New Castle News

May 27, 2013

Making a Difference: North Hill woman encourages neighbors to stand Pat

David Burcham
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — From starting a block watch to throwing a block party, Pat Schwoeble has always believed in her North Hill neighborhood.

But her biggest accomplishment was getting others to believe in it, too.

Pat and her husband, Bill, live in the same house they purchased 30 years ago when they moved to Lawrence County from Pittsburgh. Pat has worked in the business office for Human Services Center for 20 years. Bill is retired.

But much of their time and energy has been devoted to making the North Hill Area a safer place to live.

It hasn’t always been easy.

Drug dealers were renting the house next door to do business.

It was a feeling of rage that ignited the passion in Pat four years ago. While home for lunch, she watched a young woman push a baby stroller up the hill to the house next door. “She got what she came for and then pushed the baby and the stroller back down the hill,” Pat said.

“I was so angry.”

She decided to take a stand. “We copied license numbers at all times of the day,” she said. And they kept police informed about what they saw. She contacted Code Enforcement to ask if the owner had a permit to rent. He didn’t and Code Enforcement was able to get involved.

“People need to be vigilant,” she said. “The stakes are too high.”

She began to recruit neighbors to join her and many did. “Sometimes people just have to do something to help themselves,” she said.

There are 28 families on her block of Winter Avenue and 18 of them are actively involved in the block watch, i.e. calling police, walking the neighborhood and watching out for each other.

“It’s about working together,” she said of the watch program. “If people are afraid and don’t want to get involved, nothing is going to change. But nobody cowered or hid in their houses.

Emergency services recommends that neighbors get to know each other so Pat created a neighborhood directory of names, addresses, children’s names and even names of pets. She passed them out to residents.

“People need to know who lives at each house,” she said. “So if something happens next door, you will have accurate information to help police and fire departments.

“This is not a one-person thing,” she said. “Our neighbors care about each other.”

When a new family moves into the neighborhood, Pat drops off groceries, recipe cards, coupons to restaurants and neighborhood watch info.

The monthly meetings have attracted as many as 45 residents.

Pat arranges for speakers and hosts many of the meetings in her backyard. She prepares and hands out materials that includes names and phone numbers of officials.

“Because of Pat, I’ve learned a lot about how we can improve our neighborhood,” said Helen Martin, who moved into the North Hill area with her husband, Michael, from Shenango Township. “If anybody has any questions or problems, Pat is there to help.”

Helen said some friends were surprised by her decision to move into the city, but she said the experience has been wonderful.

“And it’s because of Pat’s efforts and how she feels about this area.”

“If anybody has any questions or problems, Pat is there is answer and help.”

But Pat said others are responsible for the resurgence of the neighborhood. “Without Anthony and Debbie Latina and John and Peggy Gibbons, none of this would have happened,” she said.

“People don’t know how lucky they are to live in New Castle,” she said. “There is so much here. We’re close to theaters, sports, museums, colleges and hospitals.

“And the cost of living is so low.”

“If people are willing to take responsibility for their own neighborhood, things will get better,” she said.

“You can solve problems by banding together. People need to know that it is possible.”