10:15 AM

Operation Fresh Start announces $500,000 gift from American Family Insurance Dreams Foundation, Inc.


Grant will support expansion project for organization and increased support for more youth in Dane County.

Officials from Operation Fresh Start (OFS) announced today a $500,000 gift from the American Family Insurance Dreams Foundation, Inc. to the organization’s Building Futures Capital Campaign.

The campaign, launched in January of this year, is the first capital campaign the organization has undertaken in its 47-year history. OFS has secured the site of their future home at 2670 Milwaukee Street in Madison and is raising funds to fulfill its vision of an Operation Fresh Start with increased partnerships and services. The American Family Insurance Dreams Foundation gift will help fund the transformation of the new home for Operation Fresh Start into an education and employment-training center where the agency will be able to serve twice as many youth.

“This incredibly generous gift will make an impact on Dane County youth for generations to come,” said Gregory Markle, Operation Fresh Start’s Executive Director.

The American Family Insurance Dreams Foundation grant will support OFS youth construction crews and community partners, who are doing the physical work on renovating the space. OFS youth also have the opportunity to job shadow the electrical, HVAC and plumbing contractors working on the space. This exposes youth, many who previously dropped out of high school, to various living-wage career paths after they obtain their diplomas with Operation Fresh Start. The project will serve as a workforce training experience for youth to “learn as they go” during the next 15 months of construction.

“We’re proud to support the efforts of Operation Fresh Start and its work that restores hope, dignity and self-confidence to young people so they can find their path to self-sufficiency,” said Judd Schemmel, director of American Family Insurance Dreams Foundation. “The results that Operation Fresh Start has achieved in Dane County speak for themselves, when more than 76 percent of the organization’s clients obtain their high school diplomas or acquire jobs that pay a living wage.”

The successful campaign will allow for the complete transformation of the former Holy Cross Lutheran Church and School into a vibrant youth empowerment center where youth can come to attain their high school diploma, find a career, or get a second chance in life. Through the efforts of many, more than $3 million of the $4.5 million capital campaign goal has been raised. The $500,000 gift from American Family Insurance Dreams Foundation announced today brings dollars raised to more than $3.5 million, which means Operation Fresh Start has under a million dollars to raise to fulfill this dream.

“It’s a wonderful feeling to help young people finish high school, learn a trade, and hold their heads high for what they have accomplished,” said Lau and Bea Christensen, Building Futures Campaign chairs. “We are so appreciative of the generous gift from American Family Insurance Dreams Foundation and others who have contributed to this campaign. Our goal is in reach and our hope is this generous community will be inspired to continue to support us during this final stretch.”


American Family Insurance Dreams Foundation, Inc.
The American Family Insurance Dream Foundation builds on American Family Insurance’s long-standing commitment and support of our communities. As our mission has evolved from corporate giving to community investing, we’ve turned our focus to creating strong partnerships with nonprofit organizations that help us strengthen both families and communities.

About Operation Fresh Start
Operation Fresh Start’s mission is to provide disconnected youth a path to self-sufficiency. It is the only organization singularly focused upon transitioning older youth in poverty into gaining self-sufficiency through education, job training and mentoring. More information can be found at