York City councilwoman and community activist Joanne Borders believed in the power of working together and wasn't shy about taking on the role of enforcer.

Her weapon of choice was the phone. She'd repeatedly call city officials, community partners, donors and volunteers to make sure enthusiasm for a specific project wasn't dwindling.

That included York City's gates project.

As of Friday, 290 locking wrought-iron gates have been installed in breezeway entrances in various neighborhoods, most recently in the 200 block of Liberty Court, according to Delaine Toerper of the Salem Square Neighborhood Association.

Borders' persistence was a common refrain Friday morning at a ceremony to thank the project's volunteers.

York County Youth Development Center volunteer Justin Franklin paints an iron breezeway gate installed at a Liberty Court home on Friday.
York County Youth Development Center volunteer Justin Franklin paints an iron breezeway gate installed at a Liberty Court home on Friday. (Bill Kalina)

The ceremony had a second purpose as well -- to honor Borders, 67, who died in September after a long battle with cancer.

She was a strong supporter of the gates project and was instrumental in widening the project's scope to include the 200 block of Liberty Court in the city's south end.

"You can see the difference," Borders told The York Dispatch two years ago. "You can see how crime has declined -- and it has declined a lot."

'Tireless': York Mayor Kim Bracey spoke about her friend at Friday's ceremony.

Borders knew affecting change was difficult as an individual, "but that mountains could be moved if we worked together," according to Bracey, who said Borders "worked tirelessly" to improve the community.

"Her spirit of dedication lives on," Bracey said.

One of the final gates erected was at the home of Carolyn Beard of the 200 block of Liberty Court. On that gate is a plaque honoring Borders for her work on the gates project.

Beard, 72, was friends with Borders and is proud to have the memorial gate on her property.

"It is indeed a great honor," Beard said. "I well up with tears when I think of her. ... She was a beautiful, beautiful, person."

Reduced crime: York City Police Chief Wes Kahley told the crowd that in the area of the west end where gates were first installed, crime has fallen 22 percent.

It's made the area safer for neighbors, he said.

"We have to give them a sense of security," the chief said. "We have to give them a sense of hope."

But Kahley said the big story was how such a large group of individuals, groups and businesses came together years ago and then stayed together, making gates and installing them in all kinds of weather.

"I'll never forget the volunteerism ... and the sense of community I saw coming out of this (project)," he said. "But there's a lot of work left to be done. That's not the end of the story."

Project ongoing: Kahley, Toerper, Bracey and others said more breezeway gates are needed.

Several areas are being considered, the chief said, including the northeast end, including Walnut and Chestnut streets.

But first, funding must be secured, he said.

"We were blessed in the west end," Kahley said, because neighborhood businesses provided funding for the project, as did several community groups. Now they're looking for funding partners in other areas of the city, he said.

The gates don't merely block access to hiding places for guns and drugs, Kahley said. They also block escape routes, making the area less attractive for the criminal element.

The locking gates have stopped or lessened all kinds of crimes, he said, including drug dealing, prostitution, burglaries, gambling and public urination.

Slow start: Toerper said gates have been installed in breezeways in an area bounded by West Market Street and West College Avenue and by Belvidere Avenue south to Penn Street. Thirteen gates were installed Friday morning on Liberty Court, she said.

Initially, the project had a slow start because some homeowners and landlords weren't interested, according to Toerper.

"But once people saw the advantages, they started calling and saying, 'I want a gate,'" she said.

Leah Spangler, service coordinator for the York Builders Association, was beaming Friday at being part of a group that is fighting back against crime and empowering neighbors to stand together.

"It's my favorite thing in the whole world," she said.

"A lot of people stepped forward ... and we made this happen," Carolyn Steinhauser of the Women's Giving Circle said to the volunteers. "Let's keep going, now that we know it's working."

The background: The gates project was launched when the Women's Giving Circle approached Kahley and offered to fund an initiative to improve the city, he has said.

Partners in the project include the York Builders Association, Kinsley Construction, the York County Community Foundation, York Habitat for Humanity, Salem Square Neighborhood Association, Dentsply and the York County Youth Development Center.

Volunteers who stayed with the project over the long term include Barry Strine of Strine's Heating & Air Conditioning in Springettsbury Township; Steve Snyder, fabrication shop foreman with Kinsley Construction; 76-year-old Karl van Dyk, a retired remodeler who's been active in the York Builders Association for years; and Gary Jones of Habitat for Humanity.

The iron was bought at cost, then Snyder and other Kinsley workers designed and fabricated the gates for free.

-- Staff writer Liz Evans Scolforo can also be reached at levans@yorkdispatch.com.