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Testimonials and Stories

"We have lived in the city on same street and same house for the past 47 years, enjoying being close to the university, museums, cultural activities and other amenities that an urban area offers.

We have also observed the changes. Most of the changes occurred with the transfer of housing to out-of-town buyers. Absentee owners may have had good initial intentions, but over time as the property remained vacant, vandals stripped the homes leaving an unsightly mess for the community.

Fortunately there are caring neighbors along with city workers who mow the lawns, thus offering pleasing improvements. Moreover, it was exciting to see that the city removed two unsightly properties this past year.

In addition, there are many volunteers in the community who care about the city by offering their time and talent by participating in United Way’s 2014 Day of Caring, teaming up with YNDC and Green Youngstown.

More than 600 volunteers from 52 businesses and organizations participated recently. Our street was one of the streets they transformed. It was exciting to see the magic of the changes. Vacant houses were boarded with attractive art designs that camouflaged the vacancy. Shrubs were trimmed, lawns were mowed and debris was removed. It was a transformation of the neighborhood and a very positive experience for the volunteers, but mostly for the neighborhood. Thank you for your Day of Caring."

-Don and Deb Mathews, Youngstown Residents

"I would like to thank everyone involved in the clean up and restoration project on the street of Norwood Avenue in Youngstown, Ohio approximately two weeks ago. I have been a resident of this street since I was nine years old, almost thirty years, and this is the first time an event such as this has taken place here. Everything looks great. At night, I'm not as afraid as I was getting out of my car and going into my house. Abandoned houses are now boarded up properly and in such a way that would invite and encourage prospective buyers. Trash, out grown tree branches, over grown grass, collapsed garages and debris have been property cut, removed, and disposed of. It was beautiful to see how many people helped and volunteered to accomplish this massive project. I just want to thank everyone involved. I know we on Norwood Avenue GRACIOUSLY thank you all for your diligence, time, and dedication. I promise to maintain the abandoned property near my home until it is bought or maintained by another responsible party. Again, thank you all so much! MAY GOD BLESS YOU ALL!!!"

-Charlene Lambert, Norwood Avenue Resident, commenting on the United Way Day of Caring REVITALIZE project

"YNDC, in a short time, has evolved into a new community development prototype that many other cities can learn from and adapt."

-Joseph Schilling, Director, Metropolitan Institute Sustainable Communities Initiative, Virginia Tech University, Senior Advisor, Center for Community Progress

"As I leave the office of Mayor of the City of Youngstown, I wanted to thank the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation for its excellent work in our neighborhoods. Over the course of my administration YNDC’s institutional knowledge, capacity, and trusted advice on matters related to neighborhood revitalization has been instrumental to our city. The city's investment in YNDC has been leveraged many times over, and most importantly, YNDC has delivered more impact by a non-profit organization than I have seen in my 30 years in government.

YNDC developed a highly talented staff, and has demonstrated an ability to get things done. YNDC has become a strong intermediary, and you have helped align the efforts, resources and impact of city departments, such as demolition, code enforcement and community development and planning. As a result we are starting to witness progress that can be seen and felt throughout our neighborhoods, including stabilization of the housing stock, vacant land and physical conditions in the neighborhoods.

As YNDC continues to grow, it is my hope that we can strengthen our partnership with you, and increase YNDC's impact, including economic development in our neighborhoods, neighborhood parks, commercial corridors and many other improvements needed in our city. Keep up the great work, and I wish you and your team continued success in the years to come!"

-Charles P. Sammarone, Former Mayor, City of Youngstown

"Thank you and your staff for the great work you are doing for the City of Youngstown and the entire region. Your work and dedication impacts areas beyond city boundaries and the integrity and work ethic of your staff is inspiring and appreciated."

-Julie M. Green, Trumbull County Planning Commission

"It is quite remarkable to see what you have accomplished in just a few years - I can only imagine your impact going forward. You have a great team and so much to be proud of. All of us at PNC are proud to be a partner."

-Joan L. Gulley, Chief Human Resources Officer, PNC Financial Services Group

"We’ve always dreamt of owning the perfect home, without necessarily having to relocate out of the area. YNDC has helped turn our dream into a reality by providing the means necessary to assist us in the purchase of a beautiful home inside the community. We are so truly grateful! Thank God and thanks to YNDC! From the bottom of our hearts!"

-Rodney and Kizzy Duke, New Crandall Park Homeowners through the Community Loan Fund

"I was in the process of purchasing the lot next to my house with Lien Forward Ohio, but they would not sell the lot to me without my house being painted. They told me that Paint Youngstown was giving away free paint at Parkview Avenue, so I showed up. I was able to paint my house with the help of friends and family. Now my house looks a lot nicer. I am so grateful because now I will be able to buy the lot next to my house so that my kids will have space to play."

-Michelle Ortiz, Recycled Paint Recipient

"I would like to take this opportunity to commend you, Ian, Liberty, and other YNDC staff for the excellent work being done under your visionary leadership. I had an opportunity to see the restored neighborhood in Yongstown on Wednesday (9/19/2012). I am very impressed with your innovative approach to establishing urban agriculture in abandoned neighborhoods. The restored landscape is economically, environmentally, and aesthetically improved. You and your staff are to be commended for an excellent program."

-Rattan Lal, Distinguished University Professor of Soil Science at The Ohio State University, Director of the Carbon Management Sequestration Center, and Former President of Soil Science Society of America

"I wanted to thank all of you for taking time out of your busy schedules last week to meet with Mr. Goldberg and myself. The knowledge and experiences you shared will be very helpful as the City of Lorain tries to implement similar strategies. The most important item for me is the reality of how well the plan, as well as sticking to the plan, worked. Typically in city government, plans cave to cater to most areas; however, the ability to stick to the targeted plan is showing successes."

-Derek Feuerstein, Chief of Staff, City of Lorain, Ohio

"Thank you so very much for the repair and beautification of my home. It looks magnificent! I am so proud to pull into my driveway now. I feel reassured that my children and guests will be safe as they access the front and side steps that were repaired and the paint makes the house look more vibrant. Again, thank you and your organization for all you are doing to revitalize the Idora Park Neighborhood and making the residents feel proud to call it home again.

-LaTasha L. Johnson, Idora Resident, commenting on Paint Youngstown repairs to her home

"On behalf of everyone here at Eastern Gateway Community College, I want to congratulate the YNDC on the positive results the organization has already achieved. We are excited that so many area professionals and businesses have stepped forward to help in the reinvestment of Youngstown's neighborhoods. This proves that hope is never lost, and that a community can come together for the sake of making the world a little bit better. How wonderful!"

-Laura Meeks, Ph.D., President, Eastern Gateway Community College

"YNDC has been more than helpful to all of us Youngstown residents. Their class act examples rub off on people. YNDC is changing Youngstown into a great place. I can feel the 'old' youngstown making a comeback, and I'm fortunate to be a part of that. Cleaning up Youngstown is no easy task, but YNDC and Youngstown residents have made it possible. I also would like to acknowledge the sources of private funding and donations, because without their support it would be very hard to make a difference. Thank you all and I'm proud to say that I am a brand new Idora resident because of YNDC! We can all make Youngstown a better place. I plan on putting in the effort and doing my share!"

-Kenny Wilson, New Idora Homeowner

"In the past eighteen months, the YNDC has led one of the most extensive and successful neighborhood revitalization efforts in the city’s recent history and its work has been nothing short of “transformative”.  They have become a tremendous resource and partner to city government, philanthropy, businesses, and grassroots organizations. 

Since its inception, YNDC has had a tremendous impact on Youngstown’s neighborhoods.  They have consistently demonstrated “on-the-ground knowledge” of how to direct investments to areas that can become vital and healthy neighborhoods, making sure that those investments are made in ways that strengthen the vitality and the market strength of our city.

YNDC has become the single most powerful influence in transforming our neighborhoods into quality places and improving of the quality of life for our residents.  I also believe there will be an accelerated pace of public and private partnerships as a result of YNDC’s innovative collaboration, planning and investment."

- Jay Williams, Former Mayor, City of Youngstown

"I am writing to extend the sincere thanks of the Diocese for the exemplary work done by YNDC in assisting the Diocese with 'Project Grow.' It was an absolute pleasure to work with you, and we believe that our combined efforts have done a lot of good in the neighborhood we worked in. We considered 'Project Grow'" to be a great success, and it simply would not have been possible without your help. The staff at YNDC was courteous, professional, and just a joy to work with in every way. From materials and tools for the project, to the outstanding perspective and expertise that your staff provided, every part of our collaboration was an absolute joy. 

-Father Edward Brienz, Director, Propogation of the Faith and Missions Office, Catholic Diocese of Youngstown

We are excited about the good work we have begun, but understand that much work lies ahead of us. We look forward to working with you and continuing that work. Again please accept our heartfelt thanks, and congratulations on a job well done."On behalf of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the White House, and our eleven partner agencies, I want to sincerely thank you for your agency’s participation in our opportunity assessment of the City of Youngstown.  Your insight into the city’s strengths and challenges, the Youngstown 2010 planning process, and the community development process was invaluable.  Thank you also for leading our group through a tour of Youngstown’s neighborhoods. The Idora neighborhood story is truly inspiring.

I think I speak for my entire assessment team by expressing my admiration to your team’s dedication to rebuilding the city’s neighborhoods.  We look forward to hearing more about your work in the years to come."

-Erika Poethig, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research, US Department of Housing and Urban Development

"I was in Ohio for a few short days over Thanksgiving to see my 90 year old mom and had a chance to drive through Youngstown and the Idora Neighborhood. I'm so impressed with what you've accomplished in one short year!  Kudos for the great strides you've made. I also had a chance to read the Executive Summary for YDNC's 2011-2013 Strategic Plan. Also excellent. If other cities were as good at planning execution as you are, we'd have vibrant urban centers everywhere. Congratulations, and keep up the great work! "

-Meredith McKenzie, JD Urban & Regional Planning Department, California State Polytechnic University/Pomona

In the Idora gardens, we grow food and we develop relationships where none existed before.  Bike-riding US Army veterans and spare-time car mechanics alike share tragic stories of their past and laugh in the present as we strategize against the lettuce-loving neighborhood gopher who pilfers relentlessly without regard to the size of his belly.  For some of us, growing our own food is a wholly new pursuit, while for others, a place to plant has been the only impediment to enjoying healthy food.  The latter serve as great sources of knowledge, and we rookies secretly hope they will be present each time we arrive to weed, water and harvest.  
Often it takes time for trust to build among residents in our community, a place which has known continued decline for the better part of 30 years.  In contrast, members of this gardening crew, from day one, put their hands in the dirt and begin asking questions of each other, such as "How deep?", "Is this right?" and "Should I water it now?"  Whoever knows graciously demonstrates answers.  Within a few months, we all more or less become farmers, and as the questions evolve toward preparation of harvested vegetables, some of the rookies transition to resident experts.  Again we all learn and again we laugh as we now share failed recipe nightmares. 
As the season draws to a close, we lament the losses to tomato blight and hungry caterpillars.  But the following breath carries far more optimism for the next year:  "We'll plant earlier. The soil will be better seasoned. We'll water less, and we'll try planting new things."
Thanks to the gardens, we have eaten better this year than last, and we have certainly learned new skills.  We now have friends where we only saw people who lived on our same streets.  We have secret hopes that more will join us next year.

-Kevin Handel, Idora resident - Commenting on the neighborhood community gardens

 "It was refreshing to see something so positive in an area where there has been so much negative. The gardens have replaced vacant homes where we have done numerous drug raids. The open spaces are a great improvement over the vacant buildings that criminals used to hide in."

-Officer Mike Lambert, YPD - Referring to the Brentwood Ave. garden

"I have been a resident of the Idora Neighborhood for over 60 years, and the neighborhood is starting to feel like it did in its glory days once again.  I haven't felt this safe or this proud of my neighborhood in some time."

- Mrs. Esposito, long time Idora resident