Three city neighborhoods took vastly different approaches to achieve the same goal.
By ROGER G. SMITH
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE across Youngstown took to neighborhood streets this past spring.
They picked up food wrappers and other litter, mowed down knee-high grass and planted brightly colored flowers. They do this at least once every year, sometimes several times.
These city residents and downtown office workers have lots of reasons why they invest their time and efforts in improving their neighborhoods.
The words of a child, however, might best summarize them.
"We want our neighborhood not to look ugly," said Jesse Duby, 8, of Benita Avenue, as he raked wet, decaying leaves from the side of an abandoned North Side house.
The Vindicator spent three consecutive Saturdays this spring visiting neighborhood cleanups, talking with the volunteers who do the work and learning about the reasons they do it.
Coincidentally, all three neighborhoods with scheduled cleanups on those days had North Side ties. Two were residential neighborhoods. The third was a joint project between St. Elizabeth Health Center on the North Side and office workers downtown. Work was done downtown and at the hospital.
All three faced the same basic problem: how to make deteriorating properties in their neighborhoods look better.
Each group, however, used vastly different strategies to accomplish that -- as different as their own neighborhoods.
Take the Eagle Eye Block Watch.
The organizers were a few older women who live at the foot of the aging Brier Hill neighborhood. The women couldn't physically do much of the work themselves. One woman carries a portable oxygen tank. Another, block watch leader Willie Williams, uses a cane.
Instead, the women rounded up enough young men and women from outside the neighborhood to get the job done.
"It takes all of us to get the neighborhood cleaned up," Williams said.
Across the North Side near The Rayen School is the Know Your Neighbor Block Watch.
The neighborhood is a mix of people, many of them with children and nearing middle age. There, residents are more able to do the work themselves. Organizers drew out those residents and their kids to pick up, mow and trim the neighborhood in just a few hours.
Where the heart is
Carl Williams has lived on Curry Place for eight years. He came out to lend a hand with his son, Carl Jr., 14. Neighbors have an obligation to keep up the space where they live, no matter who owns it, he said.
"Somebody has to stay here and care. This is where my heart is," Williams said.
If home is where the heart is, how did the Streetscape organization and St. Elizabeth lure several hundred workers early this month to plant flowers downtown and at the expressway ramps next to the hospital?
Organizers seized on a similar sentiment: Many of those who work at the hospital or in downtown office buildings consider those spaces their second home.
"Why not care about it? Would there be a Boardman without Youngstown? Or a Liberty or a Poland or a Canfield?" asked Al Mansfield of Boardman, chief financial officer at St. Elizabeth.
Linda Hoefert of Youngstown, who works downtown in the city's Community Development Agency, came to plant flowers for a few reasons.
One was there to show her support for her city, joining others who live in the suburbs but work in the central business district.
"There's a lot of people who like Youngstown, care about Youngstown. Until you have this, you didn't hear from them," she said.
Today, you will.