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Donor Profile: Hamilton congregation

Updated: May 26

Update # 216

Small congregation with a big heart honours its deep roots with KESKUS donation

Congregational Council, Woodland Cemetery, September 2023 (Photo: P. Põldre)

Usually, a heart of stone describes one that is cold and unfeeling, but in the case of the First Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Congregation in Hamilton (Hamiltoni Esimene Eesti Evangeelne Luteriusu Kogudus), it reflects one that is full of warmth and grace.


This small but mighty congregation, with its 47 dedicated and active members, has made a generous $100,000 Kalevipoja Laud donation to KESKUS, for a “Place of Reflection,” thanks to a legacy donation left by one of their parishioners.


And the stone? This symbolizes perfectly the might of a forward-thinking congregation. In September 2023, its members erected an eight-foot-high granite boulder at the Woodland Cemetery in Hamilton to honour the strength and courage of their ancestors, many of whom are buried there.


It started with an idea for a simple bench

Through this and other actions the congregation is continuing to propel the efforts of their forefathers and mothers by helping to ensure the future of our community.

Bishop and congregation posing in front of altar
Bishop Viilma visits the congregation 2023 (Photo: P. Põldre)

“The cemetery project began with an idea for a bench,” laughs Evy Beraldo, chair of the congregation. “But it grew by several feet and, at 16,000 pounds, weighs considerably more!” Previous long-time chair Jaan Pallop championed the idea of a commemorative marker.


A long and proud history in Hamilton

Pastor leading procession down church aisle
Pastor Kivisikk, 1954

Pastor August Kivisikk arrived in the Hamilton area in 1949 and officiated his first service on Christmas Day in 1949.

The Hamilton EELK officially began July 1, 1951, and in its heyday was some 500 parishioners strong. In 1970 there were 28 people in leer (confirmation), one of whom was the teenaged Evy Raudsepp, who was born in Hamilton.


“The fact that we can make this $100,000 donation is a great gift and privilege,” she said.


“We don’t think of it as ‘our’ money. We have it thanks to how our parents and grandparents scrimped and saved in order to keep things going.”

“It’s time to pay it forward.”


KESKUS will be a beacon for all          


Why is this small Hamilton area group making a donation to the centre located in Toronto? Evy explains: “So many of us had relatives in Toronto or even grew up there. It’s important that the Hamilton congregation has a presence at KESKUS and to say that we are ‘here’, too. There is a strong tie between us.”

“We recognize the importance of the building, and we like its location in the heart of the city next to Tartu College.”

“It’s so open and modern and will help people understand how strong our culture is here. We will not disappear!”

“Anyone with a drop of Estonian blood will be proud to be involved with KESKUS.”


Hamilton congregation is going strong


Despite its small number, the Hamilton congregation is still very much alive. Since the mid-1950’s they have shared space with the Hamilton Latvian congregation, who own the church building.


Currently they do not have a dedicated minister, but they invite guest ministers from Estonia for special occasions and significant religious times of year.  


Joint services are held monthly with the Latvian community. Minister Davis Kaneps preaches in English. Hymns and Bible readings are in both languages. “We’ve passed each other on the stairs for decades and now we’re often together. The Latvians were and continue to be great friends to us.”


Group seated at long tables under tent canopy
EELK Hamilton 65 years strong in 2016

The current Hamilton Estonian mixed choir practises there and the Pensioners’ Club meets occasionally. Over the decades, previous choirs, the local Estonian guides and scouts, folk dancing groups, the Hamilton Estonian Society and the Estonian school all have used the facilities.

The Hamilton congregation is a major donor for Seedrioru, the Hamilton Estonian School and the Hamilton Estonian Society.


A poignant donation back to where it all originated


They have not limited their generous spirit to Canada. Funds have been directed to church organizations in Estonia as well.


This includes a gift that is particularly sweet. They are helping to support Põlva Jakobi Kool, an independent Christian school in Põlva, Estonia. The Hamilton church’s very first minister August Kivisikk was the minister for the Põlva congregation from 1933 to 1944. He served the Hamilton congregation from 1949 to 1976. It’s a full circle gesture to be sure.


There is no question the Estonian spirit that emanates from Hamilton spreads its wings wide.


“We may be small in number, but we certainly get things done!”


Discover the benefits of giving wisely       


Please join the growing list of KESKUS capital campaign donors to help bring this extraordinary project to completion. KESKUS leadership donors are recognized here.

There are many ways to make a contribution to KESKUS. 

  • To donate, click here, or call +1.647.250.7136 or email Donations may be made as a family gift, or in honour of an individual or family. All donations are issued a tax receipt, in Canada via Estonian Arts Centre, US tax receipts via Myriad USA and Estonian tax receipts via Eesti Rahvuskultuuri Fond. Donations by credit card may be made here.

  • Legacy gifts made to the Estonian Arts Centre, the charity associated with KESKUS, are creative and tax-effective ways to provide support. These are known as “planned gifts” because with thoughtful planning, we create a win-win situation that benefits both you and our community for generations to come.  Find out how to provide a bequest in your will by going to

  • For information on making other types of planned gifts, including gifts of appreciated securities or insurance policies, or if you have any other questions, please contact EAC Donations Manager Taimi Hooper via email at or phone +1.647.250.7136.

Let’s keep in touch

  • Visit the KESKUS website for all the latest news

  • Sign up for the KESKUS monthly email newsletter

  • Follow us on Facebook @EestiKeskus, X @keskus, Instagram @keskus.iec


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