850 Volunteers Spread Out for Day of Caring

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley’s annual Day of Caring today got off to a cooler start than usual.

With temperatures for today forecasted to approach 70 degrees, the temperature was only 52 degrees around 9 a.m. in downtown Youngstown as volunteers prepared to head to their service projects.

“We’ve done this when it’s 100 degrees. It’s the first time we’ve done it when it was 20 degrees,” joked Bob Hannon, local United Way president.

This year’s Day of Caring also offered another twist: A drone was used to photograph the various activities throughout the day, though Hannon remarked that it was unnecessary because of the bright green shirts given to volunteers this year.

“You could be seen from outer space with the shirts we got this year,” he quipped.

This year’s Day of Caring is the largest yet for United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley, with 850 volunteers registered, compared to the 780 who participated last year, Hannon said.

“We have more companies in the Valley that are supporting United Way so they provide more employees to us,” he said. “I think the volunteers like the specific project.”

This year, 600 volunteers, in collaboration with Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp., will focus on the neighborhoods between Albert Street and Lansdowne Boulevard along Oak Street, near where the Joseph Co. International is developing a $20-million plant.

“So many jobs are going to be created there,” Hannon said. “We just thought it was a natural to go to the east side of Youngstown with what’s going on there.”

The cleanup along the Oak Street Corridor and near East High School is important so residents can see “quality of life changes” there, Mayor John McNally said.

“It’s important for all of the volunteers to see what our community looks like up on the East Side,” he continued. “A lot of these folks may have had family from over there as well, so getting that corridor cleaned up, sidewalk improvements, boarding up some homes, just in general neighborhood cleanup is going to be a great way to spend the day.”

The goal is to improve the neighborhoods for the families that live there so they feel better about where they live and the East Side can sometimes feel like it’s overlooked, Hannon said. Previous Day of Caring efforts have focused on neighborhoods on the north and south sides of Youngstown.

“We thought there was a great need and we want to make sure that we get to all parts of Youngstown. We just thought strategically this was a good place to go,” Hannon said.

Mitchell Joseph, chairman and CEO of Joseph Co. International, who was born on Lane Avenue and grew up in the neighborhood, called the cleanup effort near where he is building his manufacturing and research campus a “great omen” for his efforts there.

“It’s telling me I was meant to be back here. It’s just that simple,” he said.

Joseph, who contributed $5,000 to support today’s cleanup, told the assembled volunteers that is bringing not just a bottling facility but cutting edge technology to the neighborhood.

“As we continue to build, we’re going to hire and hopefully get up to hundreds and hundreds of jobs,” he said. “We’re going to put Youngstown on the map.”

For some companies, this year was their first participating in the Day of Caring. Among them was FactSet Research Systems Inc., which brought 40 employees from its Youngstown office to participate.

“We’re part of this community,” John Slanina, senior content manager with FactSet, said. “Good growth comes from other good growth and we hope a rising tide lifts all boats. Hopefully our efforts can both help neighborhoods and the gateways to help us all economically as a region.”

The FactSet employees were among those being deployed to the East Side.

“When you’re around that area, you see the other businesses like Masonry Materials Plus and Dom’s Ice House. You realize there’s still thriving businesses in that corridor,” Slanina said. “There’s economic activity here that can flourish and it’s nice to just be able to help out.”

Burgan Real Estate, which has offices in Boardman, Liberty and Canfield, is participating for the second time, said vice president Sue Filipovich. Participating in the Day of Caring is something Burgan wants to make an annual event.

The seven employees from its offices also will be helping out on the East Side, near the Royal Oaks.

“Our livelihood is selling homes and hopefully finding people a nice place to live and call home,” Filipovich said. “If we can’t do this, then we wouldn’t be fully doing our jobs, so we just want to be able to help do some good things.”

Added Mark Wenick, chief wealth management officer at Farmers National Bank: “We’re a true community bank and one of the definitions of being a true community bank is giving back, so this day is very special to us and our employees.”

In addition to work on the East Side, the remaining 250 volunteers were assigned to 17 other projects around the city. Farmers, headquartered in Canfield, had more than 20 volunteers today working at Camp Stambaugh.

“It’s a pet project of ours so we really enjoy it,” Wenick said. “We’ve had different assignments but this one seems to be the one that our folks have gravitated to.”

Youngstown State University will have at least 100 volunteers, including representatives of its Honors College, Williamson College of Business Administration and alumni. The university is “very connected” to United Way because it’s adopted education as a “primary focus,” and the event provides an opportunity for the university to make a diffidence in the community, President Jim Tressel said.

“There’s so many times we call on people to assist our initiatives and projects and want people involved,” he said.

In addition, Hannon announced the goal and chairman of this year’s annual campaign. Garry Mrozek, president of Hometown Pharmacy and United Way board chairman, will lead this year’s campaign, which has a goal of $2.9 million. The annual Pacesetter campaign has raised $822,500 toward that goal.

Pictured: Youngstown Mayor John McNally and United Way volunteer Jason Donaldson.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.