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Northeast Ohio Updates from the Field – June 2023

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Letter from the Regional Director

OEC Northeast Ohio: June 2023 Updates

Over the last few months, we’ve made significant strides in expanding partnerships and fostering community engagement across the Mahoning Valley and beyond! I am very proud of the work we are doing and the many ways I have been able to connect with you all — especially through projects and events, including those shared below. 

There are a good deal of wonderful things happening, but as always I welcome your input and guidance in our regional work. Send me an email any time you want to discuss what’s happening in your neighborhood, the region, or state as a whole. 

With gratitude, 

Christopher Colón, MPH, LSW
Northeast Ohio Regional Director

Regional Events & Opportunities

Building a Better Table Blueprint Series
July 10, 6-8 PM
YWCA in Youngstown, Ohio.  

Session 3: Who’s Making the Change? Vicki Vicars of Thrive Mahoning Valley will discuss Self-Interest, OEC Northeast Ohio Regional Director Chris Colón will discuss Self Care, and we will hear from a panel of changemakers in the Mahoning Valley on how they navigated systems to effect change. 

Register Here

​​Summer Festival of the Arts
Saturday, July 8, 10AM – 5PM  
Sunday July 9, 1AM – 4PM
Wean Park in Downtown Youngstown, OH  

The 25th annual Summer Festival of the Arts showcases the work of over 70 local, regional, and national artists selling original, hand-crafted pieces such as jewelry, paintings, sketches, sculptures, glass, wood, and textiles. Music, theater, and dance performances are also scheduled at the festival, along with community activities during the weekend. Over 25 arts, nonprofit, and culture groups will be set up on-site to promote their programs and activities.

Earth Day Everyday Discussion: The Municipal Costs of Climate Report
Thursday, July 13, 2023, 5:30 – 7:30 PM
Covelli Center Community Room

Join The Ohio Environmental Council and Citizens Climate Lobby of the Mahoning Valley for an Earth Day Everyday discussion. We will hear from OEC, PCFO, and Scioto Analysis on the projected costs of climate change in Youngstown, as they highlight the groundbreaking report released in July of 2022. 

Register here

Butterfly Festival
Saturday, July 15, 2023
Southside Community Butterfly Garden located on Williamson Rd in Youngstown | 4 PM

Walk amongst butterflies and learn about native pollinators at one of the most exciting neighborhood events of the year. Facebook Event Page

Regional & Partner Updates

Celebrating River Valley Organizing at the OEC Green Gala

OEC’s annual Green Gala provides the opportunity for environmental champions around the state to come together, build our path ahead, and celebrate the accomplishments that bring us hope and inspiration.

This year, the OEC recognized River Valley Organizing with the Community Champion Award. For nearly a decade, River Valley Organizing has empowered the Appalachian Ohio River Valley by organizing residents of communities to positively impact their surroundings and create systemic change. In the wake of the East Palestine train derailment and toxic chemical release, River Valley Organizing immediately got to work in the community — they extensively canvassed, held packed town hall meetings, and connected residents with independent university researchers. They continue to push elected officials for policy change and community-led solutions against corporate greed and government negligence.

Providing Support to Partner Efforts In East Palestine

On Saturday, June 10, OEC participated in the East Palestine Legal Clinic with River Valley Organizing, Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services, Community Legal Aid, and Case Western Reserve Environmental Law Clinic. OEC Associate General Counsel Chris Tavenor and other attorneys met with residents to hear concerns and provide advice at no cost. I also attended to provide support and was welcomed by the community. To find out more about the East Palestine train derailment and opportunities to support the community, please visit:

Continuing to monitor SOBE Thermal

Alongside grassroots partners, the OEC continues to monitor the development related to the projected SOBE Thermal project in Youngstown.  Earlier this year, we joined local residents, activists, and officials in opposition to the proposed future operations of SOBE Thermal. We continue to have dialogue with city leaders and urge transparency and honesty from the developers of the project.

A Beautiful Day of Advocacy on the Mahoning at Riverfest

For the second year in a row, the OEC sponsored Friends of the Mahoning River’s Riverfest event in Youngstown.  I spent the day tabling and talking about environmental policy with all who would listen.  Alongside our partners, we we engaged well over 1000 visitors on a beautiful day. I especially enjoyed visiting with the organizations working to remove industrial-era dams all along the river. Attendees had opportunities to explore the river by kayak or canoe, listen to great music, visit with conservation groups, and much much more. We are already looking forward to next year!

Continuing Collaborative Efforts to Build New Leadership in the Valley

Alongside several local partners, I have had the honor of connecting with many new community members through the ongoing regional leadership development program, Building a Better Table. On June 12, OEC’s Political Director Spencer Dirrig spoke on democracy and the different levels of government as we kicked off the introductory Blueprint series at the YWCA in Youngstown. More information and the registration link for the upcoming session can be found above.

OEC Updates

GET OUT THE VOTE: Vote No on Issue 1 on August 8

Our ability to fight for a healthy environment is directly impacted by Issue 1, which will make it harder for Ohio voters to fight for clean air, land, water, and democracy through future ballot initiatives. 

Issue 1 shreds Ohio’s Constitution, ending majority rule and taking away our right to decide what happens in our state. 

The bottom line is that we all want the freedom to make decisions that affect our lives. Ballot initiatives let us exercise that freedom. We must protect that right by showing up with all of our friends and family to the polls to VOTE NO on Issue 1 in August. 

Pledge to Vote No on Issue 1 and share with your network.

TAKE ACTION: Speak Up for Our National Forests

The U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management recently launched a process with the potential to provide critical protections for mature and old-growth forests. Now until July 20, you can tell these agencies why our public forests deserve to be preserved.