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City e-mail group to gather today

By Linda Linonis

Saturday, March 7, 2009

By Linda Linonis

A bus ride will bring together people who care about Youngstown.

YOUNGSTOWN — Supporters of Youngstown will get a lift in body and mind today as they meet one another face to face for the first time when they take a bus ride and have lunch.

They’re not complete strangers, though — they’ve exchanged ideas via e-mail.

Jim Cossler, Youngstown Incubator chief executive officer, described them as “members of the electronic community who have a passion about Youngstown.”

Cossler said their e-mail addresses are part of a listserv of between 300 and 400 people who are interested in sharing information and promoting activities in Youngstown. “It’s an electronic forum to post and share ideas,” he said.

Cossler said the e-mail address is, and those interested in being on the list should send an e-mail with “subscribe” in the subject line.

The group plans to take the Buckeye 33, the 1:10 p.m. bus from the Western Reserve Transit Authority central station on the corner of Fifth and Federal, ride to the intersection of Zedaker and Midlothian and get off at 1:27. The group will then walk to Casa Fiesta, 914 E. Midlothian Blvd., for lunch. An e-mail describes the restaurant as having Mexican cuisine, margaritas and spacious seating.

On the return trip to the central station, riders can take the 3:27 p.m. bus for the scenic route through Brownlee Woods or the 3:42 bus.

Cossler said this is just one of various events that have been shared by e-mail among the group. “Some ideas take off, some don’t — and this did,” he said of the bus outing.

The e-mail asks participants to hang out, meet new faces and use the WRTA, discuss future events and take photos of the event and blog about the concept.

The Rev. Robert Johnson, pastor of Bethlehem Lutheran Church and Christ Lutheran Church in Struthers, will be on the ride because he’s on the e-mail list. “This brings together a lot of people ... who are in business, the arts, entrepreneurs and those interested in the Youngstown community,” he said.

“It’s a way to support the WRTA and the local economy by going out to lunch,” the Rev. Mr. Johnson said. He noted he thought of this bus ride as a kind of celebration of the return of Today bus service. “It’s being a tourist in your own town,” he said of riding the bus.

James Ferraro, WRTA director, said Saturday service returned Feb. 7. “I think this great ... It’s using the system,” he said of the outing. “On a bus, it’s a captive audience ... friendships can be made.”

Mr. Johnson, who relocated with his family to Youngstown from Detroit five years ago, said the bus system is a “valuable resource” for the community. “There lots of big city activities here but they’re more accessible,” he said.

Mr. Johnson said the people on the e-mail list are “people who care” about the city. “They have a stake in Youngstown,” he said.

Mr. Johnson described this electronic community as “people who are interested in moving Youngstown forward.”

“Our destiny isn’t stuck in the steel of the past but nurturing progress for the future,” he said.

From a pastor’s standpoint, he said, “Buses are a lifeline for many ... how they get to their jobs and go shopping.”

Susie Beiersdorfer, who is part of the e-mail community and shares information on local events, compared riding the bus to being part of a quilting circle — conversation and exchange of ideas flowed. “It’s another way people come together in the community,” she said. “I will shout Youngstown.”

Phil Kidd, community organizer with Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative, said the bus ride brings together a diverse group and support public transportation. He said John Slanina, who has the I Will Shout Youngstown Web site at, also is posting information on the bus ride along with other topics of interest to Youngstowners.