Frequently Asked Questions

How is Operation Fresh Start currently funded?
At Operation Fresh Start (OFS) we braid the following funding sources together to provide wrap around services to approximately 200 OFS participants annually.

OFS is funded by individual donors; corporate support; United Way of Dane County; City of Madison – Community Development Division; Dane County (Food Stamp Education and Training Funding, Department of Human Services and Dane County Parks); State of Wisconsin (Department of Corrections and Department of Workforce Development; approximately 6-10 school districts in Dane County; and Federal Governmental Sources (AmeriCorps and Department of Labor).

How is the organization governed?
We are a 501c3 organization that was incorporated in 1970. We are governed by an OFS Board of Directors which has 12 – 20 members at any given time. The board meets monthly and has an annual meeting (which is open to the public) once a year in January.

How much is your annual operating budget?
Currently our annual operation budget is 2.2M. Over 80% of our budget goes directly to serving youth by supporting programming and staffing direct service positions.

How is Operation Fresh Start different from other youth serving agencies?
Operation Fresh Start is the only Dane County organization dedicated to older youth ages 16 -24 transitioning into adulthood. In our core Legacy (previously called Pathways) program (which serves 120 annually) youth are with us up to 32 hours a week, for as much as a year or longer. Many of them come to us as first time parents, ready to get their lives on track. Some come to us from the Department of Corrections, others simply are looking to achieve success in their education (after lacking success in a traditional school setting) and develop future career goals and opportunities.

In the Legacy program, youth become AmeriCorps members and receive an education stipend for attending post-secondary education.

Is Operation Fresh Start a school?
Operation Fresh Start Legacy program is able to provide a youth a path to a high school diploma through partnerships in place with many local school districts in Dane County.  Programming includes instruction by OFS employed, certified teachers in a curriculum designed for adherence with the State of Wisconsin requirements for a young person to receive a high school diploma.

What geographic area does Operation Fresh Start serve?
Operation Fresh Start, Inc. is a local organization serving Dane County. The State of Wisconsin has invested in other communities implementing Fresh Start programming (but ours is a stand-alone organization). There are nine other organizations in Wisconsin providing programming based on the Operation Fresh Start Legacy model. OFS provides some technical assistance to these organizations. In addition, OFS is part of YouthBuild and Corps Network; two national membership organizations for organizations providing education and training to youth.


Why does Legacy (previously called Pathways) work when youth haven’t succeeded in traditional high schools?
Operation Fresh Start provides intensive small group and one-on-one instruction and counseling to participants focused on building from their strengths and engaging them in a positive way in the community.

We also incorporate education into the work site doing construction or conservation. This “hands on” way of learning is a better fit for some young people. As they work to get their high school diplomas, they are also gaining work skills and addressing other barriers to success in their lives. This formula has brought about successful outcomes for 45 years and is at the core of OFS.

How do youth hear about Operation Fresh Start?
The youth and young adults that Operation Fresh Start serves come to us a number of ways. Many of them are referred to us from school counselors, corrections officers, and other adults in their lives who have worked hard to help them succeed. We receive referrals from multiple districts in Dane County. Additionally, local community centers and other nonprofits will let young people know that Legacy is a good option for them to get their diploma and determine their next path in life, a path towards success. Lastly, and most importantly, many come to us through word of mouth. With 45 years history of transforming lives, the network of people touched by Fresh Start is large. Community members, siblings, aunts and uncles who have succeeded, thanks to Operation Fresh Start, are our best ambassadors.

How many additional youth will you be able to work with in the new space?
We will be able to serve 200 more youth annually in our new space. Youth will be served through in-depth, expanded and diversified programming to meet community needs.


Why do you need a new building?
In Dane County there are 3,700 disconnected youth ages 16 through 24. These youth are less able to take advantage of opportunities for success because they have not succeeded in a traditional high school, are living in poverty, don’t have a stable home, and/or often don’t have strong successful role models. They are at a point of transition but often times without guidance and in many instances end up on the wrong path.

Operation Fresh Start provides disconnected youth a path to self-sufficiency. Our programming helps youth become self-sufficient, contributing members of the community by providing them an opportunity to gain employment training, education, and independent living skills.Unfortunately, within our current space, we cannot expand programming to meet the community need.

Our vision for a new learning and training center, where we can service twice as many youth annually, includes a multipurpose presentation/assembly space, a student computer lab, classrooms, health office, kitchen and dining space, counseling office, a training space for construction and conservation projects, and an agricultural processing training space. Our program offerings will also expand to include more employment search opportunities, career development workshops, and employability skills trainings.

What types of donations can you receive?
Operation Fresh Start can receive direct donations to support our annual operations. We have the ability to take multi-year pledges. Currently, you can make a gift with a check, credit card (online) or donate a gift of stock. You can also make a Planned Gift to OFS by contacting Gregory Markle, Executive Director, at 608-244-4721 or Please let us know if there is a specific way you’d like to make a financial contribution and we will do our best to work with you.