Running Rebels, We Got This to merge

Victor Barnett, founder and executive director of Running Rebels, and Andre Lee-Ellis, executive director and founder of We Got This, at a Light The Hoan event celebrating their organizations' planned merger.

Two nonprofit organizations serving youth in Milwaukee announced their plans to merge.

Running Rebels Community Organization, which provides after-school and summer educational programming for Milwaukee youth, and We Got This, an urban gardening program, said they will be able to grow their programs’ capacity by joining together.

“This is a historic moment for Milwaukee,” said Victor Barnett, founder and executive director of Running Rebels. “We are honored and blessed to have the capacity to assist a ‘brother’ organization of ours with preserving its legacy.”

We Got This founder Andre Lee Ellis started the organization as a program for youth living in his community on Ninth and Ring streets in Milwaukee. It began with a group of young boys cleaning up their neighborhood and learning about gardening, and it continued to grow each Saturday as more boys joined in. Over the years, hundreds of young men have participated in the program, receiving compensation for assisting with their duties and mentorship from positive role models.

WGT’s growth over the years has increased the need for support with maintaining the structural, administrative and financial needs of the program.

“Together, we can make a greater impact,” Ellis said. “This merger represents unity in action, Black men working together to change negatives into positives, breaking generational curses and promoting healing across the entire community.”

Running Rebels was founded in 1980 by Victor Barnett at age 19 to provide youth with positive alternatives to gangs, violence and substance abuse, using basketball as a tool to connect.

Over the years, the organization has grown to be able to employ members of the community to provide a variety of programs.

It moved into its first permanent home at 1300A W. Fond Du Lac Ave. in 1999, and in 2016 opened a second location at 225 W. Capitol Dr.

“It appears this was meant to be,” said Dawn Barnett, wife of Victor Barnett and co-executive director of Running Rebels. “Most people have no idea how similar these two men and the two organizations really are. Victor and Andre are born on the same day of the same year. They also have a shared passion of creating positive change in their community, with both organizations being rooted in mentoring and transformative relationships. This is a win-win for the organizations and the youth and families we both serve.”

Read the March 8 issue of BizTimes Milwaukee here:

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