United Way 19th Day of Caring cleans South Side neighborhoods


By Bruce Walton

bwalton@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

After a breakfast Friday at the Covelli Centre, some 600 volunteers from organizations, businesses and schools split into groups to work tirelessly for the 19th annual United Way Day of Caring.

For the past few years, the United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley has joined with the city of Youngstown, Green Youngstown, American Red Cross and Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp. to focus on cleaning community neighborhoods.

Nearly 400 of the volunteers as well as union workers from General Motors and First Energy Ohio went to South Side neighborhoods and businesses along the Market Street Corridor, cutting overgrowth, dragging trash and debris, clearing sidewalks and picking up litter. The other volunteers visited and cleaned 16 other sites in Youngstown.

Roxann Sebest, United Way director of marketing and communications, said this is a great chance for volunteers and donors to help their own community in a more direct way.

“People love it. You have bankers working alongside union members and hairstylists and students, getting to know each other and working together,” she said.

Jennifer Jones, coordinator of Green Youngstown, directed a team of volunteers at the abandoned Masters Tuxedo building on Market Street. Team 6 consisted of 75 volunteers from Dearing Compressor and Pump Co., First Energy Ohio, LongHorn Steakhouse and Valley Christian and Jackson-Milton schools. The varsity girls soccer team at Valley Christian decided to spend its Friday with United Way, which teammate Sadie Vogt said is a great opportunity to take pride in their city.

“I think a lot of people complain about how Youngstown has a lot of abandoned homes and people don’t take care of them,” Vogt said. “And it’s nice that we can actually go out into the community and do something about it.”

Youngstown 6th Ward Councilwoman Anita Davis said these volunteers don’t just provide a cosmetic benefit. Abandoned properties can be a dumping ground for tires and trash, vacant houses can be used by drug abusers, and overgrowth can begin to block street lamps from giving light in certain areas, she said.

The Day of Caring also can have a longer-lasting effect on the community, Jones added. Maintaining the property with neighbors ensures the property won’t fall back into disrepair, and Jones hopes the same will be done on the South Side.

“The neighbors want to help, but it’s too overwhelming,” she said. “So we take down and do the vast majority of the work, then maybe mowing the lawn isn’t that daunting anymore.”

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