As of today’s date Merrill Park and Concordia neighborhoods have some of the the lowest rates of vaccination in the Near West Side and the City of Milwaukee with first doses administered per 100k at a range of 20% – 31%. While Miller Valley, Martin Drive, Avenues West and Cold Spring Park has a range of 31% – 41%. See graphic below.

Over the past few months Near West Side Partners have worked diligently to make COVID-19 vaccinations a priority in the community. Starting with the messaging and continuing with partnerships with vaccine clinics we are working to overcome fears, drive home the messaging of the vaccination’s effectiveness and educate our community members.

Over the past few months Near West Side Partners have worked diligently to make COVID-19 vaccinations a priority in the community. Starting with the messaging and continuing with partnerships with vaccine clinics we are working to overcome fears, drive home the messaging of the vaccination’s effectiveness and educate our community members.

Here are is what Near West Side Partners is doing to increase the vaccination rate in the Near West Side.


As we all know messaging is so important for the Near West Side with a much younger population (average age 24) and more diversity, a “majority minority” community. Several key considerations came up while discussing the message with our NWSP team members.

  •  Many Near West Side residents live in multi-generational homes which influences how they value vaccination
  • In some cases Near West Side residents are more concerned about members of their family then they care about the health and well-being of themselves
  • Literature for any print and social media materials should be concise in instruction, clear in language and simple to understand as many residents do not have the time to focus on volumes of text
    Taking these considerations into our plan NWSP developed several messages that would be infused into all of our outreach efforts. We wanted to make sure the message was that the vaccine was (1) safe, (2) effective and (3) free. We also wanted the messaging to highlight the value that many resident place on their family and social relationships.

NWSP using the Fiverr platform commissioned a song that highlighted the above themes with an urban twist using an African American artist. The song can be heard here.

Also using these considerations regarding the messaging, NWSP with the support of Marquayla Ellison of Ellastic Designs, an African American graphic designer, developed several marketing pieces that highlighted both the importance of social distancing and encouraging residents to get vaccinated. Working with Marquayla NWSP kept the messaging clear and the graphics clean. See the example below.


Knowing that NWSP was focused on the “ground game” covering the community engagement side of this effort we relied on partners in the Near West Side for the actual vaccination efforts. Several organizations provided the system and vaccination needed for this effort. City On A Hill and Neighborhood House are coordinating both walk-in and scheduled vaccination appointments. NWSP developed a flyer to highlight dates, times and contact information for these vaccinations. In support of these efforts UNCOM provided support in organizing the information listed on the flyers.

In addition to these nonprofits, NWSP worked with several Near West Side businesses Catholic Financial Life and Daddy’s Soul Food. Catholic Financial Life in partnership with Walmart hosted two vaccination clinics, one in July and another in August. Vicki Vlach, Manager of Corporate Communications and Events at Catholic Financial Life understood the importance of the partnership. Here is what she had to say about this collaboration.

Another partner Renee Logee, executive director of UNCOM supported the work of outreach and collaboration amount the other nonprofits in the Near West Side and the City of Milwaukee. Here is what she had to say.

NWSP worked with 101.7 The Truth in crafting several advertising radio spots and live reads in order to spread the message. Here are a few of these live reads.

Mueller Communications supported the online campaign on behalf of the Near West Side developing videos, posts and an overall campaign to educate and engage residents.

Over the spring the NWSP team capture videos of people from the community encouraging those to get vaccinated using a professional camera. These raw videos were uploaded and then edited by the Mueller team and were used as a basis of a long term, online campaign. This campaign will start early August 2021. You can see these videos here.

Other key partners include Our Safe Place, a transitional living facility, that has supported distribution of flyers with needed man power coming from their residents. Additional support for flyer distribution comes from the District Attorney’s office with assistant district attorney, Kelly O’Neil, volunteers from Wisconsin Community Services, Near West Side Ambassadors and Center For Peacemaking volunteers. See team picture below.

Outreach for NWSP means more than just a flyer or a social media post. NWSP has used every available plaform to engage the residents of the Near West Side. NWSP Ambassadors Duane and Savanah are also residents of the Near West Side are embedded into the community and are providing not only the support needed to distributed close to 10,000 flyers the are using their network and knowledge to engage and speak to residents about the importance the vaccine.

The Near West Side Landlord Compact, a monthly meeting of landlords has been a platform for engaging landlords. NWSP has worked with individual landlords in passing out door hangers. Other platforms include NWSP Facebook, blog post, resident meetings, business meetings and numerous events in the Near West Side.

In partnership with Daddy’s Soul Food NWSP is offering free diners to those who are being vaccinated. Other opportunities we are leveraging include posting flyers in the neighborhood and connecting with schools and churches.

Near West Side anchor and supporter of NWSP, Marquette University has required that students coming back to campus be vaccinated. This is the step in the right directions we hope that more businesses work towards a policy that benefits our community at-large. This is the type of proactive thinking and policies we need to get vaccination rights up in the Near West Side.

NWSP would encourage our houses of worship, employment centers and even large venue businesses to follow Marquette University to require vaccinations. The Delta variant is seriously impacting the United States and many European nations are now requiring vaccination proof with the vaccination scan codes.

The key to all of this work in the Near West Side has been the grant given to NWSP by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (WDHS) earlier this year. And although we have so much more to do WDHS has been supportive of our work in allowing us to work within our community doing the work we know how to do, which is connecting with our community using the language and cultural relevant materials that speak to the people that live, work, play and stay in the Near West Side of Milwaukee.



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