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James Clayton knows the secret to making any cyclist, concert-goer or disaster survivor happy — a hot shower.
The York County real estate developer and entrepreneur brings showers to the people who need them the most via his shower trucks, most recently taking two trailers to a Philadelphia hospital when Pope Francis visited over the weekend.
“I’ve never once had a person come out of the truck unhappy,” Clayton said. “They’re clean, they’re warm, they’re smiling.”
Clayton, the owner and president of No Sweat Mobile Showers, first considered starting a mobile shower service in 1998 when he met a shower truck operator at a bicycling event. He built his own truck and invited the operator he had met to give him feedback.
“He said, ‘I’ve seen shower trucks for fourteen years, but none of them compare to this one,’” Clayton said. “That’s how we got started.”
The 53-foot-long box trailer includes 16 private showers, eight for men and eight for women. To run the showers, No Sweat connects the truck to a fire hydrant and drops a line into a sanitary manhole to dispose of the water. Clayton said hot water can be running in the truck within an hour of setting up.
In addition to the showers, the trucks are tricked out with hair dryers, benches, shelves, guard rails and a cell phone charging station.
Since 2003 No Sweat has brought shower trucks to music festivals, movie sets, bike events, fundraisers and more, but Clayton said bringing the trucks to Philadelphia during the Pope’s visit was the highest security job in the company’s 12 years.
With roads and bridges shut down throughout the city, employees at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital stayed at the hospital for the weekend to treat patients. Clayton said the hospital could provide most of the necessary amenities for their employees.
“The one thing they did not have was a place for them to take showers,” Clayton said.
Jackie Kozloski, a spokeswoman for Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, said more than a thousand people affiliated with the hospital stayed over the weekend and had access to the showers.
“They’re very pleased that Jefferson was able to provide [showers] for employees that worked this weekend, as other facilities did not provide that for them,” Kozloski said.
No Sweat has also set up showers to bathe the homeless and survivors of natural disasters, including Poquoson residents after Hurricane Isabel in 2003, Clayton said.
Jay Holden, director of support services at Williamsburg Community Chapel, said No Sweat has provided showers for homeless guests at the chapel for three years. He said the showers help the chapel “usher in an ongoing sense of dignity” for its guests.
“It’s affording them a luxury that most of us take for granted every single day,” Holden said.
He added that No Sweat has come out at night to unhook the showers after all of the guests have used them, even in freezing temperatures.
Clayton said the next project for No Sweat is building an emergency laundry trailer so people recovering from a natural disaster can salvage clothes damaged by storm water.