Established in 1970, Lutherwood has grown to offer children’s mental health, employment, housing and family counselling services to more than 16,600 people each year in Waterloo Region and Wellington County. Its programs - built on a foundation of compassion, best practice and innovation - are delivered by professional staff in a caring and supportive environment.
Lutherwood began as a centennial project sponsored by the Lutheran Church of Canada. Recognizing the need for an alternative to incarceration for boys coping with severe mental health issues, trees were cleared in 1969, to make way for a small live-in treatment centre on Benjamin Road in Waterloo, Ontario. Today, that site houses three live-in programs, a school and a children's mental health centre of excellence for boys and girls requiring mental health services.
Expanding Over Time
Gainful employment can help youth with mental health challenges build a sense of belonging, self-worth, self-confidence and achievement. So Lutherwood developed a specialized department to work with local employers and find appropriate job placements. In 1998, Lutherwood merged with CODA (Community Opportunities Development Association) which delivered adult employment, self-employment and housing programs in Waterloo Region and Wellington County, to offer a more complete set of employment and self-employment services to the entire community.
Through its work with people who are unemployed or under-employed, Lutherwood recognized a need to expand its services to those who were at risk of being homeless. To support this need, a group of employees now invest their time and energy offering housing services to individuals and families searching for affordable and sustainable housing.
With a team of skilled mental health counsellors on staff, Lutherwood recognized an opportunity to open its counselling services to benefit all people living in the community through a second merger in 1998 with Cambridge Interfaith. Lutherwood Family Counselling Service helped individuals, couples and families make positive life changes to better manage the fast pace and stress of today’s world.
In 2001, the Sisters of Notre Dame and a group of community agencies were struggling with the financial burden of running the Betty Thompson Youth Centre which included a temporary shelter for youth living on the streets. Named after the late Betty Thompson, a community advocate dedicated to serving children, the Safe Haven youth shelter risked permanent closure. Lutherwood was invited to operate it and today, the shelter is open 24/7 and serves 12-18 year old children at risk of being homeless.
Strengthening Our Community
Lutherwood continues to work with businesses, agencies, funders, donors and volunteers to deliver effective services that meet the specific and growing needs of the communities it serves. Its programs focus on the needs of each individual, because a strong, healthy and vibrant community is founded on the combined strength of each individual citizen.
“We strengthen lives in our community, because we care about our community.” John Colangeli, CEO Lutherwood.