While residents of the Mahoning Valley head outdoors to enjoy the summer months, they might find it reassuring to know that groups are keeping an eye on their neighborhoods with safety, preservation and beautification in mind.
Rhonda Bennet, president of the Southwest Warren Neighborhood Association, said the group formed in 2002 in the basement of New Freedom Baptist Church. The group's focus is keeping the southwest side of Warren safe.
"Our pastor, Robert Stringer, wanted us to get involved in a civic community group," Bennet said. "He felt it was our duty to get involved as a church and as a community.
Members of the Austin-Starlite Neighborhood Association participate in a cleanup along Lovers Lane in Warren.
"Right now, we are discussing safety issues, and that's why we are forming the block watch, and we are enforcing curfew hours," Bennet said. "We want to make sure our area is safe for our youth and seniors. We also want to encourage new businesses coming into our area."
The Austin-Starlite Neighborhood Association in Warren also began with safety in mind.
"We wanted to help promote community awareness, crime prevention, safety and neighborhood connection," said Todd Johnson, president of the group.
The Southwest Warren Neighborhood Association meets every month at New Freedom Missionary Baptist Church, 1590 Tod Ave., Warren.
The Austin-Starlite Neighborhood Association meets on the first Thursday of every month at the New Creation Bible Fellowship, 2955 Caleb Road, Warren.
Community Concerned Citizens II meets at the Trinity Bruda Community Center, 235 Highland, Warren.
The Garden District Neighborhood Association meets at 6:30 p.m. the third Tuesday of the month at the DD and Velma Davis Education and Visitor Center at Fellow's Riverside Gardens, 123 McKinley Ave., Youngstown.
The Historic Perkins Homestead Neighborhood Association meets at 6:30 p.m. the second Tuesday of each month at the American Red Cross, 661 Mahoning Ave. N.W., Warren.
Johnson said the Austin-Starlite Neighborhood Association has done neighborhood cleanups in the area, including a cleanup on Lovers Lane earlier this year. The association also keeps the area clean by mowing the lawns of vacant properties.
"We have a historically good developed neighborhood of working people," Johnson said. "We don't want it to turn into blighted properties. Our goal is to increase community awareness and prevent crime by working with our councilman and our police department."
Bennet said the SWNA also has started several programs to help residents.
"We have a neighbor-to-neighbor watch for seniors," she said. "We are appointing volunteers to be block captains. If a neighbor sees something going on, then they should report it to the block captain, and the block captain reports it to the police. This encourages people to be proactive in our community."
The group is also working to reopen the Southwest Park.
Another group looking to improve a Warren park is Community Concerned Citizens II.
"Our main project right now involves an agreement with Warren to clean Quinby Park," said Michael McGhee, the group's president. "We are trying to restore the old clubhouse, which is a historical building. The other main project we are involved in is managing the Victory Gardens on York Avenue, where the old Horace Mann School was located."
The group always makes an effort to make sure their community is safe.
"On the safety part, a couple of members of our group sit on the Weed & Seed committee," McGhee said, referring to the anti-crime initiative. "Some of us sit on the safety committee and some of us are part of the neighborhood restoration committee. We go up and board abandoned houses, and we do neighborhood cleanups."
Johnson said that the Austin-Starlite group also is focused on safety.
"Outside of meetings, we have people who keep their eyes and ears open to what is going and they inform us of incidents and write down addresses of abandoned houses," he said. "Our association encourages our community to be more informed as they drive up and down the street."
Nola Yovich, president of the Historic Perkins Homestead Neighborhood Association in Warren, said the group's focus is historic preservation and improving the quality of life for citizens in the area.
"Safety concerns weren't the reason we formed, but they were the reason people came to our meetings," Yovich said. "It turns out that this was the dominant issue that people in our boundaries were facing."
Though safety is a frequent topic of discussion, group members also take part in cleanups and beautification projects.
"Some of our events and projects include a cleanup during the spring and fall, a neighborhood picnic and a Christmas Eve luminary lighting on Mahoning Avenue and Washington Street," Yovich said. "We received funding from the Raymond John Wean Foundation for the revitalization of the rose garden at Warren's City Hall."
The Garden District Neighborhood Association in Youngstown does everything they can to improve the quality of life within their boundaries, whether it's improving safety or beautification.
"We formed the association four years ago," said Jerry O'Hara, president of the association. "We formed the association because of safety concerns, and concerns within our neighborhood. We do community cleanups and anything to improve the area surrounding the Fellows Riverside Gardens."
O'Hara said the association has done numerous beautification projects for the area. These include putting up Garden District signs and flower vases along Mahoning Avenue.
"With our first grant with the Raymond John Wean Foundation, we planted trees along the devil's strips throughout our boundaries," O'Hara said. "It's a collaborative effort. A lot of people are involved who make our association work."
Helen Hill, vice president and treasurer of the Austin-Starlite Neighborhood Association, is proud to be involved in her neighborhood group.
"Our neighborhood association is the bridge that provides that community connection where we work collectively to enhance residential quality of life," she said. "We enhance residential quality of life through safety, beautification and education. We are collectively protecting the largest investment, which is homes in our neighborhood."