Aligning for Action


A local manufacturer’s pivot to produce a protective product, a timely social awareness campaign and the engagement of a burgeoning civic infrastructure are together, contributing to a safer community amid the pandemic.

Rebel Converting, a Saukville-based manufacturer of hospital-grade disinfectant wipes, committed to donating 3.5 million non-surgical face masks developed from the raw materials used for their core business. The owners had recognized the shortage of face coverings needed by hospitals and clinics, first responders, emergency food workers, bus drivers, nonprofits, retirement homes and others.

Rebel also teamed up with the cause marketing group Ignite Change to launch the #MaskUpMKE campaign, designed to educate and encourage Milwaukeeans to stay safe by wearing face coverings if they must go out. To maximize the impact of the effort, they turned to the MKE Civic Response Team, part of a cross-sector coalition formed to strategically, equitably and rapidly respond to the COVID-19 outbreak in our region. 

The Greater Milwaukee Foundation organized and helps lead the MKE Civic Response Team, which is developing unprecedented systems to identify greatest needs, align resources and coordinate relief efforts around the critical and intersecting priorities of food, housing/shelter, physical health, mental health, early childhood education and K-12 schools to ensure our community’s economic recovery and overall well-being. Zilber Family Foundation, another leadership partner, forged many of the connections among the #MaskUpMKE collaborators.

The systems put in place by the MKE Civic Response Team are helping #MaskUpMKE achieve the initiative’s goals quickly and effectively. Because of this high level of coordination, partners have been able to leverage one another’s expertise for maximum impact:

  • The City of Milwaukee Health Department’s Office of Violence Prevention and UniteMKE worked together to provide face coverings to voters waiting in line to participate in April’s primary election. UniteMKE additionally has distributed the non-surgical face masks to community health workers and immune-compromised residents.
  • Just One More Ministry has organized volunteers to assemble hundreds of thousands of face coverings.
  • Staff and medical students at the Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Institute at the Medical College of Wisconsin have coordinated assembly of hundreds of thousands of face coverings while triaging urgent requests to issue them to front line health care, police, fire and rescue workers, as well as over 50 community-based organizations and underserved communities.
  • The Milwaukee Bucks have made Fiserv Forum available as a site where volunteers mobilized by United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County can pick up non-surgical face mask kit materials at pre-determined times and then return assembled face coverings for further deployment.
  • Habitat for Humanity is assisting in the physical distribution of face coverings to those most at risk of contracting COVID-19.

Providing access to face coverings in communities of color is especially significant. The pre-existing health and economic inequities that disadvantage black and Latinx residents in particular make these communities more susceptible to severe illness, or even death, from COVID-19. In addition, people of color may have increased exposure to the virus due to higher representation in essential industry jobs as well as being more likely to live in densely populated areas. Face coverings are a factor in lowering risk.

Learn more about the #MaskUpMKE initiative and the partners who are making it happen at, including opportunities to help. Organizations that need face coverings are also invited to submit a request.

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Our Donor Resources – COVID-19 page offers information and tools for Foundation donors who want to help.