Crews say goodbye to litter, hello to neat, trimmed grass

Volunteers blitzed a yard and had the work done and the litter cleaned up in 10 minutes.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Curious George sits surrounded by a bunch of other stuffed animals in the window of Room 3 at Harding School.
Across Cordova Avenue is an abandoned house. The windows are boarded. Potato chip bags and candy wrappers cling to the knee-high grass.
"Kids shouldn't have to look at this. Nobody should have to look at this," said Kathy Kirtos, leader of the Know Your Neighbor Block Watch.
That's why at least a dozen neighborhood residents -- and almost as many of their kids -- came out one wet and gloomy Saturday morning in May to clean up the mess.
The neighborhood is centered on The Rayen School and its nearby companion, Harding elementary. The residents are a mix of ages and races, and there is a pool of middle-age people who have kids that neighborhood leaders can draw from.
Benjamin Davidson of Cordova, who started the cleanup a few years ago, said participation is growing. Evidence includes the two dozen helpers of all sizes and the tires stacked curbside throughout the neighborhood. The block watch alerted residents that the city would pick up the tires.
"There is progress being made. We're getting things done," Davidson said. "They know about it -- look at the tires."
At least three dozen tires were piled in the back of a city litter department truck. By day's end, the city would pick up 112 tires. A couple dozen more would be left on curbs late, waiting for pickup Monday.
Jamael Brown, Ohio Avenue, and his son, Aaron, 12, were among those helping out.
Brown was there because he sees his neighbors committed. Residents have an obligation to take responsibility for where they live, he said.
"It's 9 a.m. and half the block is clean. It's an intricate part of your neighborhood," Brown said of the group efforts. "Just complaining won't get it done."
Aaron had a simpler reason for coming -- and not because dad told him to.
"That's my environment. I feel better because I don't have to see it anymore," he said.
Volunteers collected more than 30 bags of trash and cut the grass on a half-dozen houses. One group blitzed a yard on Dennick Avenue and had the grass mowed, trimmed and the litter cleaned up within 10 minutes.
You wouldn't have seen that five years ago, said Carl Williams of Curry Street, who brought his son Carl Jr., 14.
"Everybody mostly would have stayed to themselves -- mostly out of fear," he said. "I can see a change here."

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