David Emerson, Tom Emerson and Neil Bartle grew up together in Oxford, where their families have lived for generations. “All three of us love our little community,” says David. Two years ago they put some formal philanthropic power behind that love, working with the Community Foundation to form the Greater Oxford Community Fund.
David and Neil are partners in Blueox Energy, a business that has been in the Emerson family since 1965. Neil joined the business in 1979 and took over from David as president in 1994. Tom has served as an attorney in the area for many years.
More than 30 years ago, the three men also set up a real estate partnership tied to Blueox’s convenience stores and other operations. With the mortgages on those properties winding down, David and Mary El Emerson, Tom and Bonnie Emerson and Neil and Linda Bartle decided to use some revenue from that venture to launch the new fund. They took their inspiration from David and Tom’s father, David L. Emerson, an active community volunteer.
They hope the fund will become a true community enterprise. “Our goal is that other individuals in the community who have done well will put some money into it,” David says.
As lifelong residents and community volunteers, David, Tom and Neil understand how the fund can make a difference once it’s ready to start giving grants. They’re especially interested in workforce development initiatives such as the work-based learning (WBL) program at Oxford high School.
Blueox employed a student through the WBL program and almost immediately offered him additional hours. “He’s phenomenal,” Neil says.
The fund might also support local organizations that help people in need and promote community spirit, the partners add.
Clearly, David and Tom Emerson and Neil Bartle understand the importance of hometown philanthropy, not just to Oxford, but to all small communities. “Small towns are a strength of upstate New York,” David says. “Any other small towns could do exactly what we did, if they figure out how to get it started.”