The Valley needs some help from the community and Phil Kidd might be just the person Youngstown has been looking for. Kidd is a dedicated citizen who looks to make Youngstown thrive again, or at least get people involved into the community.
“We need more soldiers who are willing to try and get involved,” he said.
Kidd started the website Defend Youngstown to get people involved within the community. He got the idea from a sign in New Orleans that read “Defend New Orleans,” which started in 2003 trying to get the citizens to preserve the historic landmarks of New Orleans.
“Defend Youngstown gets up in people’s faces,” he said. “I just wanted to attract people that cared about all the challenges around the city.”
Defend Youngstown began in the summer of 2004. Kidd would stand in downtown Youngstown with a sign up that said “Defend Youngstown.” He started this at first to just get people to listen and try to understand what he was trying to get to.
“I didn’t know what I was doing, but I felt like Defend Youngstown was a message to people that thought like I did,” he said.
Kidd isn’t even from Youngstown, but he felt a certain connection because it reminded him a bit of his hometown.
“To me — someone who isn’t from here — the biggest thing is I just couldn’t understand why the community had such a self-deprecating attitude,” he said. “It seemed like it [the city] was so down on itself, so I wanted to start Defend Youngstown.”
Kidd grew up in a smaller, rustbelt town between Pittsburgh and Weirton, West Virginia. He said he feels that people from around the area have more of a work ethic and appreciate things that most others would take for granted.
“I feel like being from the Rustbelt makes us appreciate people more,” Kidd said.
The urge to help his community is not just a recent desire — it is in Kidd’s blood.
“My mom and my dad worked in a lot of redevelopment stuff in our community,” he said. “I had that DNA in me growing up.”
Kidd knows that for Youngstown to be revitalized everyone in the community is going to have to play a part — or Youngstown could get beyond repair.
“It is a sink-or-swim type of situation,” he said. “I feel like Youngstown is at a kind of tipping point, where a lot could happen that could be tremendously good or if we idle on some things it could be irreversible.”
Even though he sees that the city could go into a downward spiral, he also sees the change in activity within the community.
“I have seen a contentious amount of people over the last ten years get involved,” Kidd said.
With the Youngstown population continuing in a constant downward motion the past few years, Kidd expresses that the future of the population will be in the hands of the students and how many Youngstown can attract.
“It is their [students’] community,” Kidd said. “The whole future of Youngstown is going to be all the young people we can keep or attract.”
Kidd said he hopes that he can make an impact in the community and turn the city around. He updates his website every Monday to get people aware of what is going on in the city.
Kidd said he wants what most of Youngstown does: to just see the city thrive again. He alone might not be able to turn the whole city around, but with help, it may be possible.