History of the STRONG MILWAUKEE Center
The STRONG MILWAUKEE center began in December 2020 when the Holton Youth and Family Center (HYFC) board of directors signed a five-year lease with Christian Family Solutions (CFS). With this agreement, CFS would move its STRONG Day Treatment program into the building, along with other programs for families and youth in the community. CFS was grateful for the opportunity to expand into the space, which will allow the STRONG program room to serve more children and families.
The HYFC has a long history of serving the Harambee and Riverwest neighborhoods. It was created in 1989 as the “Holton Youth Center” by a small group of neighborhood residents, business owners, police officers, and youth concerned about gang violence and youth crime. The Center was operated in partnership with the YMCA from 1994 until 2008, when the YMCA left the facility.
The Center continued to operate without the YMCA programming between 2008 and 2011. The HYFC Board remained committed to providing services to the children and families of the community and set out to reestablish the center under a new, collaborative model. A search for high-quality, synergistic partners followed.
During the last 30 years, services at HYFC have been provided through partnerships with many organizations, including the YMCA, Above the Clouds, JK Lee Martial Arts, Running Rebels, Girl Scouts, HOPE schools, First Stage, Pearls for Teen Girls, Wisconsin Community Services, Operation Dream, Calvary Academy, COA, and others. Above the Clouds and JK Lee Martial Arts remain active tenants of the building today.
The Center has engaged thousands of Milwaukee youth in positive programming through the years, positively impacting the Harambee and Riverwest neighborhoods. According to Mario Costantini, chair of the HYFC board of directors, the Holton Youth and Family Center, crime has decreased and businesses have begun investing in the area once again.
“We accomplished this as a community, by building relationships and providing a safe environment for youth to grow right here in their own neighborhood,” says Costantini.
“Now, as the needs of the community evolve, we have been looking for partners who could meet those needs with impact for decades to come. STRONG came highly recommended to us. We are so pleased that the Center will continue to be a safe place to strengthen our youth and families for years to come.”
With the help of generous donors, CFS is renovating the Holton facility to meet the needs of the STRONG program and other tenants who use the space for programming that benefits Milwaukee youth and families.