United Way Day of Caring draws a crowd and cleans up the streets
By Graig Graziosi
A sea of volunteers clad in neon-yellow shirts gathered alongside a pair of trucks emblazoned with the word “REVITALIZE.”
They listened as a man with a megaphone called out orders from atop one of the vehicles. When he finished, the volunteers left the area in an improvised convoy, the East Side their destination.
The volunteers – approximately 850 – were the workforce behind the United Way’s 20th annual Day of Caring on Friday.
Day of Caring – which Youngstown has participated in for the past five years – is the kickoff event to the United Way’s major fundraising campaign, which runs between September and December.
This year, the volunteers – organized by the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp. and the Mahoning County chapter of the American Red Cross – were conducting blight cleanup work and beautification on the East Side near the Royal Oaks tavern. Also planned for the day was the construction of a 16-foot-wide sign reading “Welcome to the East Side” at the corner of Oak Street and Garland Avenue.
Volunteers with hedge clippers trimmed branches along Oak Street while others dug weeds out of cracks along the thoroughfare’s sidewalk.
The superintendent, principal and associate principal of Boardman and its high school – Timothy Saxton, Cindy Fernback and David Kornbau, respectively – volunteered for the event with 30 high school students in tow.
“This isn’t a day off for these kids,” Saxton said. “These guys were up at 7 a.m. this morning on what could have been their first vacation day of the school year, so I think it says a lot about the character of these students.”
Volunteers with the Red Cross were installing fire alarms in homes and passing out fire-safety tips to homeowners in the area.
Joe Corpa and a number of his co-workers at the Rich Center for Autism were among the volunteers with the Red Cross.
“We’ve got 37 homes that have requested fire-alarm installations today,” Corpa said. “So we’re going to try to get through all of those today and, hopefully, if we’ve got some time left over, we’ll be able to help some other people out, too.”
This year’s event is the largest Youngstown Day of Caring to date. Ian Beniston, the executive director of the YNDC, said the event has been steadily growing each year as the volunteer day becomes better known in the community.
Apart from the volunteers on the East Side, 200 volunteers were sent to work among 17 other local nonprofits, such as the YWCA, Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley, Habitat for Humanity and Youngstown Cityscape.