A 90-year-old York City woman, a York Area Regional police officer and a York City firefighter were among the 11 people honored from around the state this week for their long-term efforts to curb crime and make the community a safer place.
Winnona Smith, of South Pershing Avenue, has spent 23 years in York City helping to organize block watch groups, serving as captain of her own neighborhood's block watch, picking up litter and doing other volunteer work, including for Crispus Attucks and the South George Street Community Partnership.
Officer Peter Montgomery serves as York Area Regional's crime-prevention officer and public-information officer. He's so far coordinated and presented more than 50 educational programs for more than 2,500 kids and 300 adults, covering a variety of safety issues.
And York City Assistant Fire Chief Edwin Hamilton has spent more than 3,500 hours at Gettysburg National Military Park, volunteering for the Park Watch Patrol and picking up litter.
On Tuesday they each received a Governor's Crime Prevention Award during a ceremony at the Radisson Hotel in Camp Hill, according to the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. The awards program is in its 30th year.
The nonagenarian planned to retire when she moved to York City in 1992, to simply do nothing, as she says.
"And then Joanne Borders rang my bell in 1993," Smith said. Borders, a community activist, is now a York City councilwoman. "Joanne started everything on my front porch."
The two women organized a Block Watch association, and Smith is still captain of it. For a time, Smith also was captain of the Block Watch group for off-campus college students, she said.
She also volunteered for the South George Street Community Partnership and Crispus Attucks, held crime-prevention meetings in her home and regularly picked up litter.
"I didn't realize I was so busy," she quipped.
Then she turned serious about the importance of helping others.
"I was 7 years old when the Depression hit," Smith said. "That started it for me. If you've never been hungry, you don't know how it feels. And if you've never been raggedy, you never know what it's like to (endure) the cold. When you see a need, that's when you go out and 'do.'"
She said to be effective, people must know their neighbors and be friendly with them. But she's also not afraid to speak her mind, which sometimes doesn't endear her to kids.
"They call me the bad grandma on the block," Smith said proudly. "I'll tell ¤'em in a minute, 'Pick it up. Don't leave your trash in the street.'"
The daughter of a farmer, Smith spent more than a decade caring for the plants at Crispus Attucks, she said.
And while she's significantly scaled back her volunteer work, Smith still loves gardening.
"That's what I do now -- I raise plants and give them away," she said.
York City Police Lt. Gene Fells, commander of the community services division, said the governor's award was tailor-made for Smith. He described her as the kind of person that can be counted on.
"She was involved in crime prevention before it was known as crime prevention," he said. "(She) kind of set the standard for crime prevention as a lifelong commitment. We are so proud of her."
The 40-year-old officer has been with York Area Regional Police since 2002 and became crime-prevention officer in 2009.
He runs a number of programs aimed at strengthening the connections between police and the community, including National Night Out and Witch Watch, a Halloween program in which high-school volunteers walk around their neighborhoods and keep an eye on trick-or-treaters.
"I enjoy the people I meet. It's a whole different part of the police force," Montgomery said. "What we want to get across to the kids, and adults, is that we are approachable and we want to open those lines of communication.
He started a program called Volunteers in Policing that enlists the public to do community service; coordinated a recent session of the department's citizen's police academy; coordinated seat-belt checks and child safety seat installations; and secured more than $2,500 in funding to buy a new speed-monitoring device and a new sign board.
York Area Regional Police Chief Tom Gross said the community is a safer place because of Montgomery's efforts.
"We're part of the same community and need to help each other out," Montgomery said. "So I go out there and try to make those friendships."
The 57-year-old assistant fire chief has been volunteering at the Gettysburg National Military Park for about 14 years.
"I just love to be on the battlefield," he said. He enjoys spending time there so much, he moved about a mile from the site three years ago, he said.
"It's an important place in American history, and it's sacred ground," Hamilton said. "I try to honor the memory of the soldiers by picking up litter."
Hamilton said he spends about five days a week there, not only picking up litter but also as part of the Park Watch program.
"We are the eyes and ears of the law-enforcement park rangers," he said, patrolling the park and alerting rangers to any problems they find.
Park Watchers can patrol on foot, in cars, or on bicycle or horseback, according to Hamilton, who's established five 6-mile routes covering about 30 miles of the 60 miles of roads in the park.
"It's great when one of your own gets recognized from an outside organization," York City Deputy Fire Chief Greg Halpin said, adding the whole department is very proud of Hamilton.
-- Staff writer Liz Evans Scolforo can also be reached at email@example.com.