Operation Fresh Start unveils new location, continues mission

 Operation Fresh Start unveiled their future location on Jan. 23, 2017, the former home of Holy Cross Lutheran Church on Milwaukee Street. (Meredith Metzler/Madison Commons)Operation Fresh Start unveiled their future location on Jan. 23, 2017, the former home of Holy Cross Lutheran Church on Milwaukee Street. (Meredith Metzler/Madison Commons)


On Jan. 23, 2017, Operation Fresh Start (OFS), a program that serves disconnected youth in Dane County, revealed the site of its future home at 2670 Milwaukee St. and publicly launched its Building Futures Capital Campaign.

Building Futures is the program’s first capital campaign and started quietly in May 2015. The goal of the campaign is to raise $4.5 million to help with the renovations of the new facility and other expansion expenses, according to OFS Development Director Jill Pfeiffer.

Pfeiffer explained that the new facility will allow OFS to double its number of annual participants and will allow for the development of new programs.

“There are some ideas we have, and partnerships that we’re talking about, that we’ve never even been able to explore as a result of our space limitations,” she said. “We’re going to serve twice as many youths in a cost-effective learning and training center.”

So far, the campaign has raised over $2.5 million from donations of all sizes, and OFS hopes to meet its goal of $4.5 million within two years, according to Pfeiffer. At this time, the capital campaign receives no public funding. Its partnerships with the City of Madison and Madison Metropolitan School District are program specific.

Currently, OFS serves 200 young people from Dane County each year, many of whom have dropped out of high school, face an incarceration or have been incarcerated, according to Pfeiffer. OFS offers them several programs, each of which works to provide its participants a path to self-sufficiency.

“What we mean by self-sufficiency is that they are able to provide for their families when they grow up,” Pfeiffer said. “When they come to Fresh Start, they're ready to get some help in changing the trajectory of their lives, and we're here to help them with that.”

Pfeiffer also believes that OFS is “fulfilling a critical need” in the Dane County community by working with a unique demographic of people.

“We're working with young people who faced a lot of challenges, and we're really the only organization that is working with this coming-of-age group between 16 and 24,” Pfeiffer said. “We are specifically working with young adults at that critical transition time.”

Between the ages of 16 and 24 is a period when people can change the trajectory of their lives, Pfeiffer explained, with the support from dedicated staff.

“[Participants] work very hard, they’re very dedicated to having success in their life,” Pfeiffer said. “Not everyday is easy. But there's those success stories, and we have a lot them here [at OFS]. And it's just incredibly inspiring, and that's why I come in everyday."

OFS is not alone on their mission either. With nearly 100 partners and funders, the program is well-supported throughout Dane County and Wisconsin. And this support is appropriate, according to Jennifer Voichick, outreach specialist for the construction and remodeling program at Madison College, an OFS partner.

“[OFS] is a great place for people to make it, in terms of moving from a really hard time in their lives, to a place where they could actually think about starting a career,” Voichick said.

Pfeiffer and her peers continue to work each day to make a difference in the lives of OFS participants—work that is equally rewarding for them.

“I have learned that both focused, positive support from caring adults, and access to opportunities are key to someone’s success in life,” Pfeiffer said. “At Fresh Start, we offer both, and provide that loving push that someone may need to get on the right path.” 

OFS will continue its fundraising efforts with its annual luncheon on May 12.