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The most commonly asked questions about Operation Fresh Start

OFS empowers emerging adults on a path to self-sufficiency through education, mentoring, and employment training. OFS programs offer young adults (ages 16-24 in Dane County) opportunities to gain meaningful, supported work experience while completing their high school diploma and earning industry certifications. OFS staff members support participants as they transition to higher education and/or self-sustaining employment.

  • How is Operation Fresh Start currently funded?
    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 operating budget is $2.9M. 88% of our budget goes directly to serving youth by supporting programming. 8% management and 4% fundraising. *based on the 2020-2021 audited financials.
  • How does OFS differ from other youth organizations?
    Operation Fresh Start is the only Dane County organization dedicated to serving older youth ages 16 -24 transitioning into adulthood. In our core Legacy program (which serves 120 annually) youth are with us up to 32 hours a week, for around nine-ten months. 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 emerging adults 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 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 five 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 USA and The Corps Network — two national membership organizations for organizations providing education and training to youth.
  • Why does Legacy work when traditional high schools have not?
    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 50 years and is at the core of OFS.
  • How do youth hear about Operation Fresh Start?
    The 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 50 years history of transforming lives, the network of people touched by Operation Fresh Start is large. Community members, siblings, aunts and uncles who have succeeded, thanks to Operation Fresh Start, are our best ambassadors.
  • How can I donate to OFS?
    Thank you for considering a gift to Operation Fresh Start. To donate online, click HERE. Donations by check, please mail to: Operation Fresh Start, 2670 Milwaukee Street, Madison, WI 53704. Checks should be made out to “Operation Fresh Start.”
  • How can I buy a house built by Operation Fresh Start?
    As part of their education and employment training, OFS participants renovate or construct affordable single-family homes for low income and first-time homebuyers. Only one or two houses become available each year. If you want more information please contact Trent Halverson or Jenny Wedvick at Stark Realty on Cottage Grove Road. Their phone number is 608-443-2524 and their email address is


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