By Kelcey Norris
Volunteers in neon yellow T-shirts roamed the streets with shovels in hand as over 1,000 community members and Youngstown State University students gathered to give back to the Youngstown community.
The United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley dedicates a day every year to local service projects, calling it the United Way Day of Caring.
A majority of the volunteers gathered near the Salvation Army on Glenwood Avenue to improve the landscaping and cleanliness of the surrounding area.
Roxann Sebest, director of marketing and communications at the United Way, said the United Way attempted to choose an area that needed care, upkeep and revitalization.
“We cleaned up some vacant lots, took tires out, cleaned, brushed and demolished 16 homes and garages that were dilapidated and a hazard for those living around it,” Sebest said. “We also installed smoke detectors and safety lights into 72 homes.”
While the community service lasts for just one day, Sebest said the impact of the projects would endure long past the single day of improvement.
“We want to do projects where we’re not just coming in one day and cleaning up and leaving,” Sebest said. “We chose this area because we were able to do smoke detectors and lights but also because the Salvation Army and Meridian Services in the area are going to upkeep these lots we cleaned up.”
A portion of the volunteers were sent to other areas in Youngstown, such as the Second Harvest Food Bank and the YWCA.
Sebest said the American Red Cross set up tables at the Covelli Centre and gave volunteers another opportunity to give back.
“The Red Cross came to us and offered to do a blood drive for those who maybe couldn’t come out and volunteer all day because of work,” Sebest said. “It’s just another way for us to expand and include more people in this day of giving.”
Many student organizations at YSU took part in the Day of Caring.
Some players from the YSU baseball team traded in their batting gloves for a pair more suitable for yard work.
Blaze Glenn, a senior business administration major, said the experience served as a bonding activity for the team.
“It felt good to have the whole team there together working for a good cause,” Glenn said. “Community service goes a long way for the team, and [the service] is going to teach some of the younger guys good habits.”
Pete’s Pride, housed in the Office of Alumni and Events at YSU, participates in the Day of Caring projects every year.
Shelly LaBerto, YSU alumna, said she has been involved with Pete’s Pride since graduating in 1990 and looks forward to the event each year.
“I choose to participate in the Day of Caring each year to help make a positive impact on our community,” LaBerto said. “Usually we get pretty dirty, which we enjoy, but this year we had an easier job assisting the Salvation Army with preparing dinner for the day.”
LaBerto and other volunteers from Pete’s Pride were able to prepare meals for community members, pack groceries for families and organize the pantry.
“Knowing the work that we did that day would immediately help individuals and families in need was a great feeling,” LaBerto said. “As you drive around Youngstown that day you see the shirts everywhere cleaning, working and making a difference.”