Our Towns

Warren Civic Groups Bring Pride to Revitalization

WARREN, Ohio – Take a quick look around downtown Warren and you’re bound to see the impact of the city’s civic organizations.

The seed money for the Warren Community Amphitheatre was raised by Rotary Club of Warren. The flower baskets and wreaths that hang in front of businesses are funded by The Trumbull 100. The clocktower and bells on the Trumbull County Courthouse will be restored with money raised by Rotary, as well.

“The quality of life in the city would be significantly different if not for these groups,” says Diane Sauer, a longtime member of Rotary and a charter member of Trumbull 100. “Everybody’s busy. Everyone has things to do. But they’re so proud of their efforts and want to make the community they live, work and play in a better place.”

Looking back, Rotary President Andy Bednar points to the organizations that are in the city today because of Warren Rotary, which this year celebrates its centennial.

The organization was instrumental in bringing the Boy Scouts of America and YMCA to the city. It also helped found the institution that is today the Children’s Rehabilitation Center in Howland.

“So much of it is civic pride,” Bednar says. “Things like the [Courthouse Square] fountain, while it improves the environment and appeal, there’s no other real function for it. That, in my mind, falls into civic pride. It’s about caring about your community and what it looks like.”

And these groups continue to play a role in Warren’s ongoing revitalization. Trumbull 100 is a member of Cleveland-based Fund for Our Economic Future.

“There are so many pieces to revitalization. Civic organizations are a very important part of growing our community,” says attorney Ned Gold. “That organization is a key to bringing in revitalization. They’ve already helped by helping us get companies here. All of these organizations become an integral part of growth.”

Over the years Gold, of Ford, Gold, Kovoor & Simon in Warren, has been involved in Trumbull 100, Rotary, the Veterans Memorial Association, Kent State Trumbull and Boy Scouts of America, among others. Each plays a role in the community and its revitalization.

“Take scouting, for example. Kids are made aware of their community and citizenship. It helps keep them here. We’re losing too many of our young people,” he says. “These organizations can help with that, and that’s important for future growth. They’re part of the building blocks for a vital community, a revitalized community.”

In a city that’s faced its share of challenges over the decades, the civic organizations that have stepped up to deal with those challenges have been invaluable, says Mayor Doug Franklin.

“Government can’t do it all. The business community and these civic organizations have recognized that fact,” he says. “With the help of civic organizations – Rotary and the neighborhood associations, in particular – we’ve revived that sense of community. It’s been fruitful and it hits all corners of the city.”

Among the more recent efforts Franklin has been involved in is the Fund for Warren’s Future.

The fund, a collaboration involving the city and businessmen Sam Covelli of Covelli Entreprises and John Payiavlas of AVI Foodsystems, is focused on economic development.

So far, the fund has made one award since it was established last autumn, to the Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership in support of promotional materials for business development along Youngstown Road.

“Economic development means different things to different people. Viewed broadly, it can mean almost anything,” says retired businessman Dennis Blank, who ran against Franklin for mayor in 2015. “The more people who are involved, the more they can add. They bring different perspectives. … Having business people and government people together increases the chance you make a good decision.”

The uniting factor behind all involved in the Fund for Warren’s Future is pride in the city, Blank says.

“Without it, nothing gets done. If you don’t have pride in your community, why would you do anything? Why bother?” Blank asks. “This town has been through a pretty rough patch the past 40 years, but I think it says a lot about the community that the people haven’t given up.”

Looking at the history of the Warren Rotary, Bednar notes that at one point, its membership was exclusively wealthy males. Today, that’s not the case. People from all sectors are playing a role.

“Everyone is working leaner and the people who are highest ranking don’t have the time to devote,” he says. “We’re appreciative that they see value in our club and send others from their organization. We need people who are doers and providers, people who are willing to roll their sleeves up.”

Pictured: Warren Mayor Doug Franklin says civic organizations have helped to revive “that sense of community.”

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.