Fresh Start Focus
August 2019

"When I realized I was hurting people 
that I cared about I knew I had to do something."

-Greg, OFS Youth
Read Greg's
Reflection  Below

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our monthly newsletter.

Our Mission: Operation Fresh Start provides disconnected youth a path to self-sufficiency.

A Day in the Life of an Operation Fresh Start Construction Crew

Have you ever wondered what goes into a day's work for an Operation Fresh Start (OFS) construction crew?  No doubt there's hard work being done, but what skills are worked on? How do the young people and their crew supervisor interact and work together as a team? 

Here's your chance to get an inside look into a day in the life of an OFS construction crew! 

The following is a short look into a day's work for Eddie's construction crew working on a house rehab in Oregon, Wisconsin. 

The day begins with a quick pep talk outside OFS by the supervisor. Eddie, OFS' Construction & Conservation Manager, discusses what the team will be working on that day, and they all break and climb into their crew van. At this point, the OFS no cell phone policy goes into effect and all attention should be on the job ahead. Some chatter about what everyone did the previous weekend occurs in the van on the way to the job site but mostly it's all business.

Once at the site Eddie, gathers everyone in the living room of the two-story home. This particular job is a rehab on an existing home built in 1919. OFS works on both construction of homes as well as rehabs. Since 1970, OFS has built or rehabbed 280 homes in Dane county.

The crew breaks off into two teams. One team is working on tiling in what will be the kitchen and dining area of the home. The room is just about finished and our crew explains what they will be doing today, as well as some other skills they have learned while at OFS and how they might use them for their future careers. A newer participant, Brian, said, "I'm glad I am learning all of these skills. I'd love to eventually start my own landscaping business and the skills I'm learning at OFS can help me achieve that."

Back in the living room, the other team is working on trimming. Eddie demonstrates how to use the miter saw to cut the trim and watches the participant follow his instructions. Using a nail gun, the crew takes turns on applying nails to the trim along the bottom of the living room wall.

By day's end, the crew had made significant progress on their projects and were tired from their hard work but proud to be one step closer to their end goal: rehabbing a low-cost home for a family in need.

Our crew supervisors try to remind participants on a daily basis how their hard work results in this end goal.  Making each young person aware of the amazing impact they are having on their community is key to personal growth and pride in their work, which will ultimately lead to successful careers.

These young people matter. Their work matters. They are making a difference not only in the lives of a family in need, but also for themselves and their futures. The personal growth and skills development that comes from the work our young people do is amplified once they see the final results. 

The work not only matters to the participants but is uniquely powerful and rewarding for our crew supervisors. Eddie has been with OFS for 7 years. He put it pretty perfectly by saying, "I used to call my mom and tell her THANK YOU for being my solid. I couldn't imagine not having one. Now I get to be one for a whole group of kids, and it's super cool."

Each crew member working on this home in Oregon will undoubtedly be excited and proud to see the finished product, which usually is accompanied by an Open House event for the family moving in.

We hope you enjoyed a glimpse into a day in the life of OFS Construction, and we look forward to bringing you more stories like this in the future!

OFS Drive

Operation Fresh Start is wrapping up its first-ever OFS Drive program!

What is OFS Drive, you ask?

OFS Drive is a brand new 5-week pilot program with the purpose of giving youth the resources, knowledge and opportunities to get their driver's licenses.

One of the biggest barriers to gaining employment is not having your high school diploma which OFS has covered!  But another significant and yet not well-known barrier is not having your driver's license. 
Unfortunately, Madison area schools and many others in Dane county do not offer driver's education. Not having this resource for local young people can become burdensome and complicate the process of obtaining full-time employment or continuing their education.

Our first-ever class met for their 5 week-long course on July 29 and ended on August 28. The application pool was large, which shows just how much demand there is for a program like OFS Drive. Out of 62 applicants, 17 young people, ages 16-22, participated in the pilot program.

The sheer amount of applicants gives us even more reason to seek additional funding to make this pilot program a staple of OFS. This turnout is something we love to see in a pilot program and we look forward to providing this resource to more young people in the future!

First, we wanted to find out the basics from each of our participants. What were their long term goals? We received a wide array of answers
ranging from  continuing education; interests in nursing, music, construction or computer programming; and, of course, a few who were unsure at the moment of what their future plans were. 

The important part was they were here, knocking down one more barrier in the process of becoming self-sufficient, contributing members of the community!

Week one - Our participants worked on things like resume building and interview skills, took a course in financial literacy, went over what to know and expect when purchasing a car, and attended a session with a few neighborhood police officers on what to expect during a traffic stop. 


Week 2-5 - 4 Lakes Driving School partnered with OFS to provide classroom instruction. During this time, participants were able to take and pass the permit test in class, go to the DMV with an OFS staff member to receive their official permit, and finally schedule "behind-the-wheel" appointments with 4 Lakes for hands-on practice.

Of all the course participants, we are proud to say that 15 have their permits and are well on their way to getting their driver's licenses!

Our staff and instructors received so much wonderful feedback from participants on what this program meant for them personally and how it will help them in the future.  Below are some quotes we wanted to share! 

"This program to me means an opportunity for the youth that impacts the rest of their lives. Not only are you helping and teaching teens and adults to drive but you are also teaching them how to be responsible because driving is another lesson and responsibility of being an adult." - T.L.

"I enjoy OFS Drive with Miss Jasmine Banks. She cares about our knowledge and progress. I also enjoy that she gives all of us a place to go if we need to talk. I also enjoy Melissa's company and the awesome treats she brings." -D. W.

EUA Bike Ride Event Recap

Eppstein Uhen Architects held their 15th Annual Beyond Design Bike Tour Event on Thursday, August 22, and Operation Fresh Start was chosen as one of the two charities!

Having offices in both Madison and Milwaukee, EUA has made a point to choose one charity from Madison and one from Milwaukee. This year the Milwaukee charity was the  Boys and Girl's Club of Greater Milwaukee. All routes, 100 mile, 67, 37 and 20, are located just between the two cities in the beautiful Wisconsin countryside. Two OFS staff members and two OFS board members and their wives participated in the ride, as well.

Riders and spectators in attendance could not have asked for better weather as the ride began. Sunny, little to no breeze and a high of 75, the conditions were perfect for a ride benefiting two great Wisconsin charities! OFS staff members were posted at a water station where they served cookies from Festival Foods, water, Gatorade, and some other delicious snacks for the riders. 

After the ride was complete, everyone gathered in the Concord House, in Sullivan, WI. Riders were able to load up on delicious food and interact with other riders and the charities benefiting from their hard work that day. A silent auction was held, and the item that sold for the highest bid was a gorgeous handmade wooden canoe from Okauchee Cedar, crafted by the Father-in-law of OFS' Deputy Director, Brian McMahon.

The proceeds from the event will be split 3 ways between Operation Fresh Start, The Boys and Girl's Club and  Eppstein Uhen Architects.

OFS is extremely grateful for being selected as one of the lucky benefiting charities. We would like to thank Eppstein Uhen Architects for their generosity and putting on such an amazing event!

A special thanks to our Bike Ride sponsors as well as those who donated in-kind items in support of Operation Fresh Start:

Carley, Wood Associates           Meicher CPAs         

Festival Foods                              North Central Group

Graft                                             Okauchee Cedar

Darcy Kelly, Golf Pro                    Swiss Cellars

Maple Bluff Country Club           UW Health

OFS Youth Reflection - Greg

My name is Greg. I'm currently attending OFS. OFS is a program for young people that have made mistakes or feel like school isn't for them so they need an alternative. I'm going to tell you how I became an OFS student.

Greg (Left) at the Milwaukee Bucks Foundation Luncheon
I was born in Chicago, IL in July of 2001. I'm the oldest out of all of my siblings. I have two twin sisters that are two years younger and my wonderful Mother. My Dad was in and out of my life when we were living in Chicago. My Mom was there and still is because she is a strong black woman. She did what she had to do as a Mother. She said, "If I had to be a father too I would". We had a lot of family in Chicago, but at the time my Mom didn't want us growing up in that environment so we moved to Madison, WI. We caught the Greyhound Bus to Madison, and when we got there we went straight to the Salvation Army. It was a homeless shelter where we stayed for a few months until we were all able to get a place.

Freshman year was like any other first year of a different school, crazy and different. It was hard at first because I thought high school was easy because we were older, I found out it was the opposite. When I got behind, I couldn't catch back up. That made me fall even more behind so I kind of gave up on the rest of the year. But then when football came around, I couldn't play at first because of my grades. I thought about it, and I said to myself, "I don't have to have A's but I need C's". I got my grades up enough to where I could play. From that moment on, I used sports to get through school. It helped at the time but got old.

My second year of high school I came in knowing what to do and what I needed to do. Having that mindset got me the most improved student of the year award! After that year I don't know what happened, I just felt different being in school. Then my Grandma passed away and that messed me up a lot. I started smoking and not going to school. It was all bad then. I saw how it was making the people who supported me, cared for me, and helped me feel. I felt like I let them down and that made me feel really bad. I didn't like it at all so I knew I had to change it.

My last year of high school I wanted to change how I looked at things and how people viewed me. When I realized that I was hurting people that I cared about I knew I had to do something. So when school ended junior year I started working a lot and I slowed down the smoking and tried to get back into football. Two of those things happened, I worked a lot and I slowed down the smoking. When the football thing came, I just didn't want it enough. We had summer practice and I went to more than half of those, but I still didn't make the team. So when it happened, I didn't know what to do. I knew if I didn't know, only one other person would and that's my wonderful Mother, Cheryl. She is a great person and mother.

My previous motivation to finish school was sports. Now that I didn't have that, I didn't know what to do. So I started looking for other schools to go to. I looked into a few different schools like night school, but that would change my work stuff so I couldn't do that. I looked into a few more, but I was too old for those, but there was one more I could do and that was OFS. When I found out you can go to school and get paid for it I was all in. I needed something new so that's when I knew it was for me. I found out later that my Mom went through the same program! It was cool to hear that and I knew she had my back in whatever I did. So we looked into OFS, I had interviews, and got into the program. It was hard at first, but I'm getting the hang of it, and I'm glad I did it.

I'm looking forward to getting my diploma from here. I want to try and get a job after, work, make some money and save up, and maybe go to MATC. Later after one year of school I'd also like to try and play football somewhere.        
Thank you for your support! 

Operation Fresh Start is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization.