NORTH SIDE Volunteers make clean sweep of area

Groups are being asked to adopt empty lots.
YOUNGSTOWN -- More than 100 yellow-shirted volunteers dispersed from the Wick Park pavilion in the early morning sun Saturday to clean up a neighborhood that has fallen on hard times.
Armed with work gloves and garbage bags, the mostly young volunteers attacked the cluttered tree lawns and vacant lawns in a 30-block area around the park.
"Most of us live right by Wick Park, so this is our community, our neighborhood," said Daniel Griesemer of Lima, a freshman at Youngstown State University who was taking part in the effort with a group of fellow students from a nearby honors dorm.
Sponsors: Students from the fraternities and sororities in the area also participated in the annual effort, sponsored by Youngstown State University, St. Elizabeth Health Center, Park Vista, North Side Citizen's Coalition and several area religious congregations. Many said they had done so for years.
"Driving to school, we can see the difference," said David McCracken of Cortland, a senior and member of the fraternity Sigma Tau Gamma, which sent 10 volunteers.
What's next: One morning cleaning up will not solve all the neighborhood's problems, said Anika Boatwright, a community organizer in YSU's urban studies program and the head of a program intended to revitalize the area. But she said the effort could spark area residents' desire to clean their own properties and give them the feeling they can make a difference to the neighborhood.
Organizations involved Saturday are also going to encourage groups to adopt empty lots to maintain throughout the year, she said. And bringing people together is a benefit in itself.
"You can build a community if you make connections between people," said Patricia Christ, a pastor at Richard Brown Memorial United Methodist Church near the park.
"This, with all the different organizations, is a start," Boatwright said.

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