Our History
Serving Milwaukee since 1969
A gathering of Next Door children from our early days. Check out the timeline below to learn about our history and growth.

Our History

2020- Next Door embarks on an unprecedented year during the COVID-19 pandemic. After operating with virtual learning during the Safer at Home order in the spring, we reopened for the remainder of the year with a combination of limited on-site programming and a virtual learning option for families.

We continued family support services and received national attention for our safety precautions in a report by the Centers for Disease Control.

We also hosted our first-ever virtual Walk for Children, and earned a spot on the 2020 Best Places to Work program from Milwaukee Business Journal.

2019 – Next Door celebrates 50 years! The agency currently serves more than 1,400 children from birth to five years old through center- and home-based programs and 11 partnership sites. For more information about our 50th Anniversary celebration, click HERE. To read our 50th Anniversary commemorative book, click HERE.

2017 – Next Door’s 29th Street campus earns a perfect score on the state’s YoungStar child care rating program.

2016 – Next Door completes final renovations at its Capitol Drive campus, accommodating 130 more children.

2015 – Next Door launches the Early Head Start Child Care Partnership program with ten early childhood education organizations in Milwaukee and Ozaukee counties, leading instructional coaching and professional development to help the partner sites raise their quality of teaching and care.

2014 – Next Door opens its Capitol Drive campus. The expansion allows Next Door to serve an additional 440 children.

2013 – Next Door becomes the second largest Head Start program in Milwaukee County.

2010 – Next Door receives a state designation as a Head Start Center of Excellence.

2005 – Educare opens at Next Door — the third Educare school in the country — bringing its best practice early childhood education model to Milwaukee.

2003 – Next Door’s programming receives the highest rating granted by the Office of Head Start.

1997 – Next Door begins its four- and five-year-old kindergarten programs funded by Milwaukee Public Schools.

1996 – Next Door receives its Early Head Start Demonstration Grant.

1993 – Next Door’s first classroom-based Head Start program begins.

1992 – Next Door moves into its new home in the former Helwig Carbon Products factory building along North 29th Street. The company gifted the building to Next Door.

1990 – Next Door’s Books for Kids program begins thanks to founder, Mary Kellner. The program collects new and gently-used donated books from the community and distributes them for free to Next Door students to help them build their home libraries.

1987 – Next Door receives the Hope Apartments on North 27th Street, providing permanent housing for low-income residents.

1986 – The New Frontiers employment and summer youth employment programs begin.

1975 – The Early On home visitation program begins, serving families with children from birth to five years old.

1974 – The Genesis outpatient alcohol and drug treatment program opens with personal and group counseling services, along with employment and housing assistance, adult education and medical treatment.

The Milwaukee Urban Semester program expands to include St. Olaf College and Carthage College students spending a semester in an urban studies program based at Next Door.

1971 – The program incorporates as a nonprofit organization in the State of Wisconsin – Next Door Foundation.

1969 – Our Savior’s Lutheran Church opens a youth and young adult outreach center located next door to the church. Initial programming includes a drop-in center for teens providing a safe and supportive place to congregate.