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First wave of AmeriCorps volunteers arrive to assist with EL cleanup

AmeriCorps team Oak 5 workers were among the volunteers cleaning up around the Broadway Wharf during a recent city cleanup day in East Liverpool. (Photo by Stephanie Ujhelyi)

EAST LIVERPOOL — Pass the calamine lotion. The city’s most recent visitors probably will need it while they tackle their latest adventure along the Ohio River.

Earlier this month, volunteers with the AmeriCorps NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps) team Oak 5 arrived in town to assist for several weeks with the city’s neighborhood stabilization efforts. This includes not only working on landscaping but debris removal throughout East Liverpool’s blighted neighborhoods.

Volunteers, identifiable in their gray T-shirts and khaki shorts, were seen in recent weeks by cleaning up the yards around abandoned and vacant homes, landscaping and removing debris from neighborhoods. Plans also called for them to photograph blighted properties in assigned neighborhoods to compile a database of homes ending to be torn down, rehabilitated or be the sites of future pocket parks and community gardens.

Thanks to a successful application by Better City on behalf of East Liverpool, Team Oak 5 found itself here, Wang explained.

According to AmeriCorps website, it details the project, “which is expected to benefit the city through an increase in property tax revenue and improved (curb) appeal for attracting workforce and major employers. Members will improve construction, tree planting and tool knowledge while serving on this project.” The goal is for volunteers to “gain a greater understanding of blight and the impacts it can have on a community.

East Liverpool’s Americorps team was photographed recently near the Ohio River. They include (front, left) Brianna Millsaps of Athens, Tenn.; team leader Kevin Wang of South Bend, Ind.; Madison Hammock of Jacksonville, Fla.; (back, left) Matt Ellis of Morehead, Ky; Chad Giles, Downington, Pa.; Winter Sacadi of San Jose, Calif. and Peter Dantini of Fairfield County, Conn. (Submitted photo)

Projects typically last six to eight weeks, although shorter periods are sometimes possible. There is no charge for labor, and teams usually provide their own transportation. However, sponsors must provide a place for the team to sleep and shower along with assistance with food needs.

Wang said in East Liverpool, their sponsor is Greg Bricker, the city’s mayor who currently has them housed at The Sturgis House.

Bricker confirms that their lodging was made possible through donated money and a reduced rate at the B&B, adding that they are definitely getting all over the city through his regular contact with them. “They are doing mostly residential properties right now. So far they have done around a dozen on Avondale, Pennsylvania, Ephriam, St. Clair, Riley and Lisbon streets. I just gave them another 15 to tackle,” he explained.

Team Oak 5 will leave East Liverpool for around 12 days in August to travel to New York, where they will assist with the National Veteran Wheelchair Games, and then come back to the city. However, both Wang and Bricker don’t expect that they will be completely done with the task at hand.

“We are applying for another team in the fall,” the mayor explained. “Ideally we would like to get them to clean out (the interior of buildings like the Thompson), but we would need to get Environmental Protection Agency clearance on that before. We will, however, be sticking to housing right now.”

Wang’s participation doesn’t really directly relate to his schooling, but it does help to demonstrate his work ethic as it does with most volunteers.

Despite the scratching, Bricker acknowledges that volunteers appear to be enjoying learning more about East Liverpool. Not only have visited unique haunts like the Hot Dog Shoppe and Museum of Ceramics, city councilman John Mercer even invited them over to his family’s abode for pizza one night.

Wang admits that is less fun to either wear long pants in the scorching heat or potentially catch poison ivy while rocking the shorts as they venture through the high grass and weeds of the assignment.

Mayor Bricker reminds residents that the power of this Potters’ Progress project is community involvement and urges residents to contact his office is you have an abandoned or overgrown property in your neighborhood. His office number is 330-385-3381.

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