Northcott impacts surrounding community with myriad of programs
In 1962, a small community center in Northeast Milwaukee earned its status as an officially recognized non-profit. Accounting assistant George Warner doesn’t think much about Northcott Neighborhood House has changed since then.
“Fifty years ago, it started out as a small community center, head start center,” said Warner, who has worked at Northcott for five years. “It’s just grown from there. It’s always been a community center – family-oriented, same mission statement last 50 years.”
Northcott’s mission has been to support family stability by providing educational and recreational opportunities for the community. Its wide array of programs – from youth sports to jobs training – target the demographics of its location to promote relevance.
“This community is close to 80 to 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 nonprofits, Northcott’s operating budget doubled in the past five years. Warner credits the funding increase to the job training programs that the organization provides, one of which he took part in himself for four months in 2007.
“We have a jobs training program,” he 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 provides temporary work to people either who have been laid off, are out of work or have been incarcerated or are under supervision by the State Department of Corrections. The people in this programs amount to nearly three quarters of Northcott’s staff.
“There’s about 200 employees at Northcott,” Warner said. “About 140 of them are in the jobs program, 40 are teachers and the rest are administrators.”
Regardless of how important the jobs program is to Northcott financially, Warner said the primary focus of the house is its youth programs.
“Head Start and the youth programs have always been the foundation of Northcott,” he said. “Even the construction program is geared at young adults.”
The youth program offers after school and summer sessions for nearly 3,000 pre-teens and teens. Popular programs include the day camps, the STEM training programs for science, engineering and math for middle school kids and the drivers’ education programs for young adults. However, perhaps the most popular program at Northcott is youth sports.
“Their introduction to Northcott that way has led them into other programs that we offer,” Warner said.
The Northcott basketball team and fully padded football team play against other community centers in city leagues. The basketball court was apparently done to NBA standards because of Robert Johnson, the Northcott program director and former Milwaukee Bucks player.
“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.”
The activities geared toward youth keeps kids coming back day after day and makes Northcott a vital cog in the neighborhood’s operations.
“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.”