing best practices at St. Joseph’s Healthcare.
“One of my thesis advisors, Leila Ryan, told me about the Foundation,” Helen remembers. Dr. Ryan is a past-chair of the Foundation’s Board of Directors. “I read more about Hamilton Community Foundation on the website and was really struck by how even a small donation can have a big impact.”
She recalls learning about a small HCF grant that made family movie nights possible in a downtown school. The simple effort increased parental engagement in the school and improved results for kids. She knows from her mental health background that early intervention can change the course of a child’s life.
“I would love to see something similar come out of the Kirkpatrick Fund. Or perhaps music lessons, or greening of a schoolyard or a small park. I’m excited to see where this fund will go. I see it as a continuation of my family and its values.”
Excerpt from 2008-2009 Annual Report