Steve Smalley is a retired Roadway Express driver from Local 107 in Philadelphia. He now works at Woods Services doing maintenance.
Woods is a nonprofit organization that provides assistance to more than 4,000 children and adults who have complex and intensive health care needs. They operate a large campus in Langhorne, Pa. where they run a residence, three schools and a research institute.
Smalley noticed that there are a number of children living at the facility who had bikes but were unable to ride them. Smalley did something that seemed like a natural next step: he opened a bike shop at the facility.
“I saw some people in need of something that I could fix and I wanted to help them out,” Smalley said. “Coming up as a freight driver, whenever we saw our Teamster brothers or sisters in need, we’d give each other a hand. I’ve carried that mentality with me throughout my life.”
Smalley provided a much-needed service for the children at the Woods campus, and along the way he found a young man who was interested in working with him.
Smalley met 11-year-old Shawn Cain when he visited the Gardner Education Center, where Cain goes to school. Cain showed interest in the work that Smalley and other maintenance workers were doing and Smalley took notice.
“Every time a maintenance van pulled up he’d come running up and asking us questions—what we’re doing, can he hold our tools and all. He was really interested in doing hands-on work and I wanted to take him under my wing,” Smalley said.
Pretty soon, Cain wanted to volunteer in Smalley’s bike shop.
Woods Services provides health, education, housing, workforce, behavioral health and case management services to those with physical, intellectual or developmental disabilities.
In November, Woods held an annual employee recognition dinner, and Smalley was honored with an award for creating the bike shop, which has provided an immense degree of warmth and happiness to the residents.
Smalley spoke with Woods’ CEO, Tine Hansen-Turton, about the possibility of Cain working with him. Hansen-Turton said he should go for it, and they’ve been working together ever since.
“I really like that Shawn is into mechanics and the hands-on sort of thing,” Smalley said. “My son was like that—he didn’t like academics but he was great with his hands. He ended up in a trade school, won all of the top awards, but I lost him in a car accident that August, in 2010.
“He was 18 years old. His name was Shawn, too. When I saw this kid, he reminded me so much of my son, he’s just like him,” Smalley said.
Smalley and Cain work together once a week on Wednesday. Cain said that because of the time he gets to spend with Smalley, Wednesday is his favorite day of the week.
The two love fixing things together and their bond has grown dramatically since Cain started working at the bike shop.
“I really enjoy working with him and Wednesday is now also my happiest day of the week. I know this has been really good for him but it has also been great for me,” Smalley said. “I feel like someone was watching over us and brought Shawn and I together.