Thank you to the 200+ Torontonians who made the inaugural Deacon Legacy Grants an extraordinary night of generosity and collective legacy. Ten high-impact organizations addressing chronic stresses facing Toronto were awarded grants totalling nearly $1 million, voted by YOU. Our call to you now is to ACT. Continue to get to know these organizations and consider making grants to them.
WHAT WE DID:
Members of our Legacy Society shortlisted 10 stellar organizations using principles of equitable grant making. Then, on March 5th, each of the organizations shared their story to illustrate the potential impact of receiving a Deacon Legacy Grant.
Funding went to organizations working to uplift Torontonians ranging from children and youth, the Indigenous community, those needing pathways to employment, and community members strengthening the city’s natural assets.
An audience of over 200 Torontonains voted and at the end of the night, each organization walked away with an unrestricted grant to support their work over the next two years.
CATEGORIES + PARTICIPATING ORGANIZATIONS
Stepping Up Grants: Young people need safe and stimulating places to grow, belong and contribute. These grants support organizations that provide recreational programming for children and youth up to 18 to create space and opportunities to make change together.
Trails Youth Initiative challenges and equips vulnerable youth from at-risk areas of Toronto to become contributing members of the community. The goal is to instill practical skills, relevant knowledge and the self-confidence to use them. The “Four Seasons, Four Years, For Life” program helps youth build confidence and enhance their well-being by facing and overcoming challenges through outdoor skill development, high school credits, bursaries, mentorship and job opportunities. All Trails’ participants graduate high school with dramatically higher skills in: collaboration, conflict resolution, communication, leadership as well as taking initiative. Website: trails.ca
Sistema Toronto is a free, intensive after-school music and social development program using ensemble-based music as a tool for social change. Based in Parkdale, Jane/Finch and East Scarborough, 300 children ages 6-14 receive instruments and 10 hours of musical training each week. They learn strings, percussion, choir, and music and movement, while developing important life skills like problem solving, empathy and self-advocacy. Children start in grades 1-3 and continue playing until grade 8, when they can return as volunteer teachers and join the weekly Honours Orchestra. Website: sistema-toronto.ca
Youth Assisting Youth (YAY) is a voluntary community-based mentoring organization that empowers youth across Toronto to change their communities, and their worlds, through the power of peer mentorship and relationships. For 44 years, YAY has matched at-risk youth, ages 6 to 15, with fully trained volunteer youth mentors, ages 16 to 29. Mentors give three hours per week for 1 year providing consistent guidance, a positive role model and support that’s tailored to whatever the mentee needs. One-to-one, youth-to-youth, community-based peer mentoring gives kids a caring relationship during their pivotal adolescent years — before they turn to gangs, guns, bullying or delinquency. Website: youthassistingyouth.com
Pathways Grants: The future of work is unpredictable and can be daunting for many. These grants support organizations that help ease the transitions from school to employment, equipping people with the skills and resilience to create pathways to fulfillment in work and in life.
Inspirations Studio Located in the Junction, Inspirations Studio is a ceramics-based program for women who have been impacted by poverty, trauma, homelessness, mental and physical health and/or addiction issues. The studio’s core mission is to facilitate improvements in members’ lives through the making and selling of pottery. Through skill building and creative practice, women can gain a sense of self-confidence, dignity and stability, a connection with community, supplemental income, and a new way to engage with the world, as makers. Website: inspirationsstudio.org
Working Skills Centre is an innovative, non-profit, charitable organization that empowers immigrants, women and other disadvantaged populations. Since 1978 the centre has been preparing clients to fully participate in Canadian society by providing settlement services, skills training and work experience that ultimately lead to employment and financial security. The centre has an 85% graduate employment rate, which is among the best in the adult career training industry. Website: workingskillscentre.com
Indigenous Tkaronto Grants: Canada’s colonial history and existing power structures continue to undermine opportunities for urban Indigenous peoples. These grants support Indigenous-led and Indigenous-serving organizations to pursue their own self-determined priorities and strengthen their foundational role in a connected, vibrant and more equitable Toronto.
Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural Centre is an autonomous, vibrant cultural agency that involves and serves the Indigenous community with confidence for and commitment to their well-being. The Centre addresses the social, health, education, economic and cultural needs of the Toronto urban Aboriginal population. Located in the Regent Park and Cabbagetown neighbourhoods, the Centre engages annually with over 175,000 clients made up of youth, adults, seniors and families. Website: councilfire.ca
Native Women’s Resource Centre of Toronto (NWRCT) is a community-based organization dedicated to providing resources and support to urban Indigenous women and their families. NWRCT delivers culturally relevant programs and services that empower and build the collective capacity and self-sufficiency of Indigenous women. Website: nwrct.ca
Miziwe Biik Aboriginal Employment & Training provides training and employment opportunities in a supportive environment in which people can affirm their Aboriginal identities and develop to their fullest potential. Miziwe Biik is committed to assisting all persons of Aboriginal ancestry to attain a better quality of life and strengthening the community through partnerships that promote equality and self-reliance.
The name Miziwe Biik means “gathering water,” and it conveys the image of a pebble dropped in the water, causing a ripple effect. When the pebble drops, its reach is far and continuous. Website: miziwebiik.com
Urban Nature Grants: Our climate is in crisis and we all have a role to play. Ways to address it are complex, but they need not hold us back. These grants support organizations that bring people together to learn, strengthen the city’s natural assets and, create improved infrastructure for a healthy and sustainable tomorrow.
Swim Drink Fish Mark Mattson and Krystyn Tully started Swim Drink Fish in Toronto in 2001 to help people connect with water and protect the places they love.
Swim Drink Fish focuses on the confluence of water, people, and technology. All communities need swimmable, drinkable, fishable water to thrive. They empower people, because it takes a community to protect water. They create communications tech tools, because the web has the power to engage enough people to protect all waters.
The organization’s longest-running initiative is Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, which connects people to the city’s rivers and waterfront, trains them to collect and share water health data, and helps restore beloved parks and beaches. Website: swimdrinkfish.ca
High Park Nature Centre connects people with nature. The programs restore human connections to plants and animals, and engage visitors in ecological restoration. People of all ages are engaged through activities including nature clubs, school field trips, day camps and guided nature hikes to name a few. High Park is home to rare plant and animal populations making up a globally endangered ecosystem, the Black Oak Savannah. This uniqueness is not well known.
The centre’s reach goes beyond the local community, extending throughout the GTA. When participants hear the song of the chickadee, meet educational ambasador Snappy the snake, or feel the dirt on their hands as they plant a native seedling, they make a positive connection. Those memories and greater awareness of ecology will help ensure a healthy environment for generations to come. Website: highparknaturecentre.com