Delaine Toerper, with the York County Bar Association’s Liberty Bell Award.
Delaine Toerper, with the York County Bar Association's Liberty Bell Award. (Photo Bill Schintz Studio)

For years, the breezeways of West Princess Street in York City were major hangouts for drug dealers and users.

But now, many of them are blocked.

Thanks to the Salem Square Neighborhood Association and York City's gates project, 300 wrought-iron gates and locks were installed in the breezeways in the 400 to 700 blocks of West Princess Street.

The project was estimated to cost $350,000, but ultimately cost less than $100,000 because of the volunteers and organizations that gave their time, efforts and money to the cause.

That's why the York County Bar Foundation presented association board member Delaine Toerper with the prestigious Liberty Bell Award at its annual Law Day luncheon at the Yorktowne Hotel.

The award: The award, given by the Bar since 1976, honors a non-attorney volunteer from York who encourages others to respect the legal system and helps improve the American system of freedom.

Last year's award recipient, Robert Woods, executive director of the United Way of York County, presented Toerper with the award.

She accepted the honor on behalf of the association and everyone involved with the gates initiative.

The project started as a simple pursuit of safety, with volunteers installing 26 gates and improving lighting for a small group of residents, she said.

You could see the relief on their faces once the project was done, Toerper said.

"They felt safer," she said.


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And lots is happening to improve the neighborhood, she said.

Organizations are in the process of a $500,000 project that will refurbish a former bar at 596 W. Princess Street, Toerper said, and the Katallasso Family Health Clinic at 38 S. Belvidere Ave. opened last year. The clinic offers health care to uninsured and underinsured patients.

'Every vote matters': The Bar welcomed Pedro Cortes as the event's keynote speaker. A lawyer by training, he served as Pennsylvania's Secretary of State from 2003 to 2010.

Cortes explored this year's Law Day theme: American Democracy and the Rule of Law — Why Every Vote Matters.

In his role as secretary in 2008, he flew overseas to meet with troops in the Middle East and speak with them about voting, he said. That's when they told him how difficult it is to send in their absentee ballots by mail, Cortes said.

So he shared their concerns with Congress because democracy is not possible without the vote of the people, he said.

Every vote counts, and even the largest election can be decided by the smallest of margins, Cortes said. For instance, the 1974 Senate election in New Hampshire was decided by just two votes, he said.

"So you see, every vote matters," Cortes said.