A South Side citizens group wants to clean up its neighborhood, starting with several blocks around Taft Elementary and Wilson Middle schools.
“We have brand-new, multi- million-dollar schools and nothing but blight around them,” said Patricia Dougan, project director for the 7th Ward Citizens Coalition.
The unkempt appearance can give the impression that “this is not a healthy or friendly neighborhood,” she added.
The coalition is gathering volunteers for a neighborhood cleanup Saturday and Aug. 27.
“We’re calling all residents to pick up their pitchforks and rakes. We’re not storming city hall, but we’re storming the neighborhood,” said coalition president Chris Travers.
The cleanup is only the start of what Travers and Dougan hope to be a long-term partnership with the schools.
“When it gets cold, we’ll try to start book clubs and tutoring,” Dougan said. “We’re adopting the schools.”
When it comes to revitalizing a neighborhood “you find a jewel and move out from there,” she said.
Jennifer Jones, the city’s Litter Control and Recycling coordinator, said her department will provide some materials to volunteers.
“Rather than strictly focusing on litter, we’re also looking at cutting grass, too, because those lots attract litter and crime,” she said.
Dougan said volunteers are needed not only for cutting grass and boarding up vacant homes, but also to serve lunch and distribute water and gloves. Many organizations already have agreed to volunteer, including local block watches, DeMar Realty, Youngstown Contracting, the Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative and the Alliance for Congregational Transformation Influencing Our Neighborhoods.
“And we’re challenging all graduates of Wilson to show up and help,” Dougan said.
She said the neighborhood can’t rely on city government to take care of every problem, especially as the city coffers continue to dwindle.
“We have to fight for what we have and take care of it,” Dougan said.
The cleanup begins at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, and another cleanup will begin at the same time Aug. 27.
Volunteers should meet at Taft Park, adjacent to the Taft Elementary School, at East Boston and Homestead Avenues. Lunch will be served about 1 p.m.
The coalition will discuss details of the project at its regular meeting at 6:30 p.m. today in the Organizacion Civica y Cultural Hispana Americana auditorium, 3660 Shirley Road. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.