History

crew-group-photo-300x300OFS has a long history of transforming the lives of youth in our community. We will continue that legacy by doubling the number of youth we are able to serve annually through the Building Futures Capital Campaign. This is the first capital campaign OFS has undertaken, and we are excited about what the future will bring. Head over to the Building Futures page to learn more.


Operation Fresh Start (OFS) was founded in 1970 to provide young male offenders and high school dropouts with a paid, 30-hour/week opportunity to learn basic work skills, prepare for the high school equivalency examination, secure and retain employment at the end of training, and contribute to the community by renovating sub-standard housing into safe, energy-efficient, affordable homes sold to low-income families. During the intervening years, OFS has expanded its target population to include women, single parents, and in-school youth, and has diversified its funding.

OFS has served 8,000 individuals; 85% have been youth, ages 16-24. It has assisted 80% of its participants to satisfactorily complete the goals of the program – getting a degree, job placement and/or graduation to post-secondary schooling. 

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Timeline of Major Events in OFS History

1970 – Jack Osteraas founded Operation Fresh Start in Madison. A former police officer and juvenile detention counselor, he developed the OFS model (now considered the Pathways Program). The organization provided young male offenders and youth who had dropped out of high school with a paid, 30-hour/week opportunity to learn basic work skills, prepare for the high school equivalency examination, secure and retain employment at the end of training, and contribute to the community by renovating sub-standard housing into safe, affordable homes sold to low-income families. During the intervening years, OFS expanded its target population to include women, single parents, and in-school youth, and has diversified its funding.

1980 – OFS began providing conservation and stewardship services to the Madison and Dane County Parks departments and to the Riverland Conservancy in Merrimac, WI.

1998 – Through the Governor’s Initiative, Wisconsin Fresh Start programs were created across Wisconsin. After some years of technical assistance and guidance by Operation Fresh Start (in Dane County), each organization is now its own entity or under the umbrella other local organizations throughout the state. 

2004 – All newly constructed OFS homes meet or exceeded Wisconsin Energy Star standards.

1975-2005 (30 years) – OFS receives the City of Madison Community Development Program Award.

2007 – OFS dedicated itself to achieving “Green Built Home” certification for all its homes, both newly constructed and remodeled.

2010 – OFS receives YouthBuild USA Green Building Award

2011 – OFS receives Corps Network Excellence in Operations Award

OFS construction training crews have built or re-built over 230 homes sold to low-income buyers. Since 2005, all new OFS homes meet or exceed Wisconsin Energy Star standards. Since 2007, both newly built and renovated OFS homes meet standards of certification by Green Built Homes, a sustainability rating system developed by the Wisconsin Environmental Initiative. 

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