YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – A handful of south side Youngstown business operators are hoping a little cleaning up will help kick start efforts to revitalize the city’s South Avenue corridor.
Leaders with the group known as the South Avenue Area Neighborhood Development Initiative, or S.A.A.N.D.I, are trying to encourage businesses to get involved with their Clean Sweep project on Sept. 12. Organizers want owners and employees to take a couple hours to spruce up their own properties, hoping that will create a ripple effect in the nearby neighborhoods.
“There is a huge resource within these businesses and while we are all busy every day, ultimately we service our customers, whether it is with our products and services, or with the community work we can try to do to help them,” BJ Duckworth of the Coca-Cola Botting Co. said. “Whether it is sweeping your sidewalk or painting your fence or cleaning up the trash in your parking lot, that pride eventually will push the crime out of the neighborhood.”
Organizers of the event admit reports of crime cause residents and business people to be reluctant to get involved in projects like this, but they’re hoping that a show of pride in the community will spread, and over time, push the crime problems out of the neighborhoods. Organizers want owners and employees to take a couple hours to spruce up their own properties, hoping that restoring a sense of pride will offset what some believe is a bad rap for the area because of crime.
“It is always harder when they think there is an element that may be there to hinder them. But all we can do as organizers and community leaders is stand up and show by example. Go out there and do it yourself. And hopefully people will see that and follow,” Duckworth said.
Organizers urged businesses and residents to get involved with their efforts, saying city leaders can’t be expected to handle it all by themselves.
Tony Romano’s Allied Locksmiths has been part of the South Avenue corridor since 1976 and a lot has changed since then.
“There were a lot more businesses, there was a lot more of everything. It’s a shame to see how things have gone down,” Romano said.
These days, once thriving businesses have been replaced by blight and empty lots, and Romano said perceptions of crime along South Avenue and in the nearby neighborhoods..is giving the area a bad rap.
“People are afraid to come into the city, it isn’t that bad as people think it is,” he said.
Others here believe the Clean Sweep idea also could lead to even bigger projects.
“As crime can be considered a disease that spreads, when people take pride in their residential homes or businesses, that spreads also,” Fr. Ed Noga of St. Patrick Church on Oak Hill Avenue said.
The Clean Sweep event will be held Sept. 12, starting at noon.