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.
Mentors who share a common experience with students are an important part of the Homework Circle
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.”
Excerpt from 2017 Annual Report
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
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
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.
Hamilton’s “Rileys” pre-date Confederation. Their HCF endowment will support community impact forever
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.”
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 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
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
Caring Dads is a program offered in Canada, the U.S. and Europe that has shown significant success in working with fathers at-risk of using abusive behaviour with their families. Now, the program will be offered in Hamilton for the first time, filling an urgent local need identified by agencies addressing family violence.
Thanks to an HCF grant, Hamilton fathers will no longer have to be referred to Caring Dads programs in other cities. Offered by Catholic Family Services, Caring Dads emphasizes helping fathers to build strong, supportive relationships with their children. It works to increase a father’s ability to respond appropriately to kids’ misbehaviour, co-parent with their children’s mothers and put their kids’ needs first.
Excerpt from Spring 2017 Legacy Newsletter
Essential Aid, a Hamilton organization focused on nutrition for children under four, is filling a critical gap in the food bank system by stocking a wide range of infant formulas.
The nutrition needs of infants are unique and many formula-fed infants can’t tolerate a change. Traditional food banks are unable to provide a selection of formula as it is expensive and product donations are difficult to acquire. By offering multiple formulas, Essential Aid assists families in immediate need – no proof of income is required as the organization believes that an emergency can happen to anyone. The infant food bank is seeing an ever-increasing demand; HCF’s grant will help to meet the needs of an average 200 children monthly.
Essential Aid also offers a breastfeeding support program which provides education, one-on-one support from a volunteer nurse and supplies. Last year, the organization provided emergency formula, diapers and breastfeeding equipment to 1,765 children, many of whose families were referred by other local food banks.
Exceprt from 2016 Fall Legacy newsletter