Firefighter changing lives with postcards

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By Taylor Shunk

There have been many changes in fire fighter Trey Small’s life but his love of helping others has never wavered. For the last 18 years Small has worked in numerous fire-fighting related jobs but it wasn’t something he thought he would ever be able to do.

“Originally I had planned to join the fire academy after high school,” said Small. “But at 17 I was involved in a fireworks accident.” The accident left him with major hand injuries and he believed he would be become a desk person. Small did end up going to college but sophomore year he witnessed a homicide. “I actually helped chase down the shooter and from then on I knew I just couldn’t sit in class anymore,” said Small. As luck would have it, he then moved next to Dover Fire Station 2 and after hearing the sirens all the time, he knew he had to volunteer. “I really didn’t think they would even hire me with a prosthetic hand,” said Small. “But after taking a bunch of the classes, I realized that I could do pretty much everything.”

Small would also go on to become a teacher at the Delaware State Fire School, a certified E.M.T and work part-time at Newark Fire Department.

“When I started volunteering in Dover, I quickly realized that this is all I want to do,” said Small. Five years ago he applied for a career position at Anne Arundel County Fire Department but it was not without challenges. “The Fire Department offered me the job but the H.R. department didn’t think I could do it,” said Small. After they rescinded the offer, Small reluctantly obtained a lawyer and turned down all attempts at a cash settlement. “I didn’t even want to sue them, “said Small. “I just wanted the job.” Eventually, he was able to join the fire academy and even gradated on time despite starting 5 weeks late.

Fighting fires isn’t the only passion in Small’s life either. Traveling has always been a huge part of his life and a road trip in 2014 changed everything. “At a pit stop I ended up buying 12 post cards and asked my Facebook friends if anyone wanted me to send them one,” said Small. To his surprise, he ended up with 30+ address in his inbox but writing them himself seemed daunting. “I couldn’t think of what to write to all these people,” said Small. “So, I ended up getting 3 women next to me write them.” It wasn’t until he asked his Facebook friends if they wanted a post card from a stranger that things really started to take off. “More and more people were asking for one,” said Small. “And they wanted to know when my next trip was.” Soon, everywhere he went he was asking people to write messages on postcards and it turned into a passion. “I guess this is what I do now…this is my thing,” said Small.

Small never realized how popular the postcards were until people started asking him how they could donate to his cause. “I didn’t even know what to say,” said Small. “I’m just a goofy firefighter traveling and having fun with post cards,” But after a new friend on his journey told him he needed to push this more, Postcard Connect officially became a non-profit organization.

In the beginning people would request postcards for specials events like anniversaries or birthdays. Then, someone asked for a post card for a neighbor with a sick child and everything changed. “We started sending cards to children’s hospitals,” said Small. The postcards with the jokes go over really well with kids too. “Even if it just takes their mind of the situation for a few minutes…It’s worth it,” said Small. Other groups were on his mind as well. “I found out 22 veterans a day take their own life,” said Small. “And that is so hard to think about.” So, Postcard Connect began delivering to Veterans homes with an emphasis on postcards from other veterans. Although Veterans homes all over the country now receive the postcards he does try to stay local as well. “We always send a bunch to Home of The Brave and Delaware Veterans home,” said Small.

Countless people have noted how the post cards have made a difference in their lives. “I’m not saying a postcard is going to stop loneliness or despair,” said Small. “But maybe they can just hold out for a few more days.” As for the strangers writing the messages, they are really making great strides in helping others. “Any message they write on the postcard is great especially for someone lonely,” said Small.

Postcard Connect now prints their own postcards and every year they are sending out more and more. Everyone on the board of directors even has their own personal image for their postcards. Many people donate to their cause and they also host fundraisers to help costs. “The generosity of the people has been amazing,” said Small. “Many of the people even offer their houses for us to stay at.” One upcoming fundraiser will be at Arena’s Milford on 302 day in March. For more information or to request postcards you can send a message to Postcard Connect on Facebook.

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