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

Published: Wed, February 29, 2012 @ 12:10 a.m.

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 ConnieLaudrdle@gmail.com or by phone at 330-651-8221.


1whitesabbath(738 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

I Went over and talked with Rik. He is a straight shooter. He was filling out a job application at the time. He wants to be a productive , tax -paying resident of this community.

If anybody has the means to help this guy, he could use a YMCA pass so he can shower, or anything like that, Also maybe a place where the dogs could get cleaned up.

He did not ask me for that, just what I observed.

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2whitesabbath(738 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

He could also use, a carpenter that can secure the property hanging the front and back doors, any lawn and garden equipment, a grill to cook on outside.Candles, battery operated fan & lights. These would be immediate needs.

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3gingerspice(141 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

See how negatives are turned into positives!! All of those who are helping, get ready for YOUR BLESSINGS!!!

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4ytownsteelman(680 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

OK, just one question. Would Peggy have helped this guy out if he wasn't a veteran? You know people who were not in the military have value too and sometimes needs help.

A month ago I sold a house I owned on the east side to a friend for a dollar. He was living in a rooming house in New York and now he has a nice brick house on an acre lot. Its good to help people who are in need.

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5gingerspice(141 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

Peggy helped the person that was placed before her, just like you helped the person that was placed before you! See how it works? Blessings to you too ytownsteelman!!

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6peggygurney(408 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

ytownssteelman, I could easily take offense to your question, but I won't because I realize that you don't know me, or else you wouldn't be asking it. =)

YES I most certainly would have tried to help whether he's a veteran or not. The article clearly states that what "made him stand out to me" was the fact that he is a veteran, and that is only because I was married to a veteran. But the fact is, I've helped many people in this way, and in other ways, both here and in Florida (my home state).

Every person has worth, veteran or not, and if I am in a position to help, I will.

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7Photoman(1246 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

There are many more out there who would like to contribute in some way. Thanks to Peggy, Connie and all of those unnamed in the article for showing a truly positive light upon Youngstown and its good citizens.

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8peggygurney(408 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

Amen gingerspice and Photoman. There are many many more people involved in this than just I. I just helped get the ball rolling - and happen to be a pretty vocal person. =)

We're showing 'em what the good people of Youngstown are really all about!

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9peggygurney(408 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

@ whitesabbath (and all) - Connie and some others are going to Rik's house today to see about the doors and what's going to be needed to get them securely hung. Youngstown Plumbing and Hardware on Mahoning Ave is donating materials for Saturday.

Here's a link to the work day event on Facebook if anyone's interested.

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10Lifes2Short(3882 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

"Let’s show him what Youngstown people are made of,” Gurney said.

I like that...

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11Westsider(269 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

With all the negative puiblicity about Youngstown it is wonderful to see people come together to help a neighbor.

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12steelwagon(284 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

YTownsteelman it was a kind and generous thing you did for your friend and as you correctly state people from all walks of life need help .
Since you've asked Peggy if she would have helped this man if he wasn't a vet I'd like to ask you a question.

Would you have sold that nice brick home to a stranger in the same desperate need as your friend was for only 1.00 ?
As you said yourself "It's good to help people in need" and that's what Peggy and others are doing.

What's being done for this man is a great kindness and it's a very American thing to do.
Acts such as this were once common place in our country.
Americans helping other Americans.

No pandering or waiting around for the govt to step in...
Just average everyday good folks lending a hand to a neighbor in need.
Ain't that America ?
You bet it is !!!!
Blessing to all who serve in any capacity.

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13peggygurney(408 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

Just an update to all who are interested -

A window company has stepped up and is supplying new windows for every window in the house! ALSO, another company is supplying dumpsters, and trying to get a backhoe to demolish the falling down garage and clear it out. This is really mushrooming. And I can tell you, I talked to Rik just a little while ago, and he's just about overcome with emotion. He said to me... "and to think, all I even asked for was to borrow a few blankets!".

I've said it before and will say it again, I've never been more proud to be a resident of Youngstown!

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14peggygurney(408 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

Also, Connie Lauderdale, who is pretty much leading the way in this effort wanted me to post the following correction for her -

"the person who volunteered to do the plumbing was already at Rik's & I can't take credit for his good will".

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15NorthsideH(5 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

I am a lifetime resident of the Northside, 48 years, and am thrilled to see the generosity being shown to a complete stranger who is moving into our neighborhood under unfortunate circumstances. My wife and I are planning to be some of the many who will show up to help on Saturday. Connie is currently rehabbing a home next door to me and I cannot describe to you what a fantastic job she has done, our new neighbor is getting one hell of a contractor to help him out. I know this is an isolated case of kindness but hope that this leads to much more moving forward. I am also happy to see our other Youngstown Neighborhood groups getting involved. Being a part of the Wick Neighbors group I do not feel that there is enough attention to how much all of our other groups throughout Youngstown are interacting to do everything in their power to make Youngstown a great place to live.I also have worked with Vinylume over the years and would like to say thank you to Jack, Orlando and Jack Sr. for stepping up the plate with their generosity. Great job to all involved!

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16redeye1(5615 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

If I can shake this cold by then , Myself and my son will be there to help anyway we can.

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17peggygurney(408 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

You people are wonderful!

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18rushblvd(15 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

Hey Peggy you rock and anybody who knows you, would know you will help anyone.

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19whitesabbath(738 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

Talked with Rik today, looks like he will be needing split firewood, if anybody knows how to put a damper in a fireplace would be great, he is losing most his heat through the chimney.

God Bless all who is helping, I hope a seed was planted mixed with goodness and hope, and it grows like a wild flower through this Valley.

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20NilesOhio(987 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

Peggy, I was more than skeptical about how thing was going to turn out based on yesterday's article. My hat is off to you and all the other volunteers. It's nice to see that some people do still have a sense of community around Youngstown.

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21NilesOhio(987 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

how THIS, I meant. Sorry.

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22drywallmike(2 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

I know Rick Blake, He and the dogs, Rev and Decan stayed with myself and my wife in Monett ,Mo for two weeks prior to heading to his finnal stop in Youngstown ,Oh. He called two days after he got there and asked "can you help?" I said yes and "Drywall Masters" was on its way! I get a call today from Mr. Richard and I hear the great people of Youngstown, Ohio have taken him and the dogs in. Rick and I know eachother from our stays in Southern California. I'm so very happy to know that Rick and the boys have been so embraced by people of youngstown! What the people of youngstown cant fix for Mr. Richard I will find a way to help the best I can!

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23peggygurney(408 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

I look forward to meeting you Mike!

NilesOhio, Knew what you meant, and thanks! I'm a transplant, from Florida. It's good to live in a town where people actually care.

whitesabbath, God bless you too!

rushblvd, luv ya gal!

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24hellokitty(161 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

Peggy, you are an amazing lady, and I hope that your kindness is returned to you a hundred fold...God bless you! And God bless all of the others that have come together in the effort to help Mr. Blake.

Maybe Youngstown itself can be restored to it's former glory if more folks act as neighbors. Jesus would want this :)

I will scope out the FB page to see how I might best help!

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25pgurney(296 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

Thanks hellokitty, but I really can't take any credit. I've probably been the most "vocal" about this situation, but I'm only one of many who have stepped up to the plate for Rik Blake. I just helped to get it going, =)

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26hellokitty(161 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

Somebody has too! And your selfless spirit got the ball rolling :)

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27drywallmike(2 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

Peggy, If you can get people to to demo all the spots that need sheetrock repair, when I come out on March 11th. I can take care of the wals while I'm there. If you need to contact me Drywall Masters phone # is 417.669.1759 Thank you so very much, Mike.

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28peggygurney(408 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

Guess what! Rik got a job! He starts in 2 weeks and is very excited.

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29Seeitcoming(10 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

What a nice group of people I met today over at Rik's! Very rewarding to see the progress we made with the garage/yard. 2 dumpsters filled in a few short hours. Rik is a sweet person.
I was happy to be able to help out for a few hours. We will try to do some more for Rick.

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30peggygurney(408 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

Thanks for helping Seeitcoming!

The "work day" at Rik Blake's home today was a resounding success! Quite a bit of work was accomplished - new windows installed, doors hung, trash cleaned out of the house, wood cut for the fireplace, yard cleared of trash and debris. A LOT of people, from all over, showed up to lend a hand for an hour or two, with a few staying all day.

Thanks to ALL who helped! =)

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31peggygurney(408 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

Oh and look for a follow-up story. Ashley was there today, as well as WKBN, WYTV and WFMJ!

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32connielaudrdle(8 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

I want to Thank All the great people of Youngstown.... I've said this many times the last 4 days of complete madness, but I have been overwhelmed, amazed, and humbled to have been able to be a part of this. From the local businesses who stepped up to this challenge with responses of just tell me what you need, to local contractors who said you get me what I need & I'll get it done, to the citizens who asked what do you want me to do, and finally the people from Toledo to Texas who emailed. I've been quite busy the last few days without the chance to say Thank You!! PS Drywall Mike I'll get it prepped and we can talk before you come---if you need a few extra hands let me know and I'll arrange it!!! Thanks again everyone!!!

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33city_resident(528 comments)posted 4 years, 3 months ago

I'll tell you what I think, George. If there are hundreds of people buying property in Youngstown every year, most of them are "investors" who want to cash in on rental income. If the property is too expensive to fix, they just take the loss, and walk away.

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34connielaudrdle(8 comments)posted 4 years, 3 months ago

There is no story behind this story-This is what I think---there aren't hundreds of people buying property. The house on Lora & the house on Crandall was one of thousands that end up in a "holding" company after foreclosure. People have been chasing the "American Dream" since the beginning of our country.People who have not been fortunate to obtain this peice of the pie will try any means possible. This does not mean they are easily taken, dumb or any other descriptions that might be used. When purchasing a home from a realator you worry about location, sq footage, closet size, etc. Rarely do you have to worry about logistics....it's there for you...... one "investor" which is wrong word for him, that I've been working for past 15 mos--he enjoys seeing North Side, and our houses go from demo to awesome--a YSU Professor, Retired Dr from St E's.....and for those who think people, especially one individual is in it for the money---after purchase price & taxes, there's $15-$20,000 put in a property--between materials & labor---and those are my figures..should be more! Do the math $450/mo x 12 mos=$5400/yr........long time for profit! and He's done 4, starting 5th on North Side...........so please before you knock investors make sure you're knocking the ones who deserve it---any questions as to who they might be---ask me.

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35whitesabbath(738 comments)posted 4 years, 3 months ago

Rik Blake is in desperate need of Volunteers for the final big push for drywalling and paint. Work starts Monday 12th through Sat. 19th, anyone willing to help out please go to 404 Lora ave. and talk to Drywall Mike !!!!!

Help a Vet !!!!!

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36whitesabbath(738 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

He turned out to be a drug addict / con bummer

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