Hamilton Lawyers step up to provide critical grants during COVID Crisis

Some of Hamilton’s youngest citizens will have access to much-needed support during the COVID crisis thanks to the latest grants from the Lawyers’ Legacy for Children – Ray Harris Fund.

The Fund recently made grants totaling $19,000 to Essential Aid and Neighbour-2-Neighbour, two local organizations that focus on food security.

Essential Aid focuses on nutrition for children under four and fills a critical gap in the food bank system by stocking a wide range of infant formulas. Infant nutrition needs are unique and many formula-fed babies can’t tolerate a change, but   traditional food banks are unable to provide a selection of formula as it is expensive and product donations are difficult to acquire. Essential Aid also provides other high demand items such as diapers, baby food, and children’s hygiene items.

The grant to Neighbour-2-Neighbour will support its critical work for local families, with a focus on food security, access to tutoring programs for children, family supports and a wide range of other services.

Lawyers’ Legacy for Children – the Ray Harris Fund is a permanent endowment fund of Hamilton Community Foundation, which  was established in 2006 with a mission to: “collectively inspire and enable children and young people to nourish and develop their knowledge, talents and values in the spirit of community, generosity and responsibility which has characterized the contributions of Hamilton’s lawyers”. To date it has made grants of over $100,000 to local charities to assist children and young people in our community.

“We’re privileged to be able to provide these grants to help address the crucial and ongoing needs that have been intensified by the pandemic,” says Dermot Nolan, who spearheaded the creation of the Fund as a way for Hamilton’s lawyers to collectively help children and young people in need. “Our goal is to help our community provide them with the essentials they deserve to help them realize their dreams and live healthy and fulfilling lives.”

Future Intended: It’s only natural

The reality of climate change intensifies the need to support our natural environment. These programs address environmental concerns but also build inclusive communities to ensure equitable outcomes.

  • A Rocha: Operation Wild
    The impulse to care for our natural environment can come from many sources. For Christian conservation organization A Rocha, it is a religious commitment and Operation Wild is an expression of that. The program leverages local organizations that support adults with disabilities to help them become leaders in their communities in the areas of conservation, stewardship and environmental education.
  • Beautiful Alleys: Birge Street Parkette
    This project is another chapter in the Beautiful Alleys story of improving alleys and green spaces in Hamilton to make them safe and welcoming. The Birge Street Parkette will be an enhanced green space across from the General Hospital available to hospital staff, patients, local residents and visitors. It will also provide safe, accessible pathways for pedestrians and cyclists.
  • Boys and Girls Club of Hamilton: Woodland
    Cultivating meaningful relationships with the natural world can start at a young age. The Woodland project provides families and pre-school kids with access to environmental education on the Red Hill Valley trail and Green Venture and McQuesten Urban Farm green spaces. A certified “forest school” teacher and an early childhood educator take families into the woods for an opportunity to develop a love of nature.
  • Green Cities Foundation: Green My City, Hamilton Barton Village
    Barton Village is getting a green makeover: more trees, shrubs, plants and perennials. It’s all courtesy of the Green My City program whose purpose is to improve green spaces for the betterment of people who live in the area, especially the most vulnerable like children and the elderly. Outcomes include cleaner air, reduced traffic noise and more shaded areas to cool down hot summer streets.
  • Green Venture: Canopy for Community
    Canopy for Community brings together partners Green Venture and Trees for Hamilton to engage youth and local residents in enhancing Hamilton’s urban forest. Through learning about nature-based climate solutions and the importance of urban forest for community health, participants will take direct action with the goal of planting more than 500 new trees.

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.

From runoff to resource

In Dundas, flooding is more than a headline. It’s prompting action. And Green Venture wants people to see the results.

The environmental non-profit is teaming up with local cycling groups to host a bike tour showcasing half a dozen green infrastructure projects in the valley town, including the Depave Paradise garden at Yorkview Elementary School which replaces pavement with gardens.

Tour participants will learn how the projects use nature-mimicking strategies, such as rain gardens, permeable pavers, rain barrels, trees and naturalized plantings, to increase resilience to flooding and decrease the impact of storm water runoff. A followup workshop will invite community members to identify future green infrastructure projects for Dundas.

The tour and workshop are funded by HCF’s Dougher Community Fund, which supports and enhances programs and services in Dundas.



Excerpt from 2019 Fall Legacy newsletter

Ride on

Eight young people will be riding high this fall at The Equestrian Association for the Disabled (TEAD), thanks to scholarships supported by HCF.

Located in Mount Hope, TEAD is the only organization in Hamilton to offer therapeutic riding to children and youth with cognitive, physical, behavioural and communication disabilities. Specially trained therapy horses are the main event, while credentialed instructors oversee the programs. The Ron Joyce Children’s Health Centre provides referrals and helps develop individualized riding plans.

Studies have shown that children with disabilities who participate in therapeutic riding experience many physical, social and emotional benefits. The scholarships will ensure that cost isn’t a barrier to participation.



Excerpt from 2019 Fall Legacy newsletter

Investing in a cleaner future

A new Hamilton Community Foundation impact investment in a renewable natural gas project will help reduce carbon emissions by approximately 110,000 tonnes over the next 15 years.

The project, led by Oakville-based BerQ RNG, will use refining equipment to create renewable gas from organic waste. Like-minded investors The Atmospheric Fund, Verge, and London Community Foundation are also partners in the project.

HCF’s investment reflects an interest in projects that have the potential to be catalytic. BerQ RNG has six additional projects in the works that will result in an estimated 944,000-tonne reduction in carbon emissions. The project could also help to advance effective climate policy by demonstrating the commercial benefits of renewable natural gas over fossil gas.

“This investment exemplifies how we continue to use our assets not only to provide strong financial returns to support our grants to charities, but also to support positive environmental change,” says Annette Aquin, Executive VP Finance & Operations at HCF.


Excert from 2019 Fall Legacy newsletter

Legacy fit for a King

When it comes to direct routes from Hamilton to Toronto, swimming isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind. But for Loren King, it made a good cause a great one.

The Wilfrid Laurier University political science professor is passionate about protecting the Great Lakes. In 2016, Loren took a major step towards that goal by partnering with HCF and Lake Ontario Waterkeeper to establish a fund that supports research, artistic expression and community engagement to protect these waters. That summer, he also swam across Lake Ontario to raise public awareness and underline the importance of the Great Lakes as a heritage that needs protecting.

“It’s hard to overstate the importance of the Great Lakes to Canada. They are a vital part of who we are, and millions of us depend on their waters,” says Loren. “HCF helped us imagine, then establish our fund, and they are a continuing source of inspiration and support.”

Hamilton Community Foundation is pleased to be home to the Great Lakes Trust Fund that ensures a lasting source of support for Loren’s passion.


Excerpt from 2019 Fall Legacy newsletter

Caring connections

When it comes to building relationships with the most vulnerable in our community, lived experience can make all the difference.

The Hamilton Social Medicine Response Team (HAMSMaRT) is a mobile interdisciplinary health outreach service that launched in 2016 with the support of HCF. Since then, the service has provided health care to more than 400 people in Hamilton who struggle with homelessness, addiction and mental illness. The innovative program offers care where patients feel most comfortable, whether that’s at home, in a shelter, on a street corner or at a coffee shop.

This year, a grant from The Milne McGrath Fund at HCF is making an already successful program even better by funding a peer support worker.

Peers are part of the community HAMSMaRT wants to reach. They provide a bridge between marginalized community members and the health-care team, since even the most motivated patients often face barriers, such as precarious housing, that make it hard to stay connected. The peers’ lived experience grants them a level of credibility and trust that takes a longer time to build for traditional care workers.
HAMSMaRT learned the power of informal peer support when it joined Keeping Six, a community-based organization founded in response to the opioid crisis. Keeping Six members with lived experience of drug use connected HAMSMaRT to patients who had been poorly served by the traditional medical community, resulting in successful referrals and treatment.

Now that the peer support role is official, informal connections have been formalized, making relationships with patients more sustainable. “It takes less time for patients to feel comfortable,” says HAMSMaRT co-founder Dr. Tim O’Shea. “Communication is more open and we’re able to deal with their health issues more effectively.”


Excerpt from Fall 2019 Legacy newsletter

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

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