Giving Back Excerpt from Santa Rosa Magazine‚ Winter 2011
Tim Oxford isn't eager to stand out among all the people around Santa Rosa who are plugged into informal networks of care and who step up when there's something they can do for, or provide to, neighbors in need.
But at 6 feet 5 inches, Oxford can't help but attract a certain amount of attention, especially when the self-employed contractor wears his crushed velvet Santa Claus suit.
To legions of Sonoma County children, Oxford, 54, is the towering and gentle embodiment of Christmas. He doesn't plop kids onto his lap and chat momentarily about Barbies and Transformers. He holds the children and hears and encourages them.
He does the same every holiday season for frail, elderly ‚ and often lonely ‚ residents of a large assisted-living residence in Healdsburg. He recalls the lady who broke his heart when she confided to Santa that she worked as a nurse in Britain during World War II and that she won't ever stop missing her husband, who was killed over Germany all those decades ago.
Man, I'm crying behind my beard" he said.
The Santa role is a demanding one for Oxford, whose biggest appearance is at an annual holiday party at the Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Building for hundreds of families of special needs and disabled youngsters helped by California Children's Services.
He doesn't just show up in the suit, but personally raises money and, with the help of friends, purchases and wraps mounds of gifts.
This year he's pursuing nonprofit status so supporters can write off their donations. "We're listed as Santa Tim with the IRS", he said.
Beyond his work in the great, red suit, Oxford serves in myriad other ways by stepping up when he hears of a need he's able to fill. When confronted by a mission of service that requires other expertise, funds or materials, he doesn't hesitate to reach out to others in the area's web of caring.
"I guess the best way to describe it is networking" said Oxford, who lives just south of Windsor. He's found that successfully addressing community needs "is just a matter of getting the right people together".
Over the years, he has taken roles, often leading ones, in providing gifts and winter-weather gear to homeless women and children at The Living Room drop-in center; constructing a playground and sponsoring other improvements to south of Santa Rosa's Bellevue School; rebuilding the bleachers and press box at Healdsburg High's stadium; constructing an AIDS memorial in the garden of Food for Thought/ Sonoma County AIDS Food Bank; providing like-new bikes and helmets for low-income families; and on and on.
Uneasy about being singled out, Oxford said he simply learns from the network about opportunities to serve and he does his part. "It's never just one person" he said. "We're here to help each other, all of us".