By JEANNE STARMACK
First Ward Councilman Tony Fire stood at the base of the long, blue wall between two women, each on a ladder.
He was there Wednesday evening along State Street, around the corner from Dona Vito’s restaurant between the train tracks and the wall — which is part of the Vasco Electric building, to offer his support.
“Rachell, if you need to steady yourself, I got a shoulder here,” he told the woman to his right.
Rachell Joy, a 1st Ward resident who also is a graphic designer for Youngstown State University, was busy painting a part of what is initially her creation — a mural depicting Struthers landmarks.
To Fire’s left, First Ward Block Watch Treasurer Melanie Rauschenbach was wielding a brush as well.
Volunteers already had painted the blue base coat on the 12-foot-high, 70-foot-wide wall several weeks ago. Joy’s images were projected onto the wall and traced in advance also.
Now, all that’s left to do is the painting that will bring the mural to living color in the block watch’s neighborhood beautification project.
A handful of volunteers who also included Marian Kutlesa and John McCormick began the painting Wednesday evening. They believe it will take until the end of August to complete it, said Rauschenbach, who came up with the idea for it. Anyone who would like to help is welcome — you do not have to be a 1st Ward resident. Call Rauschenbach at 330-506-7690 to volunteer.
“Our block watch is only about six months old, and it’s more about helping the community as opposed to a traditional block watch — there’s not a lot of crime here,” she said. “The more people we get involved, the better.”
Rauschenbach showed off each landmark that earned a place on the wall: the high school; the Hopewell Furnace; a Struthers Wildcat; the Peace Memorial for police officers killed on duty; the Veterans Memorial; the Bird Bath, which was the city’s first swimming pool; the old Mahoning Bridge; a watch tower that sat beside the train tracks; and that really big Astro Shapes American Flag that is the first sight to catch people’s attention as they drive over the river from state Route 289 on the Campbell side.
Rauschenbach said the group has received some monetary donations for the mural already, and plans a raffle of services from 10 area businesses to raise more funds. Tickets are $5 each, and the winning one will be drawn at the Aug. 27 block-watch meeting.