Two years ago, the Idora neighborhood on Youngstown’s South Side was overrun with gangs and abandoned houses. The neighborhood’s future was grim.
On Saturday, residents gathered for a pig roast on McFarland Avenue for Idorafest to celebrate the neighborhood’s revitalization. In two years, the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation has demolished 91 houses in the three-by-15-block neighborhood.
“The gangs and drug houses were rubbing off on the neighborhood,” said Steve Avery, a volunteer from the Tabernacle Evangelical Presbyterian Church. “As we’ve cleaned it up, it’s had the same effect. The people that care are showing it.”
Youngstown State University alumnus Jack Daugherty, who worked to clean up the neighborhood as an intern last summer, said he was thrilled to see the success of the second annual block party.
“There was a lot of blighted property and abandoned houses,” Daugherty said. “That’s all changed now. There’s a whole new outlook on things in this neighborhood.”
Jim London, president of the Idora Neighborhood Association, said he’s glad people care about the neighborhood again.
“It took a lot of determination and patience to get this neighborhood where it is at today,” London said. “Any neighborhood can go and do what we’ve done here.”
On Mineral Springs Avenue, on the other side of the Idora neighborhood, a group of roughly a dozen people gathered to learn about tree and shrub upkeep and garden care.
The YNDC hopes to establish community gardens on the empty lots where vacant houses once stood.
“We’d like to make the vacant land useful instead of letting it sit and rot,” said Nick Celio, a coordinator for YNDC.
YSU graduate Lori Shelby is hoping to turn her internship with YNDC into a career.
Shelby worked a part-time job at St. Elizabeth Health Center, but knew it wasn’t right for her. Her interest in urban agriculture and concern for hunger in the community brought her to YNDC.
“I’m ready to get my feet wet and my hands dirty in the community,” Shelby said. “I’ve seen poverty and hunger on my own street, and I’d like to see us turn this around.”