The 2023 Peace & Justice Awards honor people and organizations working for civil rights and equality in Pennsylvania

PennLive’s Editorial Board will honor Ann Van Dyke, known throughout Pennsylvania for her decades of work fighting hate, with the 2023 Peace + Justice in PA Award.

Van Dyke will receive the honor during ceremonies that begin 11:30 a.m. Oct. 17 at Harrisburg University of Science & Technology, 326 Market St.

Mission Central and the Youth Sentencing and Reentry Project (YSRP) will receive the awards the PA Media group presents to organizations working for peace and justice in the commonwealth.

The individual award going to Van Dyke is a fitting tribute to a woman who served as an investigator and trainer with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission for 33 years. Even after she retired in 2012, Van Dyke continued her work as a passionate defender of equality and social justice in the commonwealth. Many would say her voice has only gotten louder.

Memorial to those lost to gun violence

Heeding Gods Call to End Gun Violence volunteer Ann Van Dyke puts up shirts with the names of local victims, lost to gun violence, outside the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity on State St. in Harrisburg, Pa., Jul. 8, 2021.
Mark Pynes |

Van Dyke has added her considerable passion and influence to address gun violence in Pennsylvania, working with Heeding God’s Call in Harrisburg to stand with victims and calling on the legislature to pass sensible gun laws to protect our communities.

Last year’s individuals award went to The Rev. Nathaniel Gadsden and his wife Pat Gadsden for their years of work advancing social justice, lifting the voices of people of color in the arts, and being an advocate for single mothers and families in Central Pennsylvania.

PennLive and The Patriot-News began presenting the Peace + Justice in PA awards in 2021 to inform our readers about the state of efforts to combat illegal harassment and extremism in the state. The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission is a partner in the forum, and its Executive Director, Chad Dion Lassiter, provides an annual report on the agency’s efforts to investigate and prosecute those who violate state laws.

PHRC is charged with helping to protect vulnerable groups from discrimination and harassment, including racial and ethnic minorities, women, people with disabilities and those over 40 years old who are victims of age discrimination.

Nominate the good people among us for the 2023 Peace + Justice Awards

The PA Media Group is honoring people in our region who are advocates for social justice and equality.

Author and photojournalist Candacy Taylor will keynote the event and speak about the legacy of Sundown Towns that prohibited African Americans from being on the streets after dark.

PennLive’s Editorial Board also is honoring Mission Central for helping people facing disasters in the United States and around the globe. These past few years, they’ve been busier than ever responding to famine, floods, earthquakes, and wildfires. And they expect the coming years to be even busier as the world faces in the impact of climate change.

Mission Central

The logo of Mission Central in Mechanicsburg. Image courtesy of a press release.

Mission Center also provides concrete help to people in our region, offering emergency health supplies, furniture, clothing, and food to those in need.

Mission Central began in 2002 under the umbrella of the Susquehanna Conference of the United Methodist Church. It now is an interfaith nonprofit that partners with more than 500 organizations and operates the Mission Central Store at 5 Pleasant View Drive, Mechanicsburg, PA.

In 2022, Mission Central says it served more than 6 million people, distributing an estimated$2.3 million in medical supplies and equipment, $700,000 in disaster relief and almost $790,000 in aid to families.

Mission Central says it also has provided more than $500,000 in aid to Ukraine. It’s even distributed almost $400,000 in pet food to help animals in need.

Like Mission Central, the Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project (YSRP) is doing vital work in Pennsylvania. It supports children who are accused of crimes in Pennsylvania. Many of these children come from impoverished families who are unable to afford to hire a lawyer. And many of them end up in adult jails before they are even able to have a hearing before a judge.

The organization has a special mission to support what’s known as “Juvenile Lifers.” According to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, Pennsylvania has the largest number of people who committed crimes while children and were sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

There are more than 500 Juvenile Lifers in our commonwealth.

YSRP works to keep children out of adult jails and prisons and work to get children transferred into the juvenile system and resentenced. But the organization doesn’t stop there. It helps these children find a path back into society, providing resources for education, healthcare, housing, and employment.

The organization also provides training to families and volunteers on how to ensure children accused of crimes are treated humanely and fairly in the criminal justice system.

PennLive and The Patriot-News salute all the 2023 Peace + Justice in PA honorees. They deserve our accolades. They are working to make our commonwealth a place of peace and justice for all.

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