About Community One

The Gay Community Appeal in 1982.

In 1980, a group of lesbian and gay activists founded the Gay Community Appeal, raising funds for community projects and organizations. Soon after, the name changed to the Lesbian and Gay Community Appeal, or LGCA.

Every year the Appeal held face-to-face fundraisers like S.O.S. (Supporting Our Selves) and hosted events like Fruit Cocktail theatrical productions and the Fruitcup gala, raising money for organizations that became the backbone of Toronto’s LGBTQ+ community – The 519, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, Black CAP, Toronto PFLAG, Asian Community AIDS Services, the Canadian Lesbian & Gay Archives, Toronto People With AIDS Foundation, Sherbourne Health Centre and the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto, amongst many others.

These fundraisers evolved into what is known today as Rainbow Grants. Community One Foundation’s Rainbow Grants support the development of fresh and pioneering services and programs that contribute positively to the 2SLGBTQ+ community in various areas, including health and social sciences, arts and culture, and research, education, and advocacy. The Rainbow Grants continue to play a pivotal role in supporting various initiatives within the Greater Toronto 2SLGBTQ+ community for over four decades. These grants have assisted in nurturing grassroots projects, established organizations, one-time endeavours, and other community-driven projects.

In 1987, the LGCA helped start the Bill 7 Award, a scholarship program for 2SLGBTQ+ students, and in 2007 the LGBT Giving Network, connecting LGBT-serving groups with one another to inspire leadership, action and community philanthropy. The LGCA encouraged other community groups obtain registered charitable status, thus strengthening their own fundraising capacity.

In 2005, Community One Foundation launched The Steinert & Ferreiro Award – a $10,000 prize that is Canada’s largest single cash award in recognition of 2SLGBTQ+ leadership – through a bequest from the estates of Jonathan R. Steinert and Fernando Gumercindo Ferreiro. The Steinert & Ferreiro Award celebrates the unsung heroes of our community, and is awarded every fall to one outstanding individual.  

Community One continues this spirit, focusing on marginalized communities as we choose grant recipients, helping them to create an independent, autonomous support network. In 2008, the LGCA became the Community One Foundation, a name better representative of the diverse community we serve, but we have stayed our commitment to funding important initiatives in the 2SLGBTQ+ community.

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Sam
Katz

Sam Katz

Board Co-Chair, Director

Director of Philanthropy & Communications, AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT)

Sam Katz (he/him) is the Co-Chair of Community One Foundation. He is an award-winning non-profit leader with 16+ years of fundraising experience. Sam is a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) and a member in good standing with the ‘Association for Fundraising Professionals’ (AFP). He is currently the Director of ‘Philanthropy at Crow’s Theatre’. Sam considers his superpower to be his authenticity, allowing him to build meaningful relationships with Canada’s leading philanthropists. He has a fortitude for up scaling and amplifying multi- streams of fundraising revenue. Sam prides himself on his creativity, innovation, entrepreneurial thinking, and preference to colour outside the lines. He has successfully closed over $30 million in gifts and pledges for affordable housing, homelessness, social services, the arts and educational institutions. Sam is extremely passionate about the LGBTQ2S+ community in Toronto and the work of Community One Foundation. He co- led the $50,000 ‘We are Family – Emergency Drag Support Fund’ at the beginning of the pandemic, to support dozens of local artists when the city was in lockdown. Sam believes that Community One Foundation is a staple of our community, without whom organizations like Buddies in Bad Times, The 519, Inside/Out LGBT Film Festival and many more, may not have existed! He looks forward to continuing to increase the foundation’s support of individuals and community organizations.

Michael
Schneider

Michael Schneider

Board Co-Chair, Director

SHN – Foundation Projects Community Reintegration Lead

Michael Schneider (they/them)is an experienced and compassionate social worker committed to assisting individuals develop healthier, more positive, and holistic lives. Specializing in clinical practice, supervision and program planning in the health care and non-profit fields and skilled in holistic counselling, social advocacy, mental health derivative therapy, providing meaningful crisis intervention, and advocating for restorative healing justice and the promotion of health and well-being.

Michael’s interests lay in policy development and implementation, project development, corporate and functional planning, anti-Indigenous and anti-Black racism, diversity, equity and inclusion, conflict de-escalation and resolution, community health, social dimensions of climate change and creating greater, more meaningful, and lasting change in the community.

Michael is a versatile social worker with experience in a variety of settings, including schools, residential care systems, hospitals and healthcare institutions, and community-based organizations with corporate business and community-based experience, including 10 years of management experience.

As someone with mixed Indigenous and Black heritage who is openly queer, non-binary, and living with two episodic disabilities, they are connected to some of Toronto’s most vulnerable and marginalized communities. They currently work as the Community Reintegration Lead, a specialized program working with marginalized seniors across the Scarborough Health Network sites. They serve Community One as one of the co-chairs for the Rainbow Grants program and member of the Board of Directors and are passionate to see Community One continue to grow and serve the communities its works with by enhancing the quality of life of people experiencing homophobia and transphobia compounded by other discriminations that have impacted their emotional sense of worth and well-being.

Leon
So

Leon So

Board Treasurer,  Director

TD Securities

Leon So (he/him) has years of professional experience in Finance and Accounting. He has worked in various financial audit & risk management roles in TD Bank Group and Deloitte LLP Canada. He currently serves as the Senior Manager for the Global Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Advisory Group in TD Bank, leading a team of AML professionals to deter money laundering and terrorist financing. He is also a standing member of Chartered Professional Accountant, Charted Accountant (CPA, CA) and Charted Financial Analyst (CFA).

Leon has been very active in supporting initiatives for marginalized communities including newcomers to Canada, people with disabilities and LGBTTIQQ2S members across the GTA. He is passionate in Community One’s vision to continue to grow and serve our community.

 

Christopher
Nkambwe

Christopher Nkambwe

Board Director

African Centre of Refugees in Ontario, Activist

Christopher Nkambwe (she/her) is a Black Transgender Woman activist, human rights defender and a community advocate from Uganda. She arrived in Canada on June 1st 2019 and she started her journey as a refugee claimant in the city of Toronto, Canada. In class 2018 Christopher was a ‘Women Deliver Young’ leader and became shortly afterwards the founder of the ‘African Centre for Refugees’ in Ontario. In October 2019, Christopher successfully registered her charity organization that supports vulnerable LGBTIQ2S+ refugees from the African Continent and in September 2020, she was selected to sit on the Advisory Committee of the Ontario Council for ‘Agencies Serving Immigrants under the Positive Space Initiative’ that supports the settlement sector to more effectively serve LGBTIQ2S+ newcomers.

November 5th 2020, Christopher was honored with the ‘Steinert and Ferreiro Award’ which is Canada’s largest single cash award recognized by LGBTIQ2S+ leadership. This is where Christopher’s journey started with Community One Foundation by being selected as a committee member of the ‘Rainbow grants’ of this year. Christopher was announced as the winner of the ‘January Marie Lapuz Youth leadership’ award which recognizes young leaders who are advocates for the LGBTQ2S+ community. In October 2021, Christopher was honored with the ‘Jack Layton Activism Award’ from the ‘Institute of Change Leaders’ for her collective strength to organize transformative change in every conceivable way.

Currently, she is the Board Chairperson of ‘Royal Rays Initiative Uganda Organization’ that is devoted to providing free services and empowerment that build self- sufficiency to LGBTIQ2S+ people in Uganda.

Alex
Tong

Alex Tong

Board Director

Alex (he/him) is an avid advocate for the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, bringing his passion to life through his work as a professional accountant at an international accounting firm. Having pursued a Master of Laws degree at Osgoode, he delves into the intricate realms of the protected grounds defined by the Ontario Human Rights Code. His focus extends to cultivating public awareness about the intersectionality of sexual orientation and race.

Together with his partner, Alex shares their experiences as newcomers to Canada and members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community on their blogs. They also share practical professional and financial advice to support others with a shared identity.

Usman
Ahmed

Usman Ahmed

Board Director

Deloitte

Usman (he/him) is a strategy and operations consulting leader with Deloitte. Having lived and worked across South Asia & Middle East, Asia Pacific, and North America, Usman is passionate about celebrating and leveraging our diversities to create an equitable, inclusive, and progressive environment in professional spaces. Usman draws from over a decade of experience to draft strategies, mobilize ideas, and implement transparent, sustainable, and adaptive processes. Outside of professional work, Usman mentors new immigrants as they look towards finding and claiming their space in the Canadian professional fabric. Usman is thrilled to join the Community One Foundation’s Board and play his part in driving the foundation’s rich legacy.

Pru
Girme

Pru Girme

Board Director

Canada’s 2SLGBTQI+ Chamber of Commerce

Pru Girme (she/her) is a Queer South Asian professional and community advocate based in Toronto. With a Master’s in Painting and a Bachelor’s in Business Administration, Pru’s diverse background underscores her commitment to intersectionality and equity. Her work is driven by the intersection of her identity, community, and a passion for fostering inclusivity.

Pru currently manages the Supplier Diversity program at CGLCC (Canada’s 2SLGBTQI+ Chamber of Commerce), where she has proven her proficiency in building strategic partnerships and cultivating meaningful relationships within the 2SLGBTQI+ community. Her previous roles at Pride at Work Canada, the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation, and the Toronto International Film Festival have equipped her with invaluable skills in business development, community engagement, and program management.

Her creative vision is focused on uniting diverse communities through meaningful engagement and dialogue. With her commitment to equity and a proven track record of impactful initiatives, she is well-positioned to make a significant contribution to Community One’s goal of empowering the 2SLGBTQI+ community.

Travis
Myers

Travis Myers

Board Director

Travis Myers (he/him) is an award winning creative director, artist, and advocate. His work has garnered some of the world’s top creative honours, including the Cannes Festival, the Clio Awards, Drum Creative, Sabre Awards, and more. His permanent installations can be found in public places throughout Canada and his temporary installations and gallery work have been featured at Toronto’s Nuit Blanche festival. Through his advocacy work, he was responsible for the site of Canada’s first Pride being formally declared a historic space and a government recognized public queer space, the first of it’s kind in Canada.

Curran
Stikuts

Curran Stikuts

Board Director

The 519

Curran (he/him) is an experienced leader in the community service sector and a seasoned 2SLGBTQ+ activist. With 15 years of experience in community-driven organizations, stakeholder relations, issues management, program and community development, and advocacy, Curran centres the power of community-based action in his work. Having begun his career in the cooperative housing and community health sectors, he is committed to improving the social and health outcomes of communities who have been marginalized through advocacy and building opportunities for connection.

Currently serving as the Director of Advocacy & Strategic Communications at the 519, he has held a variety of frontline and leadership roles – including Acting Director of Philanthropy – since he joined the organization in 2016. He is responsible for the 519’s organizational communications, stakeholder and government relations, government and large foundation grants, and works with staff across the organization and external partners to coordinate The 519’s advocacy work. He has raised millions of dollars in support of The 519 and Toronto’s 2SLGBTQ+ communities.

Curran has worked on and led a number of labour and political advocacy campaigns and is active on issues affecting 2SLGBTQ+ communities as well as neighbourhoods in Toronto’s Downtown East.

Curran has a BSW from Toronto Metropolitan University and a Master’s in Labour Studies from McMaster University.

OUR FRUIT

The Community One Foundation fruit have been the official mascot of Community One since back in the 1980s! You’ve likely seen our fruit at many community events, including Rainbow Grant ceremonies, Toronto Pride – and even NYC Pride.
Learn more about their origin story or get to know each of our fruit by clicking their photos below.

Geremy
The Kiwi

Geremy The Kiwi

How did you first get involved with C1?:  In 1982 I started rehearsals for a show which was to be called Fruit Cocktail.  I was a dancer in the first show.  I was in all 7 shows…as was Harold (the Grapes then the Pineapple).  Each year I auditioned to be a Fruit but it didn’t happen, one year a person was to be a Fruit, they had to cancel, I was put in…first as the Banana, however, then Banana costume was for a 182 CM person I am 172cm.  I kept tripping over the front of the costume….a woman was to be the KIWI but she could not fit into the bottom of the KIWI, so we switched….  The KIWI character was to be a shy character…I said, “Oh, that won’t do”. The director said, “Be yourself!”  Thus the KIWI was out there in full force.  I have been looking after the Fruit costumes, the people in the costumes and the various Fruit events we attend since 1990.  We have had 200+ people don a Fruit costume.
What is your favourite C1 memory?:  The first Fruit Cocktail show in 1983….the end of the first song the emotion of the applause coming from the audience was astounding.  I knew then Fruit Cocktail would be a superb fundraiser for C1 (then called the Gay Community Appeal) .
How do you feel C1 has impacted Toronto’s 2SLGBTQIA+ most over the last 40+ years?:  When I first started with The Gay Community Appeal (then The Lesbian and Gay Appeal, then The Appeal, then Community One Foundation) it was very Caucasian oriented.  It has been wonderful to see the foundation  evolving to encompass a huge diversity of people within the 2SLGBTQ+ communities.   It’s fantastic to see a plethora of community groups receiving grants and going forth into the communities.  It’s especially moving to see many of them come back and do performances at the Rainbow Grants Celebrations.

Leonard
The Tomato

Leonard The Tomato

How did you first get involved with C1?: I first got involved with Community One was when it was the Lesbian and Gay Appeal. I participated in Fruit Cocktail ’93 both offering ideas for a scene in the show and being in the chorus . I really enjoyed that opportunity as I was closeted at work. It gave me a great opportunity to feel part of a greater community and provided a safe and fantastic place to meet new friends. Five years ago or so Geremy asked me if I would be the tomato, and I loved it.
What is your favourite C1 memory?: My favourite memory of CI was working on the documentary and preparing scenes for the film and then being able to see myself up on the screen. We had such fun doing those little scene out takes – we have a wonderful sense of camaraderie among us and we laugh and laugh and just enjoy each other’s company and being our characters. Being one of the fruit is quite magical. You are like a cartoon figure and celebrity rolled all in one.
How do you feel C1 has impacted Toronto’s 2SLGBTQIA+ most over the last 40+ years?: Community One has been a crucial source of outreach for so many parts of the 2SLGBTQ+ community. They were integral in raising money to support AIDS support through the Fruit Cocktail productions bringing the community to celebrate its creativity and love for its members. It has continued to provide outreach through its wonderful grants which are crucial in reaching the wide diaspora that is the 2SLGBTQ+ community.

Alnoor
The Orange

Alnoor The Orange

How did you first get involved with C1?:  About 7 years ago.
What is your favourite C1 memory?:  Doing line dancing with the fruit – I was the only one who learned the steps!
How do you feel C1 has impacted Toronto’s 2SLGBTQIA+ most over the last 40+ years?:   I think the fruit provide a fun and inviting environment for people to ask us about the history of our group and gives them insight into where we came from.

Mario
The Blueberry

Mario The Blueberry

I was invited by Geremy the Kiwi to join him at MCC for an event with the the fruit. After the event, Kiwi asked me: “did you enjoy it?” I said, I loved it. Then I became the oficial Blueberry.

Paul
The Banana

Paul The Banana

How did you first get involved with C1?: The Kiwi made me do it!
What is your favourite C1 memory?: Currently the smiles we bring to the faces of individuals at York Region Pride Parade in Newmarket.
How do you feel C1 has impacted Toronto’s 2SLGBTQIA+ most over the last 40+ years?: Giving Community Projects a chance to Flourish.

GRANTS & PARTNERSHIPS

Bill 7 Award Scholarship

In partnership with Supporting Our Youth, the Community One Foundation is a co-sponsoring agency of the Bill 7 Award. The Bill 7 Award is a registered charitable trust that awards scholarships to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer and 2-spirited students, resident in Ontario and in financial need in any post-secondary institution in Ontario, attaining their first degree. The Award is named after the 1986 Ontario legislation that extended the protection of the Human Rights Code to lesbians and gays. Since its inception in 1988, we have been working hard to increase the number and size of the bursaries available. In recent years, Community One Foundation provides  three $3,500 scholarships each year to students in need, in the name of a generous bequest from James Stewart. In total so far, over $60,000 has been presented to students in the queer community. All the money has been raised through donations. Visit www.bill7award.ca for more information.

LGBT Giving Network

The Community One Foundation is proud to be a co-founding member of the LGBT Giving Network, a group of organizations working together to engage and cultivate lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and allied donors to help secure leadership gifts and long-term financial support to build stronger LGBT communities in Canada. The Network was formed in 2007 to address the need for improved engagement between non-profit charities, donors and businesses interested in LGBT communities and issues. Its founding member organizations represent a cross-section of the diverse LGBT communities. LGBT philanthropy is increasing in Canada and the purpose of this network is to build the collective understanding of the financial implications of philanthropy, nurture the relationship between donors and charities and to provide a point of contact for businesses and supporters. Activities of the Network include:

  • Developing a mentorship program for non-profit staff and leadership
  • Promoting LGBT voluntarism
  • LGBT Philanthropy in Canada conferences
  • LGBT Donor Appreciation events

Visit www.lgbtgivingnetwork.org for more information.