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Our Partners

To Our Partners...

Operation Fresh Start is able to provide transformational programming for emerging adults because of the relationships with our local, state, and national partners. Thank you for your support!

Our Mission

Operation Fresh Start empowers emerging adults on a path to self-sufficiency through education, mentoring, and employment training.

Our partners are listed in alphabetical order:

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4 Lakes Driver Training School

4 Lakes Driver Training School has been teaching driver’s education in the Madison community for more than 50 years. 4 Lakes has helped Operation Fresh Start break down barriers to obtaining a driver’s license. This partnership allows OFS to offer free driver’s education and behind-the-wheel lessons to young adults ages 18–24 and for those who have been justice-involved.


The state of Wisconsin stopped providing driver’s education in high schools in 2004 and many families struggle to afford private instruction. Since a driver’s license is the second most common qualification on job applications, 4 Lakes and OFS have created pathways to increase access.

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The AmeriCorps mission is to improve lives, strengthen communities, and foster civic engagement through service and volunteering. AmeriCorps sends people power and funding to communities across the country.

Operation Fresh Start’s Legacy program is affiliated with AmeriCorps. Participants complete a minimum of 1,000 service hours in either construction of affordable housing or conservation and land management in local parks.

At the end of their term, OFS Legacy participants earn the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award, which can be used to repay student loans and to pay current educational expenses.

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City of Madison

The City of Madison supports the OFS Drive program for young adults ages 18–24. The program offers free driver’s education and behind-the-wheel lessons, plus all DMV permit and license fees paid.

City of Madison Community Development Division

The City of Madison Community Development Division is focused on improving quality of life for Madisonians and supporting youth development. The CDD provides funds for the Legacy program, supporting education and employment training opportunities that lead to participants earning a high school diploma and driver's license and starting their career. A secondary benefit is the community service work OFS Legacy participants complete: building affordable housing and completing conservation projects. 

City of Madison Engineering Division

OFS Legacy and Conservation Academy crews work with members of the City of Madison Engineering Division on efforts to remove invasive species, mitigate flooding, plant rain gardens, and more. In 2021, the Engineering Division started tending to bees for the first time. City staff and OFS crews worked together to create custom beehive boxes. Hosting beehives promotes a healthy pollinator habitat, which in turn improves the ecosystem by ensuring the health of native plants.

City of Madison Parks

OFS Legacy crews also work to maintain natural areas within City of Madison conservation parks. Projects include: maintaining recreational trails, cleaning up trash to prevent contaminated runoff from reaching waterways and more.

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The Corps Network

The Corps Network advances programs that transform young people’s lives and communities through career development, conservation, and civic engagement. Corps are locally-based organizations that engage young adults and veterans in service projects addressing recreation, conservation, disaster response, and community needs. Through a term of service that could last from a few months to a year, Corps participants – or “Corpsmembers” – gain work experience and develop in-demand skills.

The Corps Network provides resources for young adults in the OFS Legacy program to engage in conservation projects across Dane County.

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Dane County & Dane County Parks

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi has been a longtime supporter of Operation Fresh Start. He has been a board member, tutor and has designated county funds to support OFS programming. Dane County has provided funding for the OFS Drive program, assisting young adults ages 18–24 with free driver’s education, behind-the-wheel lessons and all DMV permit and license fees paid. The 2022 Dane County budget also designated funding to develop a Civilian Climate Corps (CCC). Operation Fresh Start and community partners are working to increase access to hands-on training and green industry career pathways for emerging adults.

OFS Legacy and Conservation Academy participants work in Dane County parks year-round. Projects include harvesting and replanting native seeds, clearing trails, removing invasive species, mitigating flooding and more.



Operation Fresh Start’s partnership with Findorff is mutually beneficial: OFS prepares young people for careers in the trades, while Findorff provides job opportunities.

Findorff primarily works with the OFS Build Academy, an advanced-level program that provides paid, hands-on training in both residential and commercial construction. Build Academy members have job shadowing opportunities with Findorff employees.

In 2022, OFS Build Academy members worked with Findorff on the One City Schools expansion to a K-12 charter school. 

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Groundswell Conservancy

Groundswell has partnered with Operation Fresh Start for the last decade to provide unique educational projects in both the conservation and construction field, working with Conservation Academy and Legacy construction and conservation crews. Operation Fresh Start crews have worked on Groundswell properties to clear fire breaks, remove invasive trees and brush, and improve accessibility. In 2022, Groundswell partnered with Legacy construction crews to renovate a historic tobacco barn at Westport Prairie. Groundswell was a founding partner of the Conservation Academy in 2021 and has been instrumental in developing strategies to provide paid in class training time for crew members.

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Habitat for Humanity of Dane County

Through its volunteer network, donors, and sales from ReStores, Habitat for Humanity is helping families achieve strength, stability, and self-reliance to build a better life through shelter. Operation Fresh Start crews work in partnership with Habitat for Humanity on some affordable housing projects. (OFS also builds or renovates homes that are not affiliated with Habitat.)


In 2022, OFS Legacy crews worked on two multi-family Habitat homes. Their next project is helping to build two homes in Habitat’s new 62-acre development in Sun Prairie.


JP Cullen

JP Cullen provided a letter of support for Operation Fresh Start to receive the Workforce Innovation Grant from the State of Wisconsin in 2022. This funding allowed OFS to launch our advanced-level employment training program called Build Academy. From there, the partnership has continued with JP Cullen providing financial support and hands-on training opportunities for young adults in Build Academy. Participants have worked side-by-side JP Cullen employees on commercial worksites such as Epic Systems in Verona.



JustDane is a nonprofit organization focused on social justice initiatives, including helping people put the pieces of their lives back together after incarceration. JustDane and Operation Fresh Start collaborated on the construction of Healing House, a shelter where families struggling with homelessness can recuperate after a medical procedure or hospital stay.


Following this project, JustDane and OFS took on another initiative together: a mentoring, educational support, and driver’s license attainment program called Drive to Succeed. The program connects young adults with programs to earn their high school diploma and provides resources to attain their driver’s license with all DMV permit and license fees paid.

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Madison Audubon

Madison Audubon partners with Operation Fresh Start to teach emerging adults about career paths in conservation. OFS participants attend five career-oriented summer workshops, where they connect with conservation experts. Topics range from urban forestry and wildlife to invasive plants and biodiversity.


Madison College

Operation Fresh Start partners with Madison Area Technical College to create opportunities for participants to earn certifications that will open career doors. OFS and Madison College have collaborated on conservation and urban forestry programming, as well as healthcare career training.

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Madison Metropolitan School District

A partnership with MMSD allows Operation Fresh Start to connect with young adults who have decided they want an alternative to the traditional high school pathway. MMSD guidance counselors may refer students to the OFS Legacy program. In addition to recruitment support, this MMSD partnership allows OFS participants to earn their diploma from their previous high school and walk with their peers across the graduation stage.

The OFS Options program also works with MMSD and other community partners for references. The Options Program Manager reaches out to young adults on the MMSD 5th year senior list to offer the Options program as an alternative way to earn their high school diploma.


The Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy is a long-term partner with Operation Fresh Start and has provided projects for Legacy, Build Academy and Conservation Academy. The Nature Conservancy has partnered with Legacy Conservation for over a decade, providing projects for Legacy crews that include invasive tree and brush clearing, fire break mowing, brush pile burning, and more. In 2021, The Nature Conservancy signed on as an inaugural partner of the Conservation Academy, providing a work platform for young adults hoping to enter the conservation trades. The Nature Conservancy also hired the Build Academy to repaint a historic Girl Scouts lodge.

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Urban League of Greater Madison

The Urban League supports the advanced-level OFS Build Academy by providing co-enrollment and recruitment opportunities. The organization also collaborates with OFS on the Foundations for the Trades program. OFS provides the hands-on construction training and certifications, while the Urban League supports personal/professional development and connects participants with resources.

In 2021, OFS participants remodeled two affordable homes in South Madison, as part of the Urban League’s $5 million initiative to increase Black homeownership rates. Almost 60 young adults and un/under-employed adults from Urban League and OFS programs worked on a home on Center Street, gaining construction, work readiness and life skills. Another remodeled home on Ridgewood Way was sold to youth advocate Will Glenn Sr. — Madison's first and only African-American Teen Librarian. 

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United Way of Dane County

The United Way of Dane County was a founding supporter of Operation Fresh Start when Jack Osteraas started the program over 50 years ago. Funds from local community members and organizations like the United Way, CUNA Mutual Group and American Family Insurance helped to get “Project Fresh Start,” as it was called in 1970, off the ground. 


Today, OFS is a proud partner with the United Way of Dane County on the Legacy and Drive to Succeed programs. 

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UW Arboretum

The UW Arboretum is a founding partner of the Operation Fresh Start Conservation Academy. Through the partnership with the UW Arboretum, crew members have been able to gain experience with invasive tree and brush removal, pesticide application, building firebreaks, and constructing boardwalks.

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Wisconsin DNR

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is a founding partner of the Operation Fresh Start Conservation Academy. The Wisconsin DNR has shown an exceptional commitment to providing exciting and unique conservation experiences to crew members including tagging monarch butterflies, feeding fish at a fish hatchery, participating in a prescribed prairie burn, constructing picnic tables, felling trees, using a chipper, and planting native trees.

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Workforce Development Board of South Central Wisconsin

The Workforce Development Board of South Central Wisconsin supports Operation Fresh Start’s carpentry and conservation / urban forestry pre-apprenticeship programs. The WDBSCW provides financial support for the Legacy program, as well as our advanced-level training programs: Build Academy and Conservation Academy.


The WDBSCW’s WorkSmart Network supports Operation Fresh Start’s Healthcare Academy program. This partnership provides support and resources for young adults to pursue their career goals and connect with local employers. 


OFS also receives funding to support our in-house Resource Specialist. This position helps connect OFS participants, as well as other young people in Dane County, with resources including: housing, child care, mental health services, food and more. 


YouthBuild USA

YouthBuild partners with opportunity youth to build the skillsets and mindsets that lead to lifelong learning, livelihood, and leadership. At more than 275 YouthBuild programs across the United States and around the world, students reclaim their education, gain job skills, and become leaders in their communities.

Operation Fresh Start receives a YouthBuild AmeriCorps grant for the Legacy program, providing resources that allow young adults to gain skills while giving back to their community through affordable housing construction. Grant funding supports operational costs such as staff salaries, equipment, CPR/first aid training and other member expenses.

75% of the total costs of Operation Fresh Start’s YouthBuild Department of Labor current project is funded with Federal money.

  • For 2022-2025 The Department of Labor granted Operation Fresh Start $891,029 for its YouthBuild DOL project. The remaining $223,018 not covered by Federal funds is funded through non-governmental sources.

  • For 2024-2027 The Department of Labor granted Operation Fresh Start $982,060 for its YouthBuild DOL project. The remaining $247,000 not covered by Federal funds is funded through non-governmental sources.

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