Tuesday morning dawned sunny and hot, and Adrian Daniels could have been at the swimming pool or inside doing almost anything else.

But the 17-year-old Farrell teen decided he would rather be cleaning up the streets with more than 100 other young people, including his Steelers football teammates.

“It means a lot to clean up the community,” Adrian said. “And help out with bettering the community.” 

Adrian sees himself as a model, or mentor, for younger players on Farrell’s football team.

“I see some (blighted houses) around where I live and I don’t really like seeing them,” he said.

Sharon football player Marcel Smith-Austin said he also feels fulfilled when he gives back to his community while working with his Tigers teammates.

“Everybody has to participate in it,” Marcel said. “We just work as a team. We’ve been playing with each other for years now, so that’s just a thing.”

Marcel thinks the dilapidated buildings are an eyesore.

“There’s so many nice houses around here and they just abandon them,” he said, shaking his head.

The two football teams were part of a group mobilized by Sharon resident and business owner Geno Rossi.

He organized the effort, which brought together varsity football players from Sharon and Farrell and students from the Shenango Valley’s Children’s Opportunities for Outside Learning (C.O.O.L.) program to clean up parts of the the cities that border each other.

“Philosophically, we talk about it all the time,” Rossi said. “This is actually making it happen.”

The clean up came in response to a call from Melissa Phillips, Sharon’s community economic development director, asking volunteers to set up beautification efforts, and for neighbors to help neighbors.

Rossi, 40, started last year by volunteering to help cut lawns. In addition to running his business, Our Gang’s at 93 N. Sharpsville Ave., full time he is a member of the Sharon Community Economic Development Commission, the Sharon Recreation Board and the Neighborhood Revitalization Committee.

He was born and raised in Sharon, and graduated in 1997 from Sharon High School.

“This first started with a community economic development commission meeting where we were trying to think outside the box and get people engaged in cleaning up blight,” Rossi said. “This cleanup with the kids is my vision about doing something about it.”

Rossi said he could not wait to get hands-on with the revitalization. More importantly, he anticipated getting young people involved and invested in their neighborhoods.

“The problems in Sharon aren’t going away,” Rossi said. “There is Sharon pride. However, it’s not the same kind of pride. Kids need to be re-educated. It needs to be what they make it.”

Rossi said he approached Sharon coach Jason McElhinney and Farrell coach Anthony Pugliese,and both got on board “immediately,” with the clean up idea. Rossi then met with Leslie Flanders, director of the C.O.O.L. program, and she “did not hesitate” to volunteer the program’s Sharon and Farrell students, who range in age from 8 to 18, workers and herself to help with the clean-up.

“If we’re ever going to make a change in the community and neighborhoods, it starts with the kids and them understanding the impact they can make themselves,” said Dave Tomko Sr., Sharon City code director and director of the street department. “Bringing the communities together, working shoulder to shoulder, side-by-side – it’s the way life should be.”

The group of about 130 people split up into two teams and covered about nine blocks each. Then, the children were treated to lunch at Our Gang’s.

Rossi said he would not stop with Tuesday’s cleanup. He plans on making a presentation to teachers in Sharon schools outlining everything his group has done to help revitalize his city.

“We’ve opened it up to reach out to programs in the schools to get them more involved in community volunteerism and events,” Rossi said. “Hopefully that keeps snowballing.”

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