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YNDC, Americorps Fight Blight in Youngstown - The Vindicator

Consecutive homes at 19, 25 and 31 Rutledge Drive are symbolic of the degrees of blight that continue to plague many city neighborhoods, but the three vacant residences’ improved looks also tell a story of collective commitment, desire, determination and hope.

“There were tires galore, trash and the usual stuff you find in abandoned houses,” said Jeff Black, 50, who took a brief break from cleaning the outside of 25 Rutledge. Black was born and raised in the East Side neighborhood.

He was one of 10 AmeriCorps members who spent part of Friday morning cleaning and removing debris from the homes as part of a Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp. effort to fight blight citywide.

The YNDC recently selected the 10, all of whom are Youngstown residents with an interest in bettering the neighborhoods. They recently began serving the first year of the three-year effort, noted Ian J. Beniston, YNDC’s executive director.

At the same time as the cleanup, Beniston, community activists and a few city officials had a news conference to outline the effort’s strategies and goals.

The team started earlier this month on a variety of related projects on vacant properties throughout the East and South sides. The effort in the Lincoln Knolls area was part of their first neighborhood-scale endeavor that will see them focusing on securing, cleaning and rehabilitating vacant homes and lots, Beniston explained.

Two of the three Rutledge homes, which have been empty for several years, likely will be able to be occupied; the Mahoning County Land Bank, however, is to demolish the third, he said.

Wearing bright green T-shirts that read, “Stand up, fight blight,” Black and the other AmeriCorps members busily removed trash from four houses, including one on nearby Fincastle Drive.

They also got rid of weeds and overgrowth.

Among those happy to see the effort underway to eliminate blight was city Councilman T.J. Rodgers, D-2nd, who called such projects “quality-of-life issues.”

“We’re not going to take abandoned and blighted homes not being kept up,” Rodgers said. “Everybody has to take the initiative to keep neighborhoods clean and ensure their neighbors are doing the same.”

The city supplied wood, paint and other supplies, noted Mayor John A. McNally, who praised the level of teamwork and effort in working toward a common purpose.

“This is a great day in Lincoln Knolls. I’m excited to see this,” said Truman Greene Sr., president of the Lincoln Knolls Community Block Watch group. “We need people to give us a hand.”

For information or to assist, call Greene at 330-744-2274.

The revitalization effort also is important because the Lincoln Knolls neighborhood offers too little for youngsters, including safe parks and recreational facilities, observed Rhonda Burt, a block watch co-founder.

“If you don’t do some good, evil takes over. Discipline is the greatest form of love,” she added.

Partners supporting the AmeriCorps REVITALIZE project are ServeOhio, the Corporation for National and Community Service, the city of Youngstown and The Raymond J. Wean Foundation.

Additional remarks came from Jennifer Roller, the Wean Foundation’s president.

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