By Sean Barron
Yvonne Tina Starks doesn’t miss living in a single room at the YWCA and having to walk down the hall to share a shower.
Those days are in the past, thanks to her efficiency apartment at the Y.
“It feels like this building is so new. We’ve come a long way,” Starks said, referring to recent renovations to the 100-year-old building at 25 W. Rayen Ave.
Starks lives in one of 30 occupied efficiency and one-bedroom apartments leased to qualified residents in the five-story building.
The apartments also were a centerpiece of Thursday’s building dedication ceremony and open house to mark the reopening of the facility, which underwent a $10 million historic preservation and renovation project.
Updates included making the structure more environmentally friendly and energy efficient.
In 2007, the YWCA was one of three state projects to receive $3.2 million in low-income housing tax credits. The money was used to convert the building’s top floors into affordable, permanent-housing units.
The Y’s main goal is to eliminate racism and empower women by providing housing and support services, child care and youth development, health education and economic and outreach empowerment for women, its mission statement says.
Starks, a lifelong Youngstown resident who’s lived in the building since the late 1980s, said she loves her second-floor apartment that looks out onto Youngstown State University. Starks said she’s excited about returning to YSU and possibly majoring in business administration.
Also happy with her second-floor home is Jackie Rogenski, who said she’s grateful for the renovations, which included removing asbestos and mold and improving ventilation.
Rogenski is an 11-year resident of the Y who’s been in her one-bedroom apartment roughly one year. Rogenski also appreciates the staff, who she says encouraged her to enter a Mahoning County vocational training program, where she received an associate’s degree in medical technology.
Another benefit of the Y is its proximity to the main branch of the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County, as well as Western Reserve Transit Authority buses, said Rogenski, who also performs volunteer work a few hours each week.
Attendees took a tour of the building and, in addition to the apartments, saw the two-story gym and walking track, as well as a small preschool and child-care rooms that will be ready to receive youngsters this fall.
Also along the way were staff offices, a caterer’s kitchen, a large community meeting room, an activities area and empowerment rooms to be leased to minority or women-owned businesses.
Roughly 30 percent of residents’ income goes toward rent, the rest of which is picked up by the Youngstown Metropolitan Housing Authority, noted Leah Brooks, the Y’s development director. Some residents work and others are on fixed incomes, she said, adding that they range in age from late teens to late 70s.
All of the units have been occupied since late December, noted Constance Shaffer, executive director. A waiting list continues and the YWCA is still receiving inquiries about the apartments, Shaffer said, adding that the facility also will begin business startups for women.
Other speakers at the event were Shirley Poindexter, YWCA board president; Cheryl L. Waite, YWCA immediate past president; and Chris Gabrick, steering committee chairwoman.
Additional remarks came from Thomas J. Ciresi, vice president of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati, which awarded about $1 million toward the project; Frank Hierro, regional president for Huntington Bank in the Mahoning Valley; Elizabeth Long, development analyst, Ohio Capital Corp. for Housing; and a representative from the office of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.