Early years

WoodGreen Community Services was founded in 1937 by Reverend Ray McCleary. When he assumed his post at WoodGreen United Church in Toronto’s Riverdale neighbourhood, 60 per cent of residents were on city relief and had no access to organized recreational activities. With the help of volunteers, Rev. McCleary organized games and crafts for local children, along with child care services. WoodGreen was incorporated that year with a mission to “serve the whole community from the cradle to the sunset hour of life.”

War years

During WWII, WoodGreen supported local families to help meet basic needs. On May 8, 1948, the WoodGreen Community Centre opened at 835 Queen Street East, funded primarily by local residents. Programming was designed to serve the whole family and included day camps, sports, music, speakers, social clubs, a health clinic and assistance for the unemployed. The centre later offered programs for children with disabilities.

Post-war years

In the late 1950’s and 1960’s, Riverdale residents faced several new challenges, including high unemployment rates, juvenile crime, a lack of safe housing and an aging population. Fewer than 50 per cent of houses were considered structurally sound and only 12 per cent of residents were high school graduates. WoodGreen developed new programming to tackle these issues, including opening Toronto’s first legal clinic (1958), now East Toronto Community Legal Services; expanding day care services to allow a growing number of single mothers to work outside the home; opening WoodGreen’s first apartment building for seniors (1967); and developing employment opportunities for youth, including a job placement program — a forerunner to the now provincially run Youth Employment Services (YES).

Expanding WoodGreen

In the 1970’s, WoodGreen focused on the needs of a growing population of seniors and expanded services for individuals with developmental disabilities. Formal programming for local Chinese-speaking residents began in 1971. Over the following decades, immigrant services expanded as the population of Toronto’s East End diversified. During the 1980’s and 1990’s, WoodGreen developed additional housing units and child care centres, opened its first employment services site, and began to work with the community to establish neighbourhood and recreational programs.

WoodGreen today

Today, WoodGreen’s reach extends far beyond Toronto’s East End. Now one of the largest social service agencies in the city, we serve 37,000 people each year, working to improve health, independence and well-being for seniors; support newcomers as they settle in Canada; facilitate access to housing and employment resources for single mothers; provide high-quality child care and enriching after-school programs; build confidence and job readiness for youth; find housing for people experiencing homelessness and deliver a wide range of mental health services. WoodGreen has grown to employ 750 staff members and relies on the invaluable efforts of 1,000 volunteers.


A founding United Way of Toronto member agency, we are part of a strong network of local service agencies working to develop innovative solutions to critical social needs. WoodGreen programs are often referred to as examples of best practice, replicated across the Greater Toronto Area. We work closely with clients and policymakers to reshape social service delivery and create new opportunities to thrive.