Streetscape, BBB Events Draw Volunteers Downtown

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -- Sunny skies, temperatures in the 70s drew larger crowds to the downtown Saturday, the second unofficial weekend of summer, for 17th annual Streetscape and ninth annual Secure Your ID Day.

When Streetscape began at 8 a.m., the cleanup and beautification effort had some 670 volunteers of all ages on hand to work in the downtown Wick Park, Handel's Park and Smokey Hollow, said Sharon Letson, CityScape executive director. CityScape oversees Streetscape.

The volunteers did a little bit of everything. “Planting, mulching, weeding, sweeping, picking up litter,” Letson said. “City guys are washing out the garbage cans. You name it, we're doing it.”

Twelve-year-old Dion Johnson has participated the last three years. On Saturday morning he was adding fill to some of the 150 planters that line the streets with cannas, tropical flowers that must be replanted every year.

“I want to help in the community,” he said. “Just getting out to meet people -- that's pretty fun.”

At the other end of the service spectrum is Pete Asimakopoulos, who has been coming to Streetscape since it began in 1997 and serves as president of CityScape.

“It's not only to help the organization, it's to help the community. I work downtown [as regional president of First National Bank of Pennsylvania]. Youngstown has always been a big part of my career and my personal life. It's all rolled into one to come down and help out,” he said.

What has kept him coming back is the people who get involved in the effort and that it's an opportunity for everyone to help the city put on its best face.

“Whether it's helping pass out food or actually planting the flowers or cleaning up, everybody has a role. And with 600 people, it really does make it easier,” Asimakopoulos said. “You don't have to kill yourself. You can come downtown, have some fun, meet some great people, have some fellowship and beautify our city.”

An hour after Streetscape began, the Better Business Bureau hosted its “Secure Your ID Day” in the parking lot of the Covelli Centre where people could bring their personal documents to be shredded.

“The No. 1 rule of thumb is, 'If you don't need it, shred it,' ” said Carol Potter, CEO of the BBB chapter that serves Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull counties.

The improper or careless disposal of documents bearing a Social Security number, such as bank and credit card statements, is the leading cause of identity theft, she noted.

Two shredding trucks were parked outside Covelli Centre, one used to shred documents that people dropped off, the other for people who wanted to witness the destruction of their documents.

“People are grateful. It's instant gratification, Potter said. “They feel relieved that their documents have been shredded.”

Just 50 minutes into the event, volunteers, including YSU student-athletes, had unloaded boxes of documents from 230 cars. Last year, Potter said, there were about 280 cars that drove through. She estimated that the BBB would shred between eight and nine tons of paper.

With the better-than-expected turnout, Potter said the bureau is considering whether to expand the Secure Your ID to Trumbull County this fall.

Pictured: Pearlett Wigley and Kay Milesa plant flowers in a planter at downtown's Central Square intersection.

Copyright 2014 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.
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