Northcott Neighborhood House provides wide array of valuable services to Milwaukee community
Fifty years ago, a small community center in 53212 zip code received its status as an officially recognized non-profit. If you ask accounting assistant George Warner, not much about Northcott Neighborhood House has changed since then.
“Fifty years ago, it started out as a small community center, head start center,” Warner said. “It’s just grown from there. It’s always been a community center, family-oriented, same mission statement last 50 years.”
Northcott’s wide array of programs, from the youth sports to Fresh Start jobs training, target the demographics of its surrounding community to promote relevance.
“This community is close to 80-90 percent kids under the age of 18,” Warner said. “You can imagine if there’s that many kids here, you’re limited in what you can do other than outside, playing with other kids, no telling what you’re getting into. For Northcott to be open year round until late at night, it gives them a place to go.”
Unlike most non-profits, Northcott’s operating budget doubled over the past five years. Warner, who knows all there is to know about Northcott’s finances, credits this funding increase to the job training programs that the organization provides.
“We have a jobs training program,” Warner said. “People who can’t get a job for whatever reason, we’re essentially a temp service for them. We get them employment at any business that agrees to hire them after a certain amount of months.”
The jobs program is a huge part of the work Northcott does, and the “temp service” provides makes up nearly three quarters of Northcott’s total staff.
“There’s about 200 employees at Northcott,” Warner said. “About 140 of them are in the jobs program, forty are teachers, and the rest are administrators.”
Regardless of how important the jobs program is to Northcott financially, Warner said that the heart of the house resides with its youth programs.
“Headstart and the youth programs have always been the foundation of Northcott,” Warner said. “Even the construction program is geared at young adults.”
Some popular programs include the day camps, the STEM training programs for science, engineering and math for middle school aged kids and the drivers’ education programs for young adults. However, the most popular youth program at Northcott is by far the youth sports program.
“We’ve had a lot of kids participate in the sports activities and they came here as an afterschool center,” Warner said. “Their introduction to Northcott that way has led them into other programs that we offer.”
The Northcott basketball team and fully padded football team play in City Leagues against other community centers. The basketball court was apparently done to NBA standards because of Northcott program director and former Milwaukee Bucks’ player Robert Johnson.
“He’s the point man for the youth programs,” Warner said of Johnson. “He does the football, he does the basketball, and he does the drivers’ ed. He’s also a staple in the community because kids come in here and they know him.”
Another prominent member of the staff is Adrian Griffin, who serves as the main community face for Northcott’s work.
“Adrian is one of the more visible faces of Northcott,” Warner said. “If someone’s coming here for Drivers’ Ed, even though Adrian has nothing to do with Drivers’ Ed, they’re just sent to her because she’ll know where to send someone.”
The draw for the youth in the community keeps kids coming back day after day and maintains the relevance of Northcott in Milwaukee.
“There’s kids that have come here, grown up, had kids, and have sent their kids here,” Warner said. “Anyone within a five to six block radius will say they’ve come here at some point in time for something.”