The group meets at St. Joseph Church on Friday mornings and two Monday evenings each month.
By DENISE DICK
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- Businesses, residents, schools and a church on the north side have joined forces to maintain their neighborhood and instill pride in its inhabitants.
NEED, or North End Environmental Development, was started in March by the Rev. Frederick E. Trucksis of St. Joseph Church on North Street. It includes about 25 residents who were concerned about safety and the condition of their neighborhood.
"My basic reason was a responsibility to the neighborhood," the Rev. Mr. Trucksis said.
On North Street since 1928, the church is probably a major anchor of that neighborhood, he said.
But Mr. Trucksis emphasized that NEED is a neighborhood effort, not a church one.
"If we keep our property maintained, it will get the attention of others who also keep theirs maintained and encourage them to continue and encourage people who maybe don't maintain theirs to start," the priest said.
Group meetings, each Friday at 10 a.m. and the first and third Mondays of each month at 7 p.m. in the church, have attracted representatives from the police and health departments, city council and two neighborhood schools -- Roosevelt Elementary and Turner Middle School.
"We didn't really like what our neighborhood was turning into," said Leslie Dunlap, the group's secretary.
Members are concerned about crime, absentee landlords and other problems plaguing the area.
"We've made pretty good progress," Dunlap said.
The group started a community garden at the end of North Street, encouraging people to grow their own vegetables and flowers. The group is getting help from the Ohio State University Extension's Master Gardeners, of which Dunlap is a member.
The empty lot doesn't look like much, but it bears a sharp contrast to its former appearance of a lot covered with weeds, bushes and brush.
"When it's all done, each individual family will have its own garden," Dunlap.
Deljuane Harvey, 17, a senior at Warren G. Harding High School, helped Dunlap clear the garden site, which is on city-owned property. Soil, fencing and poles were donated by area individuals and businesses.
He says it was a lot of work but looks forward to growing tomatoes and cucumbers in his section when it's done.
"We think that will be a positive educational tool, and we're trying to be proactive rather than just working on the reactive level," Dunlap said. "It's been slow but sure."
NEED has joined forces with another residents' group, Citizens Against Drugs, to address community concerns. If city council approves a plan to expand membership of a Safe Streets Now committee, NEED also hopes to be involved with that.
The group also plans to schedule four neighborhood cleanups each year. One was in May, and the next is set for Sept. 7, starting at 9 a.m.
"It's for anything -- picking up litter or even if an elderly person needs their lawn mowed," Dunlap said.
Family days and a summer youth program also are in the planning stages. The group distributes a monthly newsletter, informing members of upcoming events.
NEED also plans to recognize those in the area who go the extra mile in maintaining their property.
The church owns a riding mower that Mr. Trucksis hopes to train a few neighborhood youths to use to cut the lawns of vacant houses. There are also plans to install barrels in the neighborhood, to encourage people to deposit their trash in those rather than on the ground.
Representatives from Community Skilled Health Care Centre also participate in the group. The center is building an assisted-living facility in the neighborhood.
"That's a lot of money to put into a neighborhood," Mr. Trucksis said.
The involvement of residents, educators, the church and businesses in the group provides a mix.
The group is trying to involve young people to instill community pride early and encourage it to continue, Dunlap said.
"We hope it becomes something that's handed down from one generation to the next," she said.