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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation — in partnership with AmeriCorps VISTA and AmeriCorps State — led a “work day” in Youngstown’s Cottage Grove neighborhood.
The revitalization effort is in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.Monday morning, volunteers met at E. Judson on Youngstown’s east side, where there are at least 14 blighted and abandoned homes. Volunteers cleaned up trash and boarded up windows. They say Monday’s work is sending an important message to the community. “It just improves the quality of life here,” said Jack Daugherty. “These houses, these vacant houses are a danger to our children, a danger to our neighborhoods. It’s our moral obligation as citizens of the Mahoning Valley to do something about it.”
Many of the Youngstown State University students involved in the day of service weren’t even alive when Mark Heath moved into the neighborhood in the late 1980s. He said he slowly watched it deteriorate.
“Pretty much all the families here were displaced due to unemployment, crime, drugs. It destroyed our neighborhood,” he said.
YNDC said even one day can help with the safety of a neighborhood.
Daugherty said YNDC, with the help of other neighborhood groups, has boarded up about 1,700 homes in the city of Youngstown over the past eight years.
Flora Betts said she hopes the work encourages homeowners to take care of their properties as well. But, she said, boarding up properties doesn’t always work.
“I complain about the one there — the blue one,” she pointed out. “They tore the boards off — the back and the front — so if they tear ’em down, they can’t unboard ’em. It’s open.”
Heath believes that at least some of the houses can be repurposed, however.
“When [Hurricane] Katrina came, we had people from New Orleans here. These homes could be set up for temporary housing needs,” he said.
Neighbors do agree that if nothing else happens to revitalize the community, very little will change.
“It’s a Band-Aid. It doesn’t heal the wound,” Betts said.