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What a way to celebrate a first anniversary

Young CEO, touched by a homeless man’s words, takes team on street-feeding programme

BY KIMBERLEY HIBBERT Sunday Observer staff reporter hibbertk@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, July 20, 2014    

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NEO Oxford was simply engaging in an act of humanity when he got out of his car and pushed a wheelchair-bound homeless man up a hill on June 26.

Within a few days, that selfless act of kindness mushroomed into a feeding programme for street people, conducted by Oxford and his team at Van Norton Productions and triggered by the conversation the young CEO had with the homeless man.

"While pushing him he spoke of how he had nowhere to live and time was hard," Oxford told the Jamaica Observer. "I reached into my pocket and gave him $200."

When he returned to his car, Oxford received a call from someone who owed him money and who told him he could pick up the cash the following day.

That, Oxford said, caused him to return to the homeless man and hand him the last $800 he had in his wallet.

"I also gave him a long-sleeved shirt because the shirt he was in could not protect him from night weather," Oxford said.

The man, he said, thanked him, but also told him that he had basically given up on life but was told by God to hold on because help was near.

"He then looked at me and told me that yesterday he rolled the wheelchair out into an open space and looked to the skies and told the Father 'I'm coming to you soon because I really don't think I can do anymore, and somehow the Father sent you as an answer to me to say keep on pushing', and that just touched my heart," Oxford told the Sunday Observer.

When he returned to his office, Oxford threw out the idea of a street-feeding programme to his 10-member team, arguing that it would be the perfect gesture to mark the company's first anniversary.

The company, named Sports of Jamaica, is a member of Van Norton Productions, and was founded on July 1, 2013.

"We're registered for sports, but we want to include charity services. I just sat down and said 'we're going to feed homeless people for our anniversary', so we went out on July 6, fed 89 people, though our goal was 50, so to really reach 89 was really a big, big thing for us," Oxford said.

The street people, he said, were served a cooked meal, drinks supplied by Wisynco, cookies and vanilla wafers provided by Kirk Distributors, and presented with soap and sanitary supplies courtesy of Cari-Med.

While mobilising people in groups can prove difficult at times, Oxford said the close relationship he and his team share resulted in them being able to resolve disagreements easily.

"We're all past students of Meadowbrook [High School]. Any disagreements we have we could speak about it. We came to a decision which made delivery easier. We had to try to find everything so they had a good Sunday dinner, so the execution was perfect and also the distribution," Oxford said.

He admitted that they had to plan for the unexpected, including people who would pretend to be homeless once they saw food and supplies being distributed.

"We know how people are when it comes on to anything free in Jamaica. What we did is that we went in a van and we drove from Mannings Hill Road down to Half-Way-Tree into New Kingston, Cross Roads to Mountain View, Vineyard Town, then to Papine and back down to Red Hills Road to where we started near Queensborough," he said.

"If we saw you lying on the floor we would stop and offer you lunch and one of the packages and once these individuals saw the white box, they knew what it symbolised and were up on their feet in seconds," he said.

Oxford said what surprised him was the unity among members of a marginalised community.

"We fed the homosexual population in New Kingston, and they have unity. Some would come and take two boxes, but they took one and called someone else for another. With the sound of a whistle from one of them, about 15 others came," he said.

"We don't live in total unison like these people, and if we lived like these people -- looking out for one another -- can you imagine how better the country would be?" he said.

Oxford also used the interview to extend thanks to other firms and individuals who assisted with the programme, among them Samuda and Johnson attorneys-at-law, Football Factory Limited, Archer Cummings attorneys-at- law, Abena Sinclair, Marvin Thompson, Onique Brown, and Charmaine Lemonious.

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