Founded in 1995, the United Neighborhood Centers of Milwaukee was formed by a number of area neighborhood centers as a means to share ideas and strategies for addressing local issues, as well as, finding ways to utilize community assets. Many of these neighborhood centers had grown out of the settlement house tradition and had individually worked in Milwaukee for many decades to create positive and healthy neighborhoods for all residents. Directors and staff of these organizations found that they were addressing similar issues in neighborhoods across the city. In order to best take advantages of the great and varied local knowledge base of the neighborhood centers across Milwaukee, the agencies came together to create UNCOM as a best practice and information sharing organization for local neighborhood centers.
In 2003, UNCOM became a formal 501(c) (3) charitable organization. Since that time UNCOM has had the opportunity to hire a number of staff members, centralize staff into a single location, and spearhead in-house programs that now operate at UNCOM member agencies and in partnership with organizations throughout Milwaukee.
In 2008, realizing the potential for increased city-wide impact, the Zilber Family Foundation named UNCOM an operating partner with the Zilber Neighborhood Initiative. This partnership has allowed an expansion of UNCOM's reach and scope as a convener of local organizations and best practice sharing model for neighborhood organizations across Milwaukee.
Today, UNCOM operates a number of in house programs in addition to the service and support offered to programs provided at UNCOM member agencies and organizations throughout the city. In the last year, UNCOM member agencies have provided services to over 63,000 local area residents; to include preschool and daycare services, after-school and teen programs, healthcare programs, meal and food pantry programs, home and neighborhood improvement projects, literacy and adult education, and sports and recreation.
Member agency staff, from many program areas, are engaged in UNCOM through affinity groups aimed at providing staff with an opportunity to meet affiliated staff doing similar work at other agencies throughout the city and share the wealth of knowledge in their program areas. Current groups focus on adult education, athletics, development, finance, jobs/youth employment, youth, and childhood obesity. UNCOM agencies collectively employ over 900 Milwaukee area residents, and thousands more volunteer their time in support of local communities.
Together UNCOM agencies have an operating budget of over $33 million; contributing significant services and resources to communities across Milwaukee. This significant local presence has allowed UNCOM agencies to create deep and lasting roots in Milwaukee communities. UNCOM is working to nurture and enhance this presence so that these agencies can continue serving Milwaukee neighborhoods and their residents for many years to come.