WEED AND SEED PROGRAM Restoration committees help neighborhoods get clean and tidy

The neighborhood group is changing attitudes, too, a city housing inspector said.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Neighbors are the biggest asset in Mariae Brooks' West Judson Street neighborhood.
They look out for Brooks, president of the Judson Citizen Watch, and she for them.
Keeping them living there is a main reason she is heading the neighborhood restoration committee of Weed and Seed, the South Side crime-fighting and neighborhood redevelopment program.
Showing appreciation for people living in the area who keep their properties nice and tidy was the first task. They make the neighborhood a place worth living in, Brooks said. The result is the Home Sweet Home award.
"I believe for the rap we get ... there are good people here. We have people who diligently work to maintain their homes," Brooks said. "Let's start now by showing we have pride."
Two per year: Every six months the restoration committee will pick a different block watch within the Weed and Seed area, which covers much of the South Side. Each block watch will nominate residents who keep neat yards, manicured landscaping and well-maintained homes, said Kathleen Mahalko, the restoration committee co-chairwoman.
"We want people to know we have a nice area," she said. "We just want it to be kept nice."
Committee members pick the winner, and the prize isn't to be sniffed at: a limo ride, dinner and show. Winners are treated to a ride from J & amp;W Crown Limousine Service, dinner at Johnny's and a production at the Youngstown Playhouse. All are providing cut-rate prices or donating their service.
They aren't sponsors by coincidence. All three businesses are within the Weed and Seed area. Businesses are another vital part to reviving a neighborhood, Brooks said.
"We have some wonderful business people. We need to support them," she said.
First winner: The first Home Sweet Home winner is William DeLair of 640 W. Judson. His property is always maintained well and nicely decorated for the different seasons, Brooks said.
"In the spring everybody waits for his tulips to bloom," she said.
The recognition program isn't the only difference the neighborhood restoration committee is making, said Jean Schaefer, the city housing inspector assigned to the 5th Ward. The group's profile is changing attitudes, too, she said.
Helping one another: Schaefer issued a dozen housing code citations in the West Judson area earlier this year, 10 of them for homes that had peeling and worn paint.
When she returned a couple months later, every violation was corrected. Neighbors collaborated to get some donated paint, and together they made sure each home was brought up to code.
Neighbors took care of one another, Schaefer said.
"The whole neighborhood turned around," she said. "We need more of this in this city. More people taking pride."

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