Group revitalizes South Side neighborhood

By Elise Mckeown Skolnick

The group’s main focus is reducing crime in the Newport area.

YOUNGSTOWN — Neighbors are coming together to make a difference in the Newport area of the city.

It all started when Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative staff members reached out to members of the community, Francine Jeffries said.

Jeffries is president of the organization that was the result of MVOC’s efforts: the Newport Neighborhood Association. The group first met in June.

It turned out that many of the residents were interested in a neighborhood organization.

“That has been the biggest surprise to me. I did not realize how many people in the area really do care about what’s going on,” Jeffries said. “That was the biggest shock I got when I first started going to the meetings. I could not believe the turnout and that everybody felt the same.”

The Newport neighborhood is in the southwest portion of the city. It encompasses the areas around Midlothian Boulevard from Hudson Avenue to Glenwood Avenue and Midlothian to Parkcliff Avenue. Eventually, the association plans to include the area from Parkcliff to Indianola Avenue as well, Jeffries said.

The group meets monthly and plans a pot-luck dinner Dec. 17.

Such get-togethers are key, Jeffries said.

“The more you have a chance to meet someone, your neighbor, and to put a face with a name and not just say, ‘Oh, that’s the house next door; say, ‘This is Betty that lives next door,’ you tend to be more willing to watch out for that neighbor,” she noted.

The main goal of the association is to reduce crime in the neighborhood, Jeffries said.

To that end, members are pleased with the recent demolition of vacant properties in the Newport area.

They’d like to see as many vacant houses demolished as possible, Jeffries said. The vacant houses give burglars a place to live and store stolen goods, she said.

Members also are watching out for crime. A recent rash of break-ins has prompted the association to begin working on a broadcast message system.

When a break-in occurs, the police notify Jeffries, who will then notify team leaders. They in turn alert their neighbors.

“Basically, that’s what we want,” she said. “We just want the neighbors to watch out for one another and keep an eye out.”

The group plans to work with other neighborhood associations, so they can learn from one another. Jeffries also would like to involve Newport youths.

“Because they’re the ones that are going to benefit the most,” she noted. “So if we can get them involved, they’ll develop a sense of pride in the neighborhood, and we think things will go better then. ”

The association has 65 active members. They meet at 6:30 p.m. on the third Thursday of the month at Martin Luther Lutheran Church, which is at Clearmount and Hudson avenues.

People wanting more information on the group can attend the meeting. To reach Jeffries, call (330) 783-0820.

MVOC was launched in March 2008. It’s a community-organizing effort that blends a membership base of churches, schools, neighborhood associations, unions and other groups with door-to-door, grass-roots organizing. MVOC works with more than 60 churches, neighborhood organizations, unions and other grass-roots groups.

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