NEWARK -- It would be impossible for Tim Jones to be everywhere at once while giving back to his longtime city. But that doesn't stop the Newark man from trying.
Jones, a mortgage banker by day, is a serial volunteer who tirelessly donates time, money and anything else he can to help the Tri-City area. He gives most to the Newark Police Department, where he works part time and leads the charge on programs ranging from graffiti removal to neighborhood crime prevention.
"Everything I'm doing is about making Newark a cooler place to be," said Jones, 55. "It's turning into a city with a booming Silicon Valley aspect, but we still haven't lost our small-town flavor. Let's hang on to that for dear life."
Jones, married with a grown daughter, has been a Newark resident since 1968, when his family moved from Merced. Since then, he said his love for the city has steadily grown. "We're lucky to live in this country and to be able to live the way we do, and I feel the same way about Newark," he said. "This is a great town and I'm willing to work to keep it that way."
Jones does that by filling the small but important gaps that keep several parts of the city's public safety units running smoothly. He first got involved in 1993, when his daughter's fourth-grade classmates listed graffiti as one of the things that most scared them. "I thought, 'You can't have kids being afraid of that,'" he said. "I needed to do something about it."
Jones joined the graffiti abatement team and spent his first day painting Highway 84 sound walls. He said he was hooked by the "instant gratification" of leaving pockets of the city looking better than how he found them. Jones' role in eliminating graffiti grew so much that, in 2007, city officials asked him to supervise the program's team of nearly 30 volunteers.
"What we're saying (to taggers) is, 'Don't bring your trash to town, that's not what Newark is,'" he said. "Plus, at the end of the day, we all feel good because we know we're making a difference."
Donna Shearn, Newark police's community engagement manager and Jones' supervisor, said he has stocked and repaired painting supplies, kept the vehicles fueled, ensured the paint is tinted in the most usable color and organized volunteer schedules and graffiti locations.
"He's constantly going," Shearn said. "And it's not about anything more than he just wants to help people."
Jones assists Shearn in directing other programs, such as Neighborhood Watch, which aims to lower crime by teaching residents to be on the lookout for suspicious characters, while putting them in touch with each other and police. In less than a year, more than 35 neighborhoods have signed on -- a large number for this city of nearly 42,600 people.
Jones' eagerness to answer neighbors' questions and provide residents with the necessary paperwork and contact information is a big reason for the program's fast-rising popularity, said Ann Mansell, a Neighborhood Watch captain for her street.
"He's fast and efficient, and he's personable," she said. "We've gotten closer to our neighbors through Neighborhood Watch and he's fostered that for us."
In addition, he helps manage volunteers for R.A.V.E.N., a new police program in which residents perform police clerical duties, interview witnesses of minor crimes, check on vacationers' homes and act as extra eyes on the streets, Jones said.
He continues to contribute to Newark police in many ways, Shearn said, such as when he built door stops for police station offices, shampooed the carpets and painted the offices on two floors and installed a locker for volunteers.
For about a decade, Jones and his wife, Stephanie, cooked side dishes for the League of Volunteers' free Thanksgiving supper at Newark Pavilion and delivered hot meals to those in need on the holiday. In recent years, he has assisted another Newark charity -- the Viola Blythe Community Service Center -- in organizing its food pantry.
Jones has been nominated three times for Viola Blythe Volunteer of the Year, an annual award given to Newark's most selfless residents. He was awarded the honor for the first time last year.
"There are basic rules of life: If you take it out, put it back where you found it. If it needs to be fixed, help fix it," he said. "If you're not willing to be part of the solution, then you shouldn't be complaining about the problem."
Contact Chris De Benedetti at 510-353-7011. Follow him at Twitter.com/cdebenedetti.
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Hometown: Newark (Born in Merced)
Occupation: Mortgage banker
Family: Married with a daughter
Claim to fame: Newark police part-time employee and volunteer who manages graffiti abatement and helps run volunteer crime-prevention programs such as Neighborhood Watch and R.A.V.E.N.
Quote: "We're lucky to live in this country and to be able live the way we do, and I feel the same way about Newark. This is a great town and I'm willing to work to keep it that way."