NCF’s New Grant Portal

NCF is pleased to announce the launch of our new Granting Portal; making applying, receiving, and reporting on grants a streamlined and simple process. Through one dashboard, applicants can access all grant programs available through NCF, see archives of past grants, and have access to final reports and follow-up steps.

Beyond the simplicity for our grantees, this new portal allows our volunteer grant reviewers to access applications assigned to them with a transparent and templated process for evaluation. This ensures NCF is adhering to the highest grantmaking standards required to maintain our certification with Imagine Canada.

For all applicants, please follow these simple steps to start your application process today.


Follow this link and click on “Create New Account” to set up a username and password. In the registration process, you will be asked to provide your organization’s contact information and CRA number. This information will be used to track all your applications, approvals, and grant agreements.


Once logged in, you will have access to all available grants through NCF by clicking on the “Apply” tab at the top of your screen. The first step of the application process is completing a LOI. This process determines your eligibility to apply. The LOI does NOT replace your grant consult with JoAnne Krick; required to apply. Instead, this added step provides the needed due diligence to ensure NCF is granting to registered charities and/or qualified donees that meet our granting priorities.


After NCF approves your LOI, you will be given access through your dashboard to the full Grant Application. Click APPLY to begin. You can save your work and return to your application whenever convenient.


Within your dashboard, you will have access to all current, past and approved applications, as well as grant agreements and final reports. NCF’s new portal will make applying for grants a streamlined and straightforward process.


For further information, questions or concerns, contact JoAnne Krick, Director of Grants & Community Initiatives.

Niagara Children’s Centre

Sabrina Elliott Vergara knows the loneliness of learning your child has special needs.

That’s why she is grateful for a $13,000 grant from the Niagara Community Foundation that has allowed the Niagara Children’s Centre to establish a mentoring program for parents of children with physical, developmental, and communicative delays or disabilities. 

Elliott Vergara’s son, Alexander, was born prematurely and came home from the hospital after months in the neo-natal intensive care unit to a life of multiple medical appointments and extreme vulnerability. For the new mother, the trauma and isolation were overwhelming.

“I never want someone else to feel so isolated and completely alone,” said Elliott Vergara, a member of the Centre’s family advisory network who now manages the new family mentorship program. Elliott Vergara recruits and trains parents so they can support other families.

Elliott Vergara says it takes someone with lived experience of being a caregiver for a child with special needs to understand the journey other parents or caregivers are on. No matter how caring your friends and family are “no one knows what it is like until they experience it,” she said. “It’s not about the mentors having answers, it’s about connection.”

In addition to the programs and services the Centre offers children and their families, the mentoring program is a way to support families who can be under tremendous stress.

“We want to be the village around them,” said Elliott Vergara, “to complete the circle of care the Centre is able to offer.” Stronger families have a ripple effect in the community, she said, because other family members also function better and because empowered parents are better able to support their children in the health care system.

In the first year of the program, 13 mentors were recruited and trained, and 32 families were paired with an understanding, listening ear.

The program will continue, said Elliott Vergara, because the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. “This program has helped me so much emotionally,” wrote one parent. “At times I felt alone, but having a mentor who understands has made this journey so much better.’

Autism Niagara

For autistic children and youth of Niagara the pandemic has made life more lonely and stressful, and taken away many of the therapies and supports that help them learn and cope. But an $8,000 grant from the Niagara Community Foundation’s Community Grants program gave the local chapter of Autism Ontario the ability to add some safe fun to their lives.

Families could request kits to do fun at-home activities such as holiday cookie decorating. They were also invited to participate in safe, outdoor activities at events designed for their children’s comfort. It was lifesaving to have positive ways to interact with their children or attend events that made them feel safe and free of judgement, said parents.

“The visit to Heartland Forest was such a great experience for our daughter,” said one mom. “She loved being able run freely, to dance, to participate. As parents, it was a relief to be in an environment where there was no judgement of the different behaviours our daughter has. She could be her special self and the other families understood.”

“Our son felt comfortable,” said another parent. “We are always so grateful to have Autism nights offered. It is a warm feeling being surrounded by other families we can personally relate to.”

The pandemic has also hampered the ability of the local chapter, Autism Ontario – South Region, to organize fundraising events, so the grant from the Niagara Community Foundation helped the organization evolve to meet their families’ needs. Being able to offer virtual programming, outdoor programming, and take-home kits allowed Autism Ontario – South Region to develop new relationships with local businesses and attractions, which in turn encouraged these community partners to become increasingly mindful of the importance of diversity and creating an inclusive Niagara.

Project Share

t’s been said that if you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.

If Jo Low, operations manager at Project Share in Niagara Falls, were to edit that quote, it might read, ‘If you have 170 gardens and a garden co-ordinator, you have everything you need.’

All those gardens, part of Project Share’s community garden network spread over three sites in the Cataract City, were the impetus for the food bank applying for a $15,000 Community Grant from the Niagara Community Foundation last year. Low, who served as the garden co-ordinator previously, needed help overseeing the plots and the people renting or borrowing them to grow their own produce and become more food secure, which is a large part of Project Share’s mission.

Money from the community foundation enabled Project Share to hire a student from the Niagara Parks School of Horticulture to help with everything from troubleshooting for gardeners and co-ordinating volunteers, to hosting workshops that turn regular thumbs into the greenest of thumbs.

An additional grant from elsewhere meant Project Share could double up on the help and harvest more than 1,500 pounds of food for its own services throughout the season.

Equally as important, especially with the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, 170 individuals and families could reap the benefits of getting their hands dirty, getting outside, and growing an average 150 pounds of food each to nourish body and soul. 

“The garden was in good hands with the girls we hired,” Low said. “We learned that during a pandemic, community gardens are even more important to people in terms of their mental health, sense of community, food security, and general well-being.”

Niagara Community Foundation Funds Local Projects

After an incredibly challenging year, charities and good causes across Niagara will have a little help to continue to provide essential and necessary services to Niagara, thanks to the first series of the 2021 grants from the Niagara Community Foundation.

The Foundation is awarding a total of $222,525 through the following grants this spring:

  • Twenty-six Community Grants, totaling $199,500;
  • Including four grants from the Niagara Casinos Endowment Fund totaling $36,900 providing food supports;
  • Thirteen summer camp grants, totaling $19,275 supporting 232 kids in financial need; and
  • Five mini grants, totaling $3,750.

“As an organization, we are aware that the need in our community and in the charitable sector is still great and we are doing our part to answer this need with funds from these grants,” says Bryan Rose, the Foundation’s Executive Director. “We continue to be grateful for the generosity of our fund holders and donors who make it possible for us to support the extremely important work being done by our charity partners. They continue to serve the members of our community needing a helping hand during these tumultuous times.”

This wave of grants includes a number of projects relating to COVID-19 adaptation and recovery. Whether it is expanding food rooms to allow for social distancing (Community Care West Niagara) or increasing the number of front-line staff to address the growing concerns of children’s mental health (Pathstone), the primary focus of these grants has been helping charities in Niagara adapt to the new realities resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Niagara Community Foundation will be awarding its second round of grants this fall, including the fall Mini Grants and David S. Howes Grants. It is also participating as the secretariat for the second round of the federal Canada Healthy Community Initiatives funding. Second-round applications are due June 25th and can be found at https://communityfoundations.ca/initiatives/chci/

Created in 2000, the Niagara Community Foundation has raised nearly $65 million and has granted in excess of $18 million to charities working in the arts, heritage, environment, social services, health, education and community development sectors.


NOTL Public Library

Working at a community hub like the Niagara-on-the-Lake Public Library means Debbie Krause and her coworkers get to know the people of the town.

As a result, they also get to know when a patron’s personal situation shifts, especially in a community with a large demographic of older adults, where changes to one’s health, including their cognition, can be pronounced.

“Because we’re frontline, you do see people start to diminish,” Krause said. “Dementia is a common topic of conversation and it’s really hard to know how to support those people because they disappear, and their caregivers disappear because they’re nervous about taking them out in public, and we lose them (as patrons at the library).”

For the longest time, all Krause and crew could do in those situations do was offer information about the local chapter of the Alzheimer Society.

Now, however, thanks to community grant worth $5,000 from the Niagara Community Foundation, the library has acquired 10 cognitive care kits to lend to patrons. Three staff, including Krause, have also been trained to support the skills and abilities of those living with dementia in Niagara-on-the-Lake and their caregivers.

The kits, which are based on a Montessori approach for dementia, include puzzles, sorting and matching games with colours and numbers, workbooks and colour-by-number activities. They also feature large-print books.

They’re activities someone might already be familiar with and emphasize engagement with loved ones over doing the activities correctly.

“It’s about giving caregivers, the child or spouse of a person with dementia, a tool. The activities are the interaction and that takes the pressure off,” Krause said. “Everyone’s been touched by dementia. This is about creating positive interaction.”

Pelham Cares

When the pandemic’s first wave took hold in Niagara, the role of local food banks became even more critical. The mandated shutdown of the economy forced many to rely on such assistance to get by. It also forced some serious juggling of logistics to safely operate a food bank. Just ask Susan Mark at Pelham Cares, where, under normal circumstances, it’s up to two part-time staff and a team of dedicated volunteers to ensure those in need get access to food.

During the pandemic, the number of people in the building had to be limited, said Mark, the Pelham Cares treasurer. That slowed down both the organizing and distribution of food. Most of the organization’s volunteers are also seniors, who weren’t comfortable with their usual work of going to grocery stores to buy food for clients. The food bank switched to bulk purchasing instead where possible. But that posed another conundrum. Where would the large orders of protein, such as frozen chicken, be stored? The food bank needed to purchase freezer space, yet its usual fundraising events, including a community dance, simply weren’t possible in an age of physical distancing.

A grant worth $5,000 from the Niagara Community Foundation solved that problem. A timely collaboration with Open Arms Wainfleet allowed Pelham Cares to install their new 20-cubic-foot freezer there. The grant also covered travel costs for volunteers to drive to and from Wainfleet to retrieve the frozen food. In addition, Pelham Cares could pay its two part-time workers a weekly COVID-19 income supplement as they worked through a 31 per cent increase in demand for their services.

“We certainly appreciated the funding,” Mark said. “The thing is, there’s uncertainty about this year. With 2021, everyone thought we would go back to normal but we’re certainly not. We’re trying to be cautious and use the funds wisely because we could see another big spike in demand for our services.”

Bravo! Niagara

When it became impossible to host a music festival during the pandemic, Bravo! Niagara turned its cancelled shows into a creative opportunity.

It’s $5,000 grant from the Niagara Community Foundation couldn’t be used to host and promote a concert as planned, so Bravo! Niagara’s executive director Alexis Spieldenner enlisted the help of a local digital production company and ended up reaching an even bigger audience.

The festival, which was established in 2014 by mother and daughter duo Christine Mori and Spieldenner, seeks to present jazz and classical music concerts that connect communities through the power of music and inspire lifelong music appreciation. Along the way, they want to foster intercultural dialogue and education.

The 2020 programming was intended to include Voices of Freedom: Sounds of Hope, consisting of two concerts and four outreach events, commemorating the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Instead, Spieldenner worked with Niagara College film students and local production company Fourgrounds Media to record the concerts and share them on YouTube. The 13-minute Voices of Freedom features acclaimed soprano Measha Brueggergosman with a haunting rendition of “Above My Head I Hear Music in The Air” and the Blackburn Brothers with world premieres of “Freedom Train,” and of “Sister Wilma,” which commemorates Niagara Fallshistorian Wilma Morrison, who died in April 2020 at 91.
“Menorah,” by Canadian composer Christos Hatzis and commissioned by Bravo! Niagara, is performed by violinist Marc Djokic and pianist Christina Petrowska Quilico, while “Robi Botos: Romani Experience,” commemorates the seldom-told story of the Roma genocide through the Holocaust.

The inspiring and moving concerts, which now have a combined total of almost 2,000 views, can be found on the Bravo! Niagara website along with the educational outreach events. While Spieldenner longs for the day when Niagara audiences can gather to experience live shows again, she is grateful for the opportunity to “create something beautiful and lasting.”