Milestones: Oakville Community Foundation

By Allie Murray  |  Photography by Nikki Wesley

For 25 years, the Oakville Community Foundation (The Foundation) has helped build an inclusive, caring community for all people living in Oakville. Since its inception in 1994, The Foundation has stayed true to its vision to build community through philanthropy by ensuring donors’ funds contribute to programs that generate the most positive impact in Oakville, thanks to its rigorous research that identifies the most pressing needs.

“Now at 25 years old, The Foundation has reached an important stage in its ability to support our community and charities with even more impact,” said Sarah McPherson, Director of Philanthropy and Communications. “We want to understand where and how our community needs the most support. We use information gleaned from our own research and experience, to guide our work such as how and where children feel they belong.”

Community Classroom is one of its latest initiatives, launched in September 2018. It came to fruition after The Foundation’s research indicated that one in 10 Oakville youth under the age of 18 live in poverty which directly affects a staggering one in four elementary school students. This was an issue that clearly needed to be addressed, but how? The Foundation referred to its earlier research on the importance of feeling connected in a community through arts and cultural experiences. The answer? Create a program that enabled all kids barrier-free access to these types of experiences for local Oakville children.

“This was the essence behind Community Classroom,” said
McPherson. “Last school year, 8,296 students took part in it and 374 classes participated from 42 schools across Oakville’s two publicly funded school boards.” The free program offers in-school and out of school programs for students from junior kindergarten to grade eight with
experiences that range from live performances to classroom workshops with local museums and galleries.

Of course, none of this would be possible without the generous  support of their donors, who become fundholders, from which the grants originate. Raising funds is an integral part of The Foundation’s mandate, as well as investing them. Rather than simply donate a sum to a charity, donors create a fund with the The Foundation that is
invested and, subsequently, increases in value over time resulting in a larger donation – and a larger gift to provide for the community.

“The Oakville Community Foundation is here to help everyone give back, meaningfully, purposefully and with the best possible impact,” McPherson explained. “In 1994, we were focused on building something that could help the community long term. We’ve done this and continued to do so, but our purpose is the same, building community through philanthropy.”

The Foundation is hosting a Bright Lights Celebration event on Thursday, Nov. 14 as part of its 25th anniversary. This event will showcase the artistic talents of students from Community Classroom with 100 per cent of proceeds directed to the program. For more
information, visit