DIANE MAKAR MURPHY Heigh-hoe: It's off to Streetscape volunteers go

Grab your rake, roll up your sleeves and join Streetscape 2001. It's time for the flowers to bloom on Federal Plaza.
Started in 1998, the Streetscape project is an effort manned entirely by volunteers -- from its chairman and board of directors to its gardeners and grunts.
Streetscape 2001 has four goals:
U To plant the flower beds and pots along Federal Plaza.
U To plant in the area of the historic monument where Market Street becomes Wick Avenue.
U To continue with "The Garden Bunker" renovation at Boardman and Champion streets.
U To work on the stairway that connects Wood Street to Commerce Street.
The overall objective is to landscape downtown Youngstown by trimming, cleaning, planting and mulching. But the goals have more to them than flowers, shrubs and trees.
Said Scott Schulick, volunteer chairman of the Visual Improvements Committee that spearheads Streetscape, "It's not just the 'pretty flowers.' We feel a good visual appearance has an impact on how people feel about their city. We are proud of our city. This is what drives us."
Money, time donations: Last year, more than 50 businesses, individuals, and organizations donated money and volunteer hours to Streetscape 2000. Almost $20,000 was raised, and 150 volunteers got their hands dirty.
"We ask for $500 from most of our corporate sponsors," Schulick said. "Most come in between $100 and $500. This year, we already have two $2,500 donations." Thirty-two groups so far have committed time or volunteers for Streetscape 2001, he said.
"We've had youth groups, corporations, church groups -- it's really an eclectic mix of people," he added.
According to Schulick, basic landscaping costs about $20,000. He laughed and shook his head. "We usually don't get there," he said. "We've gotten $12,000 so far for this year. But we also have a couple of grant requests in."
Last year, the committee continued with "The Garden Bunker," a major renovation project. Hundreds of flowers were planted at Boardman and Champion streets.
"The area was all overgrown with weeds," Schulick said. "We tore it all out the first year. The next year, we tore out the old railroad ties. In the end, it cost $60,000. ... We will put in new benches and signs and trash receptacles this year."
Looking ahead: Other big renovation projects are on the minds of committee members -- if resources become available. Scott said, "We've given a lot of thought to doing something on the entrances to the city."
According to Schulick, the group is a grass-roots operation composed of hard-core volunteers. This may explain why the uncompensated board members are willing to meet once a week this time of year and once a month through the summer, doing everything from soliciting donations to licking stamps and planting bulbs. "It's fun," Schulick insisted. "Most of us are crazy," he said, laughing.
"Well, we work downtown and many of us want a nice working environment. Others care about the inner city. Then there are those who have a talent for gardening," he said.
He said he isn't one of them. "I know nothing about horticulture," he said.
According to Schulick, volunteers need not be experienced, either. Those who call to sign up in advance of the 8 a.m. to noon June 2 planting day will be mailed a list of tools to bring and a brief Gardening 101 instructional.
To volunteer time or money, or to join the board, call the Downtown Revitalization Committee at (330) 727-9896 or visit www.cboss.com/drc.