Youngstown planting group blossoms to 500 volunteers
By David Skolnick
John Lapin was among a small group of residents 16 years ago with a plan to spend a day beautifying the city’s downtown.
Now, that group has increased to about 500, and those volunteers will spend June 1, from 8 a.m. to about noon, planting flowers and shrubs, mulching areas, and removing debris as part of Youngstown CityScape’s 16th annual Streetscape program, called Grow the Yo!
“We started it to help clean up downtown,” said Lapin, operations administrator for Ohio One Corp. and co-chairman of the Streetscape committee. “It was deplorable at that time. After that first event, we have had huge turnouts.”
Volunteers will beautify the downtown area and Wick Park.
The event usually raises about $50,000 annually to purchase flowers, shrubs, mulch, and planting and cleaning equipment, said Sharon Letson, executive director of Youngstown CityScape, which oversees Streetscape.
Streetscape officials announced the 16th annual event and its fundraising drive Friday at the D.D. and Velma Davis Center at Mill Creek MetroParks’ Fellows Riverside Gardens.
“We started off 16 years ago with a couple of brooms and pots of flowers,” Letson said. “It’s blown into a major community involvement program and 500” participants.
Letson said Lapin plays a key role in the annual event.
“He makes sure all the plants get delivered, and he is who I call when water is running down Federal Street and I can’t stop it,” she said.
Lapin said he enjoys seeing “how many people are proud and concerned about downtown. It’s the community coming together and being interested in the appearance of downtown.”
“Sixteen years ago, we were one of the seeds being planted to start the rebirth” of downtown, said Pete Asimakopoulos, CityScape president and executive vice president of small business banking/Youngstown market president for First National Bank. “I get very excited about where we came from, where we are now and where we’re going.”
The focus areas for Grow the Yo! are Wick Park, West and East Federal streets, John Young Memorial, the Police Memorial at Front Street and South Avenue, the Choffin Hillside, City Hall and Wick Park.
Last year, Streetscape received $100,000 from the Youngstown Foundation and $50,000 from the Raymond John Wean Foundation for significant improvement work at Wick Park.