Learning Foundation provides a critical front line level of support to students in need - that need rose more than 15% between 2015 and 2016.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

September 11th, 2017



They are in the classroom and that first week of being back at it is done for the high school students.

The teaching teams have done their updates and gotten caught up and now the getting on with the business of educating them and turning them into responsible, productive and accountable adults can begin.

But for some students – it isn’t going all that well. There will have been some disappointments, perhaps a disaster. A good teacher can spot the kid who is having a tough time with less than a glance.

They will look for a way to give the student a chance to talk – more often than not the teacher is already aware of the problems.


The Foundation works out of a portable – with the washrooms in a seperate building.

Sometimes it’s a school supplies issue, sometimes the student doesn’t have clothing – shoes are usually an issue for some students. And we aren’t talking about their having the latest fashion – we are talking about shoes that are not bursting at the seams.

Burlington is part of the Halton Learning Foundation, a group of people who are in place to do something about the needs of students who aren’t able to fend for themselves financially.

While Burlington is seen as a wealthy community that tolerates gas prices that are three to four cents higher per litre than in neighbouring communities, there are still a lot of people that live very close to, if not below, the poverty line

The cost of rental housing doesn’t help this part of the population either.

The close to dire financial straits for many households extends to those who are students.

Lesley Mansfield

Lesley Mansfield, Executive Director of the Halton Learning Foundation, presenting to the Board of Education.

The Halton Learning Foundation is headed up by Lesley Mansfield, a woman with solid experience in the private sector and the ability to make the needs known to those who can help.

Mansfield will tell you that if there is a student need and she is made aware of it by 10 am – she can have funds in the hands of a student by 3:00 pm

All the requests that come to her office get there via a call from a school principal.

Mansfield’s job is to administer the requests and then get out into the field and raise the funds. She isn’t at the chicken feed level. The Halton Learning Foundation is edging towards the million dollar operation.

Along with raising and allocating the funds she is also a full time advocate for the Foundation and the people that need help.

Mansfield is a big advocate of thanking people. She doesn’t just say thank you – she does what you would call a “full Monty” thank you.  Every donation to the Foundation is followed up with a report on how the funds were spent.

She looks you in the eye and let’s you know that what you have given is more than appreciated.

In 2015 the Foundation met 657 requests for help

In 2016 the figure was 780 – a 17% increase. Mansfield doesn’t see that number getting smaller.

Her approach is to say yes to every request – she relies on the input from the teachers who know the students better than anyone else.

Mansfield tells the Board of Trustees that the Foundation is their charity – “we are here to support your students in your schools”.

Lesley Mansfield

Lesley Mansfield serves as the Executive Director of the Halton Learning Foundation and is a consistent advocate for supporting students while they complete a high school education.

The Foundation is an arm’s length non-profit corporation that is linked with the school board but not a part of it. Her route to the classrooms and the students is through the Board of Education.

The Board provides space for the Foundation – in a portable with the washrooms in a separate building. Technical support and some maintenance is the sum total of what the Foundation gets from the Board of Education.

Mansfield realizes she is part of a larger community initiative. There is the Food4Kids organization that provides lunches for students. A number of churches in Burlington have meal programs; there is also a food banks that can be used.

The work the Halton Poverty Council does and the exceptional work Joey Edwardth does at Community Development Halton support the thinking and strategic planning that is essential for a city like Burlington as it struggles to come to grips with a problems that is growing.

There is a single solution to the poverty issue – give these people an income or the means to earn an income.

And to earn that income people need jobs.

And to get a decent job one needs an education.

HLF logoThe Foundation is the organization that ensures the essentials are available to students in our classrooms which makes HLF close to the critical fulcrum in the process of getting people out of poverty.
The people who work with those who have needs they cannot meet believe there is a single solution to the poverty issue – give these people an income or the means to earn an income.

And that is the level Lesley Mansfield works at. She provides the support for the students in the high schools who are working at getting an education so they can get jobs and earn the income they need to become productive citizens.

Their perspective is that getting an education means being able to go on the field trips; having the glasses they need to be able to see the white board or see the ball in the gymnasium. It means providing fees for being part of an extra-curricular group.

Lesley has dozens of stories about how the help gets to her office.  She gets a new one almost every day of the week.  Last year an organization learned of what the Foundation does – they were clothing manufacturers – and donated 400 good quality winter coats.

hlf-posterThe Foundation holds an annual Benefit Bash in November – it is their prime fund raising event.

Revenue levels have been fairly consistent – over $800,000 annually. Mansfield can see the need rising – it continues to increase in Halton which is why they have embarked upon a campaign to raise $1.6 million in the next four years. They want to continue to be able to say “yes” to every request that comes into HLF from the principals to help a student in need.


Sherry Armstrong handles marketing and promotion – and anything else that needs doing – for the Foundation

The Foundation is run by three people – their salaries are paid for by the Foundation. There is an opportunity there for the Board of Education to find a way to take on that cost so that there is more money getting into the hands that need it.

There is some lobbying needed to bring that about.

The HLF is part of an eco-system that does what it can to ensure that those with real day to day needs are served with dignity and respect.

This city is fortunate to have these people in place.

Return to the Front page
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Comments are closed.