Our History

About Starling Community Services

Established in 1970, Starling Community Services (formerly Lutherwood) has grown to offer children’s mental health, employment, and housing services to more than 16,000 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.

Ben Rd bldg

Our Roots

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 10-bed 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.

Growing Over Time

As gainful employment can help youth with mental health challenges build a sense of belonging, self-worth, and confidence, Lutherwood launched its Employment Services to work with local employers and find appropriate job placements. In 1998, Lutherwood merged with CODA (Community Opportunities Development Association) to offer a more complete set of employment and self-employment services to Waterloo Region and Wellington County.


Through this work, Lutherwood recognized a need to help those who were at risk of being homeless and developed Housing Services for individuals and families searching for affordable and sustainable housing.

In 1998, Lutherwood merged with Cambridge Interfaith to offer Lutherwood Family Counselling Services. This service operated until it was closed in 2017.

In 2001, the Sisters of Notre Dame struggled with the financial burden of running the Betty Thompson Youth Centre and Safe Haven Youth Shelter - a temporary shelter for youth living on the streets. Lutherwood provided a more stable business model and today the shelter is open 24/7 serving 12-18-year-old children at risk of being homeless.

Strengthening Our Community

Starling Community Services 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

Ben Rd Kitchen
Early photo of the Kitchen at Lutherwood's Benjamin Road location
Groundbreaking 1970
Lutherwood Groundbreaking, 1970
Lutherwood Main Office Sign
Staff with Luthewood Main Office sign
Pastor Meibohm receiving one of Lutherwood's first donations
Hooksie cropped
"Hooksie" was one of Lutherwood's original staff members
Lutherwood Employment
Lutherwood Employment's Original Office Location