YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – Hundreds of people spent their day Friday volunteering at the United Way of Youngstown’s 19th annual Day of Caring, working to make neighborhoods better around Youngstown.
United Way partnered with the city of Youngstown, the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation and Green Youngstown to figure out which areas needed the most work.
“There’s a problem with blight, and YNDC is doing a great job to get it taken care of, and sometimes we just need to come together and do the job and that’s what happens today,” said Roxann Sebest with the United Way of Youngstown.
This year, over 700 people came out to help, and many spent the day boarding up and cleaning close to 80 houses on the city’s south side along the Market Street Corridor.
“When everyone is done, they can see the work that they did. The homes are cleaner, trash is picked up and thrown away, vacant houses are boarded up, safer for the neighborhoods,” Sebest said.
Cheryl Briskey lives on Brooklynn Avenue, an area that was getting cleaned up. She can’t thank the volunteers enough.
“This is going to be so nice, I won’t have to be staring at all this mess over here,” Briskey said.
The work being done helps also homeowners in the neighborhoods.
“It lifts their spirit to know that, hey, people care about them and now that they see the potential that’s there or the reality, yes, this is the way it can always be,” said 7th Ward council member Anita Davis.
At the end of the day, the changes can be seen, but a lot of it isn’t visible to the naked eye. Neighbors say much of the difference is made in the hearts of the people who live there.
Victoria Allen calls herself the neighborhood mother. If something’s happening on the south side, Allen knows about it, and she’s always there to help. On the Day of Caring, Allen’s efforts are multiplied.
People from all over flood the streets, helping neighbors in need, cleaning up vacant properties and ultimately making things safer.
“I’m excited that the people in the neighborhood get to feel love from the community,” Allen said. “It gets rid of blight. People are less likely to come and commit a crime in that neighborhood.”
Allen says after the Day of Caring helped out her neighborhood last year, crime went down. She said people kept their own properties spruced up, and neighborhood pride soared, especially for kids.
Joyce Davidson is the executive director of the Know Your Neighbor Block Watch on the north side. In the months after Day of Caring hit her neighborhood, Davidson said she saw positive changes in younger people.
“We want the land to look good, but we want our youth to be uplifted, to know the community cares about them, that the community is behind them,” Davidson said. “We’re bringing up youth to be able to care for their community and know what it’s like to develop good work ethics at an early age.”
Another big change Davidson noticed – landlords making sure their rental properties stay a positive part of the neighborhood. Davidson said property owners are being more careful about the tenants they choose.
Allen and Davidson are looking forward to another Day of Caring and the impact it will have for years to come.
“People from the outside care about what is going on in your neighborhood. Maybe that will spark a light. If they are out here cleaning up my neighborhood, then I should be out here helping, too,” Allen said.
Teams of people from many businesses across the Valley also come out to help for Day of Caring. The impact the day has on the workplace is profound – friends and co-workers coming together for a greater purpose translates to positive outcomes on the job.
Paul Ciarniello and his staff at Casals Spa and Salon take part in the event every year. He says the impact is palpable.
“Instant gratification. You really get to see the work you’ve done before you leave. It is so important. It is part of our business structure. We’ve been doing it since we opened, and our staff jumps at the opportunity to do it. I just makes us feel better,” Ciarniello said.
Their favorite project is helping fix up run down properties. Ciarniello says it goes right along with what they do every day at work.
“We are used to giving people makeovers every day, so I think we used those skills toward homes. We make them over, “ Ciarniello said.
At Second Harvest Food Bank, volunteers will work on a different goal: packing up food. Greenwood Chevrolet employees will be there all day.
In the past, Second Harvest had groups from PNC Bank and Hometown Pharmacy. Becky Miller, resource development manager with Second Harvest, said the bank couldn’t operate without its volunteers.
“It is great to have the companies and organizations coming together on one day to help the community. We get all different types of companies that come in and volunteer. We are very thankful that they scheduled us this year to come in and help out,” Miller said.
No matter what job they’re doing, Ciarniello says it makes a difference in the community and with the volunteers.
“As someone who runs a business, it is just so helpful to the staff. It really humbles you to do stuff like this and it makes you so thankful for what you have,” Ciarniello said.
Tom Varley and his co-workers at Compco Industries also volunteered.
“Anyway we can help out, each other as a team, communities, people, different business, local areas pitching in their efforts to help clean up the community and the area,” Varley said.
Even though their company is located in Columbiana County, they still wanted to help out in Youngstown.
“Make it look presentable again for the people who want to come and develop, and visit and grow within the Mahoning County,” Varley said.