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Saving a National Treasure for Future Generations of Heroes

Project Overview

The Milwaukee Preservation Alliance (MPA), a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting stewardship and awareness of the historic, cultural, and economic value of Milwaukee’s built heritage, engaged Mueller Communications to develop and execute a long-term strategic communications plan to increase awareness of and engagement with the Soldiers Home and influence the VA, who owns the site, to return the District’s vacant historic buildings to the service of veterans.

The Challenge

The Milwaukee Soldiers Home was established just after the Civil War and sits on the grounds of the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center. It is one of only 43 National Historic Landmarks in Wisconsin, and contains some of the oldest and most historic buildings in the VA system. Though many of its historic buildings remain in use, some of the District’s largest and most notable buildings were unoccupied and deteriorating.

The Solution

OVER THE PAST DECADE, MUELLER HAS HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO BE CREATIVE IN OUR APPROACH AND WE’VE SEEN REMARKABLE RESULTS.

Community Engagement:
We have facilitated significant grassroots support through the creation of a Community Advisory Council made up of preservationists, historians, veterans and elected and business leaders. This group has been a springboard for community engagement in identifying a vision for the future use of the District’s vacant buildings. Every member of the council has a different reason they are interested in and concerned about the Soldiers Home. We have been successful in bringing this group together by identifying each point of view and finding the common denominator. Every member of the group has united around the need to return the District’s vacant buildings to their original purpose – the service of veterans. They have truly become ambassadors of the Soldiers Home.

Social Media:
Mueller has launched and manages numerous online networks of supports including a highly engaged Facebook network of more than 9,800 followers.

Earned Media:
Over the course of the past decade, the Soldiers Home has been featured in hundreds of media placements – including in the New York Times – helping to raise awareness of the District, promote major milestones in our effort and encourage action.

Fundraising Support:
Mueller Communications provided communications support and counsel to MPA’s Every Hero Deserves a Home capital campaign, supporting MPA in its successful fundraising of $4.25M.

App Development:
Perhaps one of the more interesting ways that we have increased awareness of and engagement with the Soldiers Home was by creating a free, downloadable walking tour app for smartphones. It has been a great tool for getting local residents out to the grounds to experience them firsthand. To-date, the walking tour has been downloaded and streamed thousands of times.
Visual Branding:

Mueller created a unique and visually dynamic brand for the Soldiers Home.

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Website:

Mueller launched and maintains a website designed to tell the Soldiers Home story, encourage knowledge and action.

Video:

Mueller has directed and helped to produce multiple videos for the Save the Soldiers Home effort, garnering more than 125K views to-date.

The Results

As a result of our outreach and advocacy, in August 2016 work began to rehabilitate six historic Soldiers Home buildings as supportive housing for veterans. Today, the rehabilitation project is complete and hundreds of homelessness and at-risk veterans now call the Soldiers Home their home. Work continues as Mueller Communications works with MPA to determine a path forward for additional vacant and threatened buildings on the Soldiers Home Campus.