Hamilton steel company invests more than $1.5 million in community groups

Hamilton's Dofasco announced Tuesday the investment to 31 local community groups.
Dofasco CEO and president Juergen Schachler made the community investment announcement at the Art Gallery of Hamilton's Design Annex Tuesday. (Julia Chapman/CBC)

Hamilton's Dofasco announced Tuesday it will invest $1.6 million in dozens local community organizations.

The investment is made as part of the steel company's Corporate Community Investment Fund. A total of 31 not-for-profit, local organizations will receive a grant from the fund.

"Building community strength is part of our ambition," Juergen Schachler, president and CEO of Dofasco, told a room full of representatives from the recipient organizations Tuesday. "It's these community groups that build the strength."

Schachler said potential recipients are divided into four categories: arts and culture, health and science, education and environment.

Organizations go through a "rigorous" application process that includes site visits. The final decision on funding is made by a committee of Dofasco employees.

The 31 recipients include the Good Shepherd Centre, Habitat for Humanity Hamilton, the Royal Botanical Gardens and Dundas Valley School of Art.

Jim Stirling, chair of the donation committee and Dofasco's general manager of environment, said in the 34 years he's been an employee he's always been proud the company invested in the community.

"We've got some tremendous programs," Stirling said. "Hamilton has got great organizations."

Stirling cities the Mark Preece Family House as one of those organizations. The Preece house is located across the street from Hamilton General Hospital and houses families of the patients.

Executive Director Pearl Wolfe said the house opened in April 2011 with 14 rooms on the main floor. They've started construction on a second floor.

"This money is going to help finish the second floor," Wolfe said. "The occupancy has already expanded."

Wolfe said the money donated from the fund, along with other donations, has brought them to half the amount that they need to finish construction. They rest they'll have to fundraise, she said.

Tony Valeri, Dofasco's vice-president of public affairs, said the company has a legacy of donating funds to the community dating back to when Clifton and Frank Sherman founded the company in 1912. That makes it unique, he said.

"There is a lot of philanthropic target outreach funding for resources and programming so they can actually go out into the community," Valeri said. "That's becoming more and more difficult [to find]."

But outside the James Street North Art Gallery of Hamilton Design Annex where the announcement was made, not everyone was happy with Dofasco's community investment.

Residents Barb LaFlesche and Lorna Moreau stood with homemade posters with photos of black smoke blowing from Dofasco's plant that can be seen from their homes.

"You can't sit out in that area," LaFlesche said. "They're not dealing with our community and we want to think about the future."

Local environmental activist Lynda Lukasik, who has family members who worked for Dofasco, said she wished Dofasco would invest more in social responsibility.

"It's time for it to stop," she said. " We deserve better."