Youngstown residents mobilize to make man’s gutted house a decent home

By Ashley Luthern



That’s how Rik Blake describes the response to Tuesday’s Vindicator article about his plight. Blake, formerly of Hermosa Beach, Calif., had purchased a home sight-unseen on the city’s North Side and arrived Thursday to find it gutted with the electric, gas and water turned off.

But he’s also found friends.

“I’ve got a living room full of people,” Blake, 49, said Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s so crazy. I have a bed now and boxes upon boxes of food. Everybody who has come by has been a good person; there are no bad people,” he continued.

The Crandall Park South Neighborhood Association has organized a work day at Blake’s house, 404 Lora Ave., from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, rain or shine. Volunteers are asked to bring work gloves, heavy-duty trash bags and tools such as hammers, screwdrivers and pliers.

A contractor, Connie Lauderdale, who is part of the association, has agreed to receive supplies and offers for services for the project. Lauderdale has led the rehabilitation of four homes in the neighborhood that were in a similar condition to Blake’s.

“This isn’t just a professional interest, it’s personal” because Blake is now a neighbor, Lauderdale said.

She already has secured assistance from an electrician and plumber, but anyone wishing to donate supplies is encouraged to do so.

“We really need a Dumpster or two” to put debris in on Saturday, Lauderdale added.

The association’s president, Eric Holm, said the project is in good hands.

“I’m really grateful for [Lauderdale],” he said. “In the Crandall South neighborhood, she’s taken houses I thought were going to see the bulldozer and brought them back.”

And it’s not just North Side residents helping out; Peggy Gurney, president of Cochran Park Neighbors on the city’s South Side, began collecting donations early Tuesday.

and hasn’t looked back.

She said the fact that Blake is a veteran was what first caught her attention.

“Every single one of us make at least one huge mistake. [Blake’s] made his, so let’s not beat the guy up over it. He’s now our neighbor. Let’s step up to the plate and help. Let’s show him what Youngstown people are made of,” Gurney said.

For more information about donations and the work day, contact Lauderdale on Facebook by searching for the event “Youngstown Neighbors For Neighbors,” by email at or by phone at 330-651-8221.

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