Lynda Wauschek loves the city’s West Side, where she’s worked for 38 years, and she bundled up in a heavy coat in Saturday’s cold and blustery weather to prove it.
Wauschek was one of dozens of people who participated in five “We Love Youngstown” community walks to take a stand against crime and violence. The event was organized by the West Side Citizens Coalition.
Wauschek is executive secretary of West Side Merchants on Mahoning Avenue. She said increasing crime concerns her; the shop where she works was broken into recently when someone tried to steal an ATM.
“We work here, and we see the difference. If everyone hides in their houses and businesses, nothing gets done. You have to get involved in your neighborhood,” she said.
The walks started at five locations: Foxy’s Restaurant and Lounge, Strikers, Casa Ramirez, Molly’s Restaurant and Pizza Joe’s. Residents who did not attend were asked to support the cause by turning on their porch lights.
Jackie Wagner also works at West Side Merchants and has lived on the West Side for 42 years. She joined the walk at Strikers on Mahoning Avenue.
“It’s still a safe side of town. I’m a firm believer in supporting where you’re at. Try to shop local and try to keep things local,” Wagner said.
Even people who live outside the West Side participated. Sarah Lowry, a member of the Wick Park Neighborhood Association on the city’s North Side, said she walked to help promote unity in the city.
“I think that these sorts of neighborhood events are important. You see neighbors supporting neighbors and in this case, neighborhoods supporting neighborhoods,” she said.
Sara Hendel-McCormick, one of the event organizers, said an increase in violent crime on the West Side in the last four to six months prompted the walk, and the coalition plans to have similar events four times each year.
“And we want it to happen on all sides of Youngstown,” she said.
Becky Hutton, another event organizer, held a banner reading “We Love Youngstown” as she led a handful of people from Foxy’s Restaurant on Meridian Road to Mahoning Avenue. She waved when motorists honked their horns in support.
“Considering the weather, we’re pleased with how many people turned out,” she said. “We’re getting a lot of beeps, which is good.”
The West Side Citizens Coalition meets at 7 p.m. the second Tuesday of every month at Fellows Riverside Gardens off Mahoning Avenue.