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$407,000 to Keep Milwaukee Youth Inspired, Engaged this Summer

The Helen Bader Foundation has awarded $407,000 in funding in support of 18 community organizations serving low-income youth in Milwaukee. The new youth grants are part of more than $2.5 million allocated by the HBF board in support of various projects in Wisconsin, the U.S., and internationally. Since 1999, HBF has committed more than $14 million in grants to programs that serve youth in the city.

According to the United States Census Bureau, 27 percent of Milwaukee’s population is under the age of 18. In addition, 20 percent of families in the city are living under the poverty line, limiting the access that young people in the community have to positive influences outside of school times, including access to nature, as well as employment opportunities.

“With the end of the school year quickly approaching, we know that young people in our community are most susceptible to negative influences during times when they are not in school or working, said Mary Osmundsen, Community Partnerships for Youth program officer for HBF. “We are encouraged by the commitment of our partners in the community to work with and encourage young people to reach their highest potential, and we are proud to support their vital work.”

Many of the recently approved grants focus on the need to create and provide accessible summer programming for children and their families. Beyond just traditional programming like summer camps and reading programs, HBF and its partners are working together to engage and empower young people as ambassadors for their communities. The following grants are examples of that work.

Neighborhood House of Milwaukee, Inc. (NHM), an organization that is committed to building a strong community by strengthening individuals, families, and the neighborhood, is receiving a $20,000 grant from HBF. The grant will be used to support NHM’s ten-week Lead & Learn Nature Camp for City Kids.

Many of the program participants primarily live in rental housing located in areas with limited access to green space, as well as significant safety issues such as violent crime. HBF’s grant will provide opportunities for 304 low-income youth to learn and model responsible behavior outdoors by providing a safe framework for participants to learn about and explore nature.

In addition to the Nature Camp, four students will be selected to participate as Lead & Learn paid interns. The selected students will participate in an intensive two-week environmental stewardship training program. Once completed, this group will serve as mentors and leaders and will help to implement the remaining eight-weeks of nature camp programming for the additional 300 participants, ages 3 – 13.

“For more than 65 years, Neighborhood House has been working to build stronger communities and engaging our youth continues to be one of our top priorities,” said Niki Espy, lead environmental educator for NHM. “Funding from the Helen Bader Foundation gives us the ability expose young people to opportunities and experiences that they may normally not have easy access to.”

River Revitalization Foundation, Inc. (RRF), which advocates for environmental conservation, public access and sensitive recreation in metro-Milwaukee’s river watersheds, is receiving $25,000 to support its summer ecological crew. Through this program, RRF seeks to address the disconnect between urban youth and nature, while also providing opportunities for young people to develop job skills.

In partnership with HBF and the City of Milwaukee’s Earn & Learn program, the funding will be used to employ and engage 10 – 12 urban youth, ages 14 – 18. Over the course of the 8-week program, the youth crew will be trained on plant identification, tree planting, stewardship of natural resources and behavioral impacts on the watershed. The teens will also conduct ecological restoration projects along the Milwaukee River, including removal of invasive species, native vegetation planting and trail maintenance.

Learning is incorporated through the use of RiverQuest, a student-developed publication that provides trail guides, stories and hand-drawn plant species diagrams. Earn & Learn participants use RiverQuest to lead hikes for younger youth along the riverfront trails.

“Nature and our riverways are for everyone, regardless of age, race or economic status,” said Kimberly Gleffe, executive director of RRF. “Our youth are the future leaders of our community, so it’s important that we engage them and empower them to revitalize the communities in which we live.”

About Bader Philanthropies, Inc.
Milwaukee-based Helen Bader Philanthropies, Inc. Inc. is a philanthropic leader in improving the quality of life of the diverse communities in which it works. The Foundation supports innovative projects and programs through grants, convening partners, and sharing knowledge to affect emerging issues in key areas. Awarding an average of $10 million annually, the Foundation has an emphasis on youth, aging and workforce development for at risk populations. The Foundation has awarded more than $225 million in grants and $15 million in Program Related Investments such as loans and equity investments since 1992. For more information on the Foundation, visit

Community Partnerships for Youth: 18 Grants Totaling $407,000

  • Unity in Motion, Inc. received $40,000 to add a coordinator position to expand its after-school youth development programming.
    Hope House of Milwaukee, Incorporated received $40,000 for its Shining Stars after-school programming, Teen Session, and Summer Session youth education programs.
  • Penfield Children’s Center, Inc. received $37,500 for its Behavior Clinic, which serves low-income children facing behavioral and social-emotional challenges.
  • Global Youth Leadership Institute, Inc. received a two-year, $35,000 grant for its programming that engages adults and students as co-learners as they foster collaborative leadership skills and environmental care practices.
    New Beginnings Are Possible, Inc. received $25,000 for its After School Program and Summer Camp serving youth, ages 6-18, from its northwest side neighborhood.
  • Milwaukee Tennis & Education Foundation, Inc. received $25,000 for its neighborhood-based year-round youth outreach tennis and education program that includes after school and summer programming.
  • River Revitalization Foundation, Inc. received $25,000 for its summer ecological restoration crew to address the disconnect between urban youth and nature, and to provide an opportunity for these youth to build job skills.
  • Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin, Inc. received $25,000 for its pantry program at two Milwaukee Public Schools serving low-income communities on the city’s north and south sides.
  • Usher’s New Look, Inc. (Atlanta, GA) received $25,000 for its leadership certification program for middle school and high school age youth in Milwaukee.
  • United Community Center, Inc. received $20,000 for its Achiever’s Academy program, which aims to boost academic outcomes for low-income middle and high school aged Latino youth.
  • True Skool, Inc. received $20,000 for its Urban Arts Program, which offers three project-based sessions throughout the year, both after-school and in the summer.
  • Neighborhood House of Milwaukee, Inc. received $20,000 for its 10-week Lead & Learn Nature Camp for City Kids, an environmental education and leadership initiative.
  • Summit Educational Association, Inc. received $20,000 for its Summit Summer Program, an eight-week summer academic and character enrichment program for youth from low-income families on Milwaukee’s near south side.
  • Pan-African Community Association, Inc. received $12,500 for its summer day camp for African refugee children and teens in the Milwaukee area.
  • Milwaukee Public Schools received $10,000 for its Traveling Adventures program, which provides low-income youth, ages 5-12, an opportunity to make connections with people and places during the summer months.
  • Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Foundation, Inc. received $20,000 for its six-week summer day camp for youth, ages 8-18, who are victims of violence.
  • Milwaukee Public Theatre, Ltd. received $10,000 for its year-round collaboration with schools and community learning centers to engage under-served youth and children in arts activities, helping them develop the creativity, resilience, and communication skills to deal with life issues.
  • COA Youth and Family Centers, Inc. received $7,000 for its camping program for low-income Milwaukee youth, operated at Camp Helen Brachman in central Wisconsin.

(Image: Student Stewards tackle invasive species in Milwaukee’s Gordon Park through the River Revitalization Foundation.)


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