A local family man has gone from high school dropout to one of the most influential and giving people in all of North County San Diego.
When you walk into his auto shop, TJ Crossman Auto Repair Incorporated, you smell the fumes of cars being fixed and you’re mesmerized when you see all the high-end awards and recognition he’s received from all around North County for his many charitable and business acts, spread throughout his lobby.
TJ Crossman is best known as the ‘local car giveaway guy.’ The idea came to him four years ago and it has exploded in a positive manner for the community. He also does much more for the community, like host canned food drives, lead Girl Scouts, and support local military and government personnel.
Bret Schanzenbach, President and CEO of Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce, said “TJ is a throwback to eras gone by. He truly seeks to give first, receive second.”
Crossman was born on July 7, 1974 in Whitinsville, Mass. As a teenager, he lived with just his mom and was into carpentry for four years. He worked on a dairy farm, a veggie farm, and then on another dairy farm after that.
At 17-years-old, Crossman called his dad in California and asked to move in with him. Two weeks before he would’ve graduated high school, he moved all the way across the country to Southern California.
When he first moved, Crossman felt that his dad owed him for not being there when he was a kid. He sat around and did nothing for awhile so that he could just have his dad support him.
“When I moved to California, I didn’t really apply myself to get a job,” Crossman explained.
Eventually, he decided to start working on cars as he had been watching his dad do it. He went straight to trade school to become a car mechanic.
Throughout his early adulthood Crossman struggled with alcohol addiction. He has religiously gone to AA meetings, and is now 11 years sober.
“I just try to be better today, than I was yesterday,” Crossman said.
Crossman’s wife passed away during a heart transplant, when their daughter Kaylee was very little.
Now he focuses all of his free time with his 12-year-old daughter. Crossman said,”I get up for work everyday because I want to support my daughter and not be a failure.”
Crossman constantly goes to Vista City Council Meetings so that he can understand what the community needs. Joe Green, City of Vista Council Member, said, “TJ is a very unique man. After losing his wife and being thrust into single parenthood, TJ embraced the challenge. While others may have given up, TJ persevered and excelled in everything that he did.”
He’s taught his daughter the values of giving back to others. Kaylee is a member of the Girl Scouts. Crossman said, “She doesn’t really complain about not having a mother around because she knows that life is still great.” Her teachers always report that she is one of the best students in all of her classes because she’s always so kind to everyone.
A few years ago, he decided to try to help people who also struggled and couldn’t afford a car by fixing up a car and giving it away.
“If I can change somebody’s life by a small gesture, then I am going to do it.” TJ said.
TJ Crossman Auto Repair in Vista accepts nominations for a high school students who need a working car. They take an old car and fix it up. Out of the students that are nominated for the giveaway. Crossman and his crew select one winner and bless them with that years car at the Vista Rod Run.
This comes from a national organization called, Wheels to Prosper, that is a nationwide program searching for a deserving family who struggles and needs a car. They has participation from shops across the United States, but Crossman has the only participating shop in San Diego County area.
Crossman is also a cancer survivor. He told the San Diego Union Tribune back in 2017, “Life is short. If I can change somebody’s life by a small gesture, then I am going to do it.”
A typical day for Crossman consists of waking up at 6 a.m. to make breakfast and lunch for Kaylee before school. He drops her off at school and then is off to his auto shop. He usually works until 5 or 6 p.m then goes to pick up Kaylee.
From there they either go to Girl Scout meetings, Chamber of Commerce meetings, or other local city events. They normally get home late in the night to eat dinner and relax before heading off to bed.
In the spring, Crossman volunteers at the Carlsbad Flower Fields to drive the tractors around that carry all the visitors around the fields. He said he enjoys volunteering because, “The community has turned into more of a family for myself and my daughter.”
Green said: “TJ Crossman has done a ton to impact our community. He cares about not only his own business being successful but cares for all businesses in our city.”
TJ doesn’t quite understand all the attention and praise he receives from the community.
He said, “Sometimes I wish I could see it from everyone else’s perspective because from my point of view, I don’t do enough for the community.”
This year Crossman plans to finish high school. He didn’t graduate before moving to California and now he feels ready to go earn his G.E.D.
Crossman has touched the lives of so many people in the community. He doesn’t live for the spotlight or do anything for the attention. He’s a true believer in putting other people first and being good for the sake of being good.