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Mahoning commissioners deliver ARP funds to agencies for home repairs, summer camp for people with disabilities

“When kids go to Camp Fitch, a lot of these special-needs individuals are left at home," said Jimmy Sutman, operator of The Purple Cat, which is developing a handicapped-accessible summer camp in Coitsville. "They really feel like they’re alone in the world. There’s not a lot of people like them.”
Mahoning County Courthouse 03072020
(Photo by William D. Lewis | Mahoning Matters)

YOUNGSTOWN — The $750,000 in American Rescue Plan funding Mahoning County commissioners allocated Thursday will go toward helping county residents with emergency home repairs, as well as the development of a fully handicapped-accessible summer camp in Coitsville.

Commissioners on Thursday allocated $500,000 from the county’s expected $44 million in ARP COVID-19 relief funding to Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation, which will use the money to help low- to moderate-income homeowners in Mahoning County with emergency home repairs — things like a “severely deteriorated and actively leaking roof,” furnaces or significant plumbing issues, said Executive Director Ian Beniston.

“We do a significant volume. We have seen, since the pandemic began, even greater call volume,” he told Mahoning Matters on Thursday. “The office manager was just telling me today that we have 36 emergency repair calls today.”

Beniston thinks some homeowners may have pushed off repairs amid the pandemic — possibly due to lost income — or perhaps the fact that people were spending more time at home may have caused utilities to fail sooner than expected.

Last year, YNDC spent more than $1.8 million on emergency repairs at more than 300 occupied homes — mostly in Youngstown — repairs including 123 roofs, according to its annual report for 2020.

The new ARP allocation is “certainly significant,” Beniston said.

“We’re definitely grateful to the county commissioners and Mahoning County for the support and ARP award, and look forward to helping more homeowners with critical repairs,” he said.

Commissioners on Thursday also awarded $250,000 to the nonprofit Golden String Inc., which provides recreational activities for adults and children with special needs.

Owner Jimmy Sutman, who also operates the vocational day program The Purple Cat at Farmer Casey’s Ranch in Coitsville, said the allocation will help realize his plan for a fully handicapped-accessible summer camp on the Coitsville property, which would cater to the developmentally disabled and wheelchair users, but also be open to all.

“We are blessed. We feel like we hit the lottery,” Sutman told commissioners Thursday. “When kids go to Camp Fitch, a lot of these special-needs individuals are left at home.

“We have a lot of folks who are not developmentally disabled but just physically disabled, and they really feel like they’re alone in the world. There’s not a lot of people like them.”

Though ARP funds have varying restrictions on their use, such a proposed facility could be considered acceptable as a means to grow tourism in the region, Sutman said.

The goal is to have a lodge, 15 cabins, a pool and a campground — all accessible by wheelchair, he said. Utilities installation is currently underway, he said. The nonprofit has already installed wheelchair pads and bridges on the property.

“I think it will be a crown jewel of the county,” he said.

Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti said Thursday the project is “very much needed,” and that facilities specifically designed for the county’s developmentally or physically disabled populations are something that’s been overlooked for “so many years.”

“For all of us that are healthy, mentally and physically, sometimes we don’t look at the other end of the spectrum,” she said.

Commissioners' ARP allocations have totaled $1.2 million, including:

  • $600,000 for United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley;
  • $300,000 for Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley;
  • $175,000 for Flying High Inc., for a new kitchen program operating out of the Mahoning Valley Campus of Care in Mineral Ridge;
  • $110,000 for Oak Hill Collaborative, for computer literacy programs;
  • $6,000 for Economic Action Group of Youngstown, which provided college interns to help county workers address a COVID-related work backlog, while gaining administrative experience.

Justin Dennis

About the Author: Justin Dennis

Justin Dennis has been on the beat since 2011, covering crime, courts and public education. Dennis grew up in Poland and Salem and studied journalism and communications at Cleveland State University and University of Pittsburgh.
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