In 1977 a small group of Sauk County citizens formed and incorporated Renewal Unlimited, Inc. with a desire to put the unemployed to work on much needed housing rehabilitation in the county. Houses in need of substantial renovation were purchased by the newly formed agency, and income eligible people with barriers to finding and keeping employment were employed and trained by Renewal to remodel their homes. The trainees received tutoring to complete their education, if needed, and all received assistance with finding jobs in the community when they left the program. Upon completion the houses were sold to low or moderate income families thereby benefiting the buyers, people in need of job training and employment, and the community in general.
The original concept of this program, referred to as the Base Program, continued for several years. Sources of funding have varied and generally brought new challenges to the implementation of the program.
By the early 1980’s Renewal Unlimited had begun to expand the agency Job Training services beyond the original housing focus, and the area of service included Columbia, Dodge, Jefferson, and Sauk Counties. A group home for juvenile male offenders was started in Sauk County and continued until 1988.
In 1981 Renewal Unlimited won a competitive award to operate the local Head Start Program in Adams,Columbia, Juneau and Sauk counties.
In 1984 Renewal Unlimited won a statewide competition to initiate a demonstration program aimed at increasing the self-sufficiency of teenaged parents. In 1986 Renewal Unlimited initiated the Parenting Enrichment Program to teach parenting skills to young parents at risk of child abuse and neglect.
As the decade drew to a close, Renewal Unlimited won competitive federal and state funds for Rural Housing, the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority, and the Housing Cost Reduction Initiative. Head Start expanded to Dodge County and Renewal won a competitive federal demonstration grant to provide family literacy training to illiterate Head Start Parents. Since then the Parents Reading Project has gained national recognition as a model program.
The 1990’s continued with expansion of the agency housing and Head Start Programs. Of particular note was the award to Renewal in 1991 of a highly competitive federal research and demonstration grant, the Head Start/Public School Transition Demonstration Project, designed to continue the development gains children make in Head Start through the third grade. The results of the project study were expected to influence the direction of national educational policy and school reform. In 1993, Renewal Unlimited secured funding from a variety of sources to open the Family Resource Center in Columbia County to provide education and resources to build and strengthen healthy families. In the fall of 1995 Renewal Unlimited was selected to develop an Early Head Start Program, one of only 68 agencies in the nation to be funded.
The 21st century had shown continued growth in Renewal’s housing grants. In 2005 Renewal implemented the new housing program known as HODAP-the Housing Organization and Direct Assistant Program formerly known as Housing Cost Reduction Initiative (HCRI) and Local Housing Organization Grant (LHOG). The funds were used to assist with rent and security deposits, foreclosure prevention, and for down payment and closing costs for homebuyers as well as housing counseling.
Renewal continued to grow in 2006 and 2007 adding new programs as well as constructing new sites. The Housing Services focused on Homeless Prevention while maintaining its previous focus on helping low-income individuals and families. The Alternative Response Grant was added helping at-risk families in Columbia County with prevention of child abuse and neglect. The Wisconsin Fresh Program in Columbia County expanded to include the YouthBuild Program adding a new Teacher and Technical Supervisor as well as adding an additional ten at-risk youth. By the end of 2007 there were approximately 180 employees in the five county area.
Renewal Unlimited, Inc. continued to expand its services in 2008 through 2010 as well. Housing services were especially in demand with the strained national, state and local economy. Many individuals and families struggled with possible foreclosure of their homes in addition to homelessness. The newly added YouthBuild Program enrolled at-risk youth and they began working and bonding as a team and as a family. The Wisconsin Fresh Start and YouthBuild Program completed their 15th home in 2012 and have started construction on an additional 2 homes.
Our future vision of expanding another Fresh Start Crew in Sauk County came true with the expansion of the AmeriCorps Program in Baraboo through an AmeriCorps Program funded through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. Ten youth were added in addition to a Teacher and Tech Supervisor housed at our Baraboo Facility. This program also models after the Fresh Start Program with 20% of the youth’s time in the classroom and the other 80% out at a work site refurbishing a home or building a new home from the ground up. They successfully completed the rehabilitation of a house in May, 2010 and have since completed 2 new construction projects.
Renewal’s housing grants continued to expand. In 2009 Renewal implemented the new housing program known as HPRP which stands for Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing. The funds are used to assist with rent and security deposits, utilities, and moving costs for families at imminent risk of becoming homeless for a period of one month up to eighteen months of assistance to prevent homelessness and support families in sustaining their current housing. Also implemented in 2009 through an ARRA funded program for housing was the NSP Program which stands for Neighborhood Stabilization Program providing funding to buy up foreclosed homes within Columbia County (Portage and Pardeeville). Once purchased directly from the lender, the homes are in the process of rehabilitation. After the rehabilitation is completed, the homes will be sold to a homebuyer who is low to moderate income 0-120% CMI using down payment assistance through the HOME Homebuyer Program.
Renewal was awarded an Early Head Start Expansion Grant in December, 2008 through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act . This grant allowed us to serve an additional 70 pregnant women, infants and toddlers in the five county service area. Seven new Family Advocates were hired in February 2009. There was one Family Advocate at each of the Family Resource Centers of Adams County, Columbia County and Dodge County. Two Advocates were placed in Juneau County and an additional two Advocates were placed in Sauk County. The Early Head Start Expansion Grant was funded for a period of two years.
In the fall of 2011, Renewal was notified that the Early Head Start Expansion Grant would become part of the on-going Early Head Start grant allowing the continuation of services to the 70 pregnant women, infants and toddlers in the five-county service area for a total of 145.