By Virginia Ross
The city also provides bags and gloves to anyone wanting to organize their own cleanup at any other time of the year.
YOUNGSTOWN — Michael and Ashlee Semond spend most of their Saturday mornings playing with friends, hanging around the house or sleeping in.
On Saturday morning, the 8-year-old twins said they had no problem breaking their normal routines to do something for their city. Equipped with work gloves and garbage bags, the second-graders walked steadily down Federal Street picking up trash and gathering garbage. Along with their parents, Marge and Mike Semond, the children made their way downtown, through parking lots and other areas needing attention.
“We just thought this would be something good to do, so we decided to help,” explained Ashlee. “I’m glad we did it because it looks a lot better now.”
The Semond family joined at least 400 other volunteers who gave their time and energy Saturday as part of the Youngstown Litter Control and Recycling Citywide Cleanup effort. Representatives of dozens of church groups, families, organizations, businesses and clubs gathered at 8 a.m. Saturday outside the Covelli Centre to sign up, gather their supplies and head off to work. Youngstown Litter Control supplied the free trash bags, gloves and T-shirts for all volunteers. Refreshments, including bottled water, coffee and doughnuts, also were available for participants.
Volunteers were charged with collecting the trash, garbage, debris and recyclables in the bags and leaving them at the curbs, where city work crews could pick them up.
“This is our third year, and each time, we’ve had more and more people joining in,” said Sean McKinney, city building and grounds commissioner. “It’s been a big success, and we’ve been really fortunate to have the dedicated volunteers we have. We’re all working for the same thing: to make the city a better place, a place we’re all proud of.”
The city sponsors two cleanups a year. The next one will be in September. However, groups interested in conducting their own cleanup efforts are encouraged to contact the city for help.
“The two cleanups we have a year are more organized and citywide,” explained Jennifer Jones, city litter control coordinator. “But anyone can pitch in any time they have available. Even if they want to organize a cleanup in their own neighborhood or where their church is or whatever. Just let us know, and we’ll give you the gloves and garbage bags. Some people can’t help out today for whatever reason, but they’re willing to help at other times. We really appreciate that. Just let us know, and we’ll do what we can to support the effort.”
Jim London of the Idora Neighborhood Block Watch started participating in cleanup efforts before the city initiated its own in 2007. Some 30 people from his team gathered in the city’s 5th and 6th wards to clean things up a bit.
“Many actually started cleaning up the city before this cleanup was started,” London said. “We just love our city and want to do what we can to keep it safe and clean and attractive, and we really appreciate the city for doing this. This is a great place, and there are great people here. We just want to keep it nice.”
Jones said the city is continuing to sponsor other cleanup activities as well, including tire, appliance and Christmas tree drives. City representatives also are available to present educational programs to schools, neighborhood block-watch groups, youth groups and other organizations.
“We have something going on every month,” Jones. said. “But beyond that, we’re available to work with our citizens and do what we can to help them with their efforts.”
Additional information about programs, services and other city activities is available on the city’s Web site at www.cityofyoungstownOH.org. Jones can be reached by calling (330) 744-7526.
“I have to say I’m proud of Ashlee and Michael for giving up their Saturday morning to do this,” said Marge Semond. “I heard about it and talked it over with them, and we all decided this was something we wanted to do. We try to get the kids involved in activities like this as much as possible. It’s just a really good thing. As more people get involved, I think it encourages others to follow along, and that’s a good thing when it’s something positive like this. I’m really glad the kids did this and did it as well as they did. They have three, four garbage bags filled. I’d say that’s pretty good. They can look downtown now and know they did something to make it better for everyone, not just themselves, but for everyone.”
Likewise, 7-year-old Marlene Stimmel experienced her own satisfaction with every piece of paper she picked up and placed in the trash bag her mom, Katy, held for her. The younger Stimmel had already gathered quite a collection of trash before her family departed from the Covelli Centre to clean up downtown.
“I’m just trying to pick up as much as I can,” Marlene explained. “It’s good to do. It’s really good.”