By Sean Barron
A one-block stretch of Thorn Street that soon will be transformed into a lush garden resembles little more than a large, narrow patch of dirt with a smattering of yellow perennials.
Also noticeable is what’s not in or around it: litter.
“We have at least three cleanups during the year. We just try to keep up in the neighborhood,” said Elnora Sipp, president of the Four Square Block Watch group, which covers Earle Avenue and several other streets between Glenwood and Oak Hill avenues on the South Side.
The lack of trash, along with an immaculately manicured piece of greenspace across the street, is courtesy of block watch members who took part in Saturday’s all-day Great American Cleanup of Youngstown, which is part of the larger nationwide Great American Cleanup effort.
Sponsoring the local citywide project was Green Youngstown.
The site near Thorn Street and Parkwood Avenue was one of more than 20 locations throughout the city from which groups and individuals removed litter and debris in an effort to beautify neighborhoods. Such work also helps make the areas safer and more attractive to businesses, noted Jen Jones, coordinator of Green Youngstown, which focuses on litter prevention and offers recycling programs in the city.
The Peace Garden at Parkwood Avenue and Thorn Street, the parcel on which sat an apartment building that was razed a few months ago, will offer a variety of plants, birdfeeders, a few benches and a walkway made from rocks, said Liz Hahn, a block-watch member who lives on Parkwood. The garden should be functional by summer, she added.
Sipp said that as part of Saturday’s cleanup, volunteers picked up whiskey bottles, paper, tires and other types of litter in the corridor. Other people removed weeds and overgrowth from numerous lots, 82 of which Greater Friendship Church owns and maintains, she continued.
Similar efforts were underway at the Boys & Girls Club of Youngstown, 2105 Oak Hill Ave., as the main thrust of its third annual Cleanup Day, which was coordinated with Green Youngstown, Community Corrections Association and the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.
“Our focus was mainly on our surrounding neighborhoods within a quarter-mile from the club,” such as those on Glenaven, Chicago, Oak Hill and Earle avenues, explained Randi Russell, the Boys & Girls Club’s unit director.
About 25 young people, including club members and several with the Mahoning Valley Sojourn to the Past organization, trimmed trees and bushes, removed weeds and overgrowth, picked up litter and edged around sidewalks, she noted.
Russell said the cleanup also can “teach our youth the importance of the ecosystem,” and thanked Green Youngstown as well as community- and youth-development leaders for their support.
Also pitching in were members of The Colony Youngstown, a nonprofit organization that focuses on community engagement and whose projects have included school giveaways, education programs and area beautification endeavors.
“Being part of this cleanup is important to keep relationships open and people engaged,” said Keland Logan, The Colony’s executive director.
Logan noted that his organization also is working with city Councilman Julius Oliver, D-1st, on an all-purpose community-development project at Warren Avenue and Hillman Street that promises to offer recreation and retail space. The first phase will be a garden that should be installed in August, Logan said.
At the same time, a long line of vehicles entering the Covelli Centre brought up to 10 tires each to be recycled. Before noon, two large trailers already had been filled, mainly with car tires, said Jones. Many community groups were getting rid of discarded tires, including one that removed tires that had been illegally dumped off Steel Street on the West Side, she noted.
Jones said she has seen a tremendous impact on the quality of life in the city since she started with GY. Also, a lot more community and neighborhood groups exist than 20 years ago, she said.
“Things like [the citywide cleanup] have made a difference over the years. I’ve been here nine years, and I’ve seen changes in the city,” Jones said. “We’re tearing down houses and cleaning neighborhoods.”
Upcoming related events are an appliance and electronics recycling drive, set for 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Covelli Centre. People will have a chance to get rid of unwanted computers, wires, dehumidifiers, cellphones and other such items, Jones noted.
In addition, Green Youngstown will work with the Ohio Department of Transportation on May 19 to remove litter and debris from numerous freeway on-ramps in the city.
Those interested in volunteering can call Jones at 330-744-7526, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. or visit Green Youngstown’s Facebook page.