United Way moving forward with new Volunteer Engagement Center

Remodeling of space in Schlitz Park will begin this fall

Schlitz Park

Work is slated to begin later this year on a new volunteer engagement center at the United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County, backed by funding from Johnson Controls.

In late 2015, the newly merged United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County celebrated a successful first community campaign under its new structure, with the organization raising a record total of more than $60 million. At that time, the organization announced plans to build a volunteer engagement center made possible by a $1 million, three-year contribution from Johnson Controls, the campaign’s most significant corporate supporter.

This fall, the first-floor space of the United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County’s building in Schlitz Park will begin its transformation into the new Johnson Controls Volunteer Engagement Center.

Jayne Thoma, vice president of volunteer engagement for United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County, said the center’s grand opening is expected in 2018. The facility is currently being leased to Fresenius Kidney Care.

Leaders with United Way and Johnson Controls are enthusiastic about the possible uses for the center, which includes about 9,000 square feet of space.

“It will increase our capacity to address the community’s most pressing challenges through the gift of time and talent,” Thoma said. “The center will also allow us to deepen relationships with community partners. And it will help us tell the story of (United Way’s) impact and engage more individuals in our mission.”

Thoma said it will facilitate a variety of events, including hosting group volunteer projects, training and workshops, budget and job coaching, programs to improve academic achievement, community conversations, supply drives and donor events. The center, Thoma said, will include “bright and vibrant” spaces that will convert it into an “active community hub.”

“When we talk about impact, with that type of physical footprint, the possibilities are endless in terms of how we can come together and what can be borne out of that volunteer engagement center,” said Grady Crosby, vice president of public affairs and chief diversity officer of Johnson Controls.

For example, Crosby said, hundreds of Johnson Controls employees volunteer each year during United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County’s Season of Caring campaign, which runs from August to the end of the year. The center could become a gathering spot before and after such volunteer opportunities or for volunteers to discuss the “next greatest idea” for the community, Crosby said.

“We’re only limited by our minds with what we can do with this,” he said.

Crosby added that he hopes the center encourages more volunteer engagement from corporations.

“The needs continue to grow and the resources continue to sometimes dwindle and get smaller,” he said. “So the more hands that Johnson Controls can have and help encourage from corporate citizens, the more we think the project is going to help the community.”

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