By William C. Singleton III
Following a recent hit-and-run accident that left Homewood parks and recreation board member Paula Smalley injured and currently confined to a wheelchair, she needed a home to stay in that was handicapped-accessible.
Enter a Homewood neighbor, with whom Smalley and her husband, Craig, have been staying for the time being.
“Some friends of ours in Homewood had taken in another friend previously, so their home is set up well for us,” Craig Smalley said. “We’ve been staying with them while others have been working on our house to make it more accessible. What a gift, what a Godsend that they’ve taken us in.”
Speaking on behalf of his wife, who is still recovering from her injuries, Smalley said his family has been overwhelmed by the support from the Over the Mountain community and beyond since his wife’s accident.
Friends have come through to offer meals and their homes, to wash laundry and shower the Smalleys with love, affection and words of encouragement, said Craig Smalley, canon of pastoral care and counseling at Birmingham’s Cathedral Church of the Advent.
“We’ve eaten better than we’ve ever eaten,” he said.
Letters have come from other cities where they’ve lived, including their former church in Atlanta that has put the family on its prayer list, he added.
“Our Homewood community has been amazing, but so have our friends from Vestavia, Mountain Brook and Birmingham,” he said. “It’s just been overwhelming the love and support we’ve received. It’s just hard to express how grateful we are for the many kindnesses.”
Paula Smalley still has a ways to go on her personal road to recovery. She is a pre-kindergarten teacher at All Saints Episcopal Church in Homewood. She has been on the park board for two years and is also a Girl Scout Troop leader and is involved in Homewood High School activities.
“This has interrupted her normal routine,” Craig Smalley said. “She’s not able to do the volunteer activities at the high school. She’s not able to teach preschool. She hasn’t been able to go to park board meetings or lead the Girl Scout Troop in things she typically does.
“She’s a very active and energetic person and just loves to serve. But she’s very limited at the present time.”
Paula Smalley and her husband were leaving WorkPlay Dec. 19 shortly after 11 p.m., crossing Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street South, when a vehicle struck her and sped away. Birmingham police are still looking for the driver of the vehicle that struck Mrs. Smalley. The vehicle is believed to be a dark-colored Saturn SL made between 1996-2000.
Paula Smalley sustained “extremely serious injuries from head to toe,” her husband said. She had to go through multiple surgeries and was in the hospital for 20 days.
“We still have a very long recovery ahead,” Craig Smalley said. “My wife will be in a wheelchair for three months, so both the Church of the Advent and the community have kicked in to help so she can get in the house.”
Craig Smalley won’t say how much the community has given financially to their situation. He merely wants to focus on the gratitude his family has for the support they’ve received during this time of difficulty.
“It’s such a gift to not feel like you’re doing this alone and to have so much encouragement and support,” he said. “It has really sustained us in a wonderful way. God has brought great things out of a very difficult situation, and you really feel the love and the kindness and the concern and generosity from the community and our church.”