CFI 85th anniversary photo collage

Thank you to the supporters of MCFI

We’d like to thank the following organizations who provided an auction item in support of MCFI at the ADAMM Auto Show Gala! Be sure to check back later for photos from the event.

  • Abbey Resort
  • Ambassador Hotel
  • Black Shoe Hospitality
  • Cave of the Mounds
  • Fein Brothers
  • Five O’Clock Steakhouse
  • Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin
  • Great Lakes Distillery
  • Grebe’s Bakery
  • Lakefront Brewery
  • Milwaukee Ballet
  • Milwaukee Food and City Tours
  • Milwaukee Irish Fest
  • Milwaukee Radio Group
  • Odd Duck Restaurant
  • Regal Ware
  • Summerfest
  • And also art from 3 of MCFI Behavioral Health Clients!

Share your memory of CFI

Centers for Independence was founded in 1938 as Jewish Vocational Service (JVS) to help people start a new life in Milwaukee. Since then, CFI has grown to serve thousands of people each year, empowering them to life their fullest lives as independently as possible. If CFI is a part of your life now or was in the past, what words come to mind to describe us? Watch for results this spring.

Share your memory here


CFI Through the Years

This year, 2023, is a special year for Centers for Independence. It marks 85 years since our founding as Jewish Vocational Service. JVS opened in 1938 with the mission to help new immigrant families fleeing oppression in Europe settle in our community.

Since then, the agency has grown to 30-plus life-changing programs and help more than 20,000 individuals annually from throughout Wisconsin on their path to independence.

Our theme to commemorate the milestone is "85 years of inspiring generations of hope."

Learn more about our history.

Jewish immigrants arrive in the U.S.


In the 1930s, Jews were victims of oppression throughout Europe. They headed for America, hoping for a new life.


Jewish Vocational Service opens in Milwaukee as a place for Jewish refugees to settle and begin a new life in America.

Among the services offered were assistance with housing, education, and job training and placement.

Original Jewish Vocational Service logo
Children outside a school circa 1940


JVS proves children with special needs or disabilities can learn in school settings, prompting a change in state law.


JVS starts providing services to preschool children with developmental disabilities.

Children reading books
Women washing dishes


JVS designs a program to teach clients daily living skills.


JVS proves adults with disabilities can thrive in job placement.

Men working at a bakery
original mcfi logo


JVS changes its name to Milwaukee Center for Independence.


MCFI moves into its present-day facility at 2020 W. Wells St. It was formerly at 1339 N. Milwaukee St., near Milwaukee School of Engineering campus.

outside of mcfi campus
Two women talk at a table


MCFI affiliates with TLS to provide comprehensive behavioral health services. It includes the adoption of the Crisis Resource Centers, which becomes a model for mental health trauma care.


MCFI changes its name to Centers for Independence, CFI.

new centers for independence logo