Published in The Chronicle
May 27, 2021

By Claire Galvin

WINDHAM/WILLIMANTIC — A nonprofit group out of New Haven is launching a marketing program in Windham to encourage folks to receive their coronavirus vaccine.

URU, The Right to Be Inc. and its COVID-19 prevention, risk-communication and risk reduction initiative “Our Humanity” is launching a new partnership with the Town of Windham and the Willimantic Fire Department.

“We’ve seen so much heartbreak and devastation from this pandemic. It’s one of the reasons I was moved to launch Our Humanity,” said URU founder Crystal Emery.

“But we have also seen many brave women and men emerge as heroes during these uncertain times — fighting the disease and educating the community — and I am beyond happy that the Willimantic Fire Department and the Town of Windham are among them.”

Emery said she has always considered firefighters and first responders to be very dedicated to human safety, which is why she wanted to partner with Willimantic fire officials.

Emery said her father was a firefighter.

Emery is a quadriplegic award-

winning filmmaker, theater director, author and director of the URU nonprofit.

Emery and program director Meredith Benson launched Our Humanity in 2020 to address COVID-19 inequalities facing black and brown communities.

Now, they are working to address vaccine hesitancy in communities across the state, like in Windham, which has a large Hispanic population.

Currently, 43 percent of Windham residents have received at least one vaccination.

“I know the governor said 70 percent, but we should be at 80 to 90 percent, because that keeps our friends, neighbors and relatives all safe,” Windham Mayor Thomas DeVivo said. “Vaccination is safe, it’s easy to get and it’s free.”

Windham/Willimantic is home to many walk-up clinics and no appointments are necessary.

Willimantic Fire Department Chief Marc Scrivener said the town has a duty to “extinguish” the virus.

“We can do better,” Scrivener said. “Please join us in extinguishing the fire of COVID-19 in the community.”

Scrivener reminded folks that more than 3,000 cases and 40 deaths have occurred in the local community.

The firehouse will serve as an outpost for Our Humanity’s messaging on COVID-19 and its “Get Vaccinated” materials in English and Spanish.

The messaging will also be displayed at Windham Town Hall, the Jillson Square digital sign and on URU bus campaigns running in Willimantic through the end of June.

Some of the messaging was visible Tuesday morning during the press conference.

The project is funded through the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut.

Other partnerships are opening up, like through the Windham Public Schools, the Eastern Connecticut State University Center for Community Engagement, the Access Community Action Agency and the Windham Region Community Council.

“We’re going to do our very best to be on the ground every day, helping people to realize how important it is for themselves, their family members, their friends, their colleagues and the rest of the community to be all in with URU,” said WRCC Executive Director Jeff Beadle.