Our Towns

United Way Day of Caring Draws 1,200 Volunteers

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Early Friday morning, some 1,200 volunteers in bright, green shirts gathered at the Covelli Centre alongside a box truck with the word “Revitalize” printed on the side.

The group shouted the word as photographers snapped a group picture, then were dispersed by staff speaking through megaphones, kicking off the 22nd annual Day of Caring hosted by the United Way of Youngstown and Mahoning Valley.

Among the record number of volunteers was Keimanni Boyd, president of the Emerging Leaders program program at Boardman Local Schools. She joined a group of about 10 carrying shovels and garbage bags, and cleaning properties and sidewalks along Chalmers Avenue. It’s Boyd’s second year volunteering for the Day of Caring, an experience that’s been “eye opening,” she said.

“My first year was last year and it made me feel like a better person,” Boyd said. “I love volunteering and this is a step up from all of the things I’ve been doing.”

Emerging Leaders has participated in the Day of Caring for five years, and it’s exciting for the students to take time to make a difference in the community, said Amy Radinovic communications coordinator with Boardman Local Schools.

More than 40 students total from the Emerging Leaders program participated in the Day of Caring, Radinovic said. Students also volunteer for Habitat for Humanity of Mahoning Valley and the Second Harvest Food Bank.

“We have filled up buses with our Emerging Leaders to do this even on days where we did not have school,” she said. “They spent their day off doing this, so they definitely believe in it.” 

Of the 1,200 volunteers, more than 850 participated in the cleanup efforts on the city’s south side, said United Way President Bob Hannon. The United Way works with the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp. to identify the neighborhoods that need the most work, he said. This year, the organizations selected the neighborhoods between Glenwood and Oakhill Avenues and between Breaden Street and Cohasset Drive for the cleanup. 

“We determined this year that over by Salvation Army there was really some work that needed to be done that we felt we could make the greatest impact,” Hannon said. “It’s really a collaborative effort to try to pick neighborhood throughout the city.”

The 2019 campaign goal is $3 million, of which $1.3 million has been raised to clean up neighborhoods, Hannon said.

This is also the first year the United Way partnered with the American Red Cross to host a blood drive during the event, Hannon said. Between the city of Youngstown, YNDC and the American Red Cross, the annual Day of Caring is a collaborative effort, he said. 

“The United Way Day of Caring gets better each year as more and more people know that one day working together can change a community,” said Karen Conklin, American Red Cross – Lake to River Chapter executive director, in a statement.

Volunteers spent the day cleaning properties, demolishing vacant houses, adding smoke detectors and lighting homes for safety. The Salvation Army and Meridian HealthCare serving as the base for the cleanup. When the work is finished, taking in the transformation is “amazing,” and Hannon said people see the difference.

“I think that’s why we keep getting back the same volunteers and new volunteers,” he said. “They really believe they’re making a difference.” 

The Day of Caring draws volunteers from area businesses as well as schools. “Employers allow their employees to take the day off with pay to come and support United Way to go out and make a difference in the community,” Hannon said. “That’s really critical to the success.”

Will Rauber, an employee at Aim Transportation Solutions, helped with the cleanup.

“We have anywhere between five and 10 people each year who come out,” Rauber said. “Our boss is gracious enough to let us come out here every year and it is very fulfilling.” 

Michael Flood, volunteer and senior at Boardman High School. 

In addition to making an impact, the Day of Caring is a great team-building activity and a way to get students together outside of the classroom, said Krystal Zoumis, an intervention specialist for Campbell City Schools. Having community members come out to make a difference shows that people care about the neighborhoods, added Karen Paradise, a social worker for the district.

“We’ve done it for the past four or five years and every year continues to grow,” she said. “I think showing people that it’s our community and each one of us needs to take ownership and build for a better tomorrow.” 

Participating in the Day of Caring was rewarding for Michael Flood, a senior at Boardman High School. Although Flood may be moving next year, he still wants to try and make it back home to participate, he said.

“We’re out here cleaning for hours, but it feels good.”

Pictured above: More than 1,200 volunteers gathered at the Covelli Centre for the 22nd annual United Way Day of Caring.

Copyright 2019 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.