GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – Late Thursday afternoon, A.J. Castaneda’s fellow Grand Prairie police officers delivered and handed out pizza that was donated to youngsters at the city’s Dalworth Rec Center, the same thing and same place Castaneda did so for years.
Monte Whetstone, a recreation and events supervisor who became friends with Castaneda said, “If it was AJ, it was a big heart and a big spirit behind it.”
And each week, Castaneda showed his big heart and spirit at the rec center which is near where he grew up.
He worked security, but saw a need.
He donated pizza and other food once a week for the youngsters.
His kindness fueled what became a weekly dinner party, in which community groups donated dinner once a week.
After his tragic death, Whetstone said word spread. “People heard about the story, they’ve been flooding us with calls and emails asking how they can help, how they can allow AJ’s legacy to live on. At the moment, I’m actually in September already with people wanting to donate food. Some groups have said we want to donate til we can’t donate anymore.””
Others are giving back, too.
At Snuffer’s 10 restaurants in DFW, a portion of Thursday’s sales will go to the Grand Prairie Police Association in Castaneda’s honor.
Steve Chambers, Snuffer’s Chief Operating Officer said, “It’s part of our culture at Snuffer’s. It’s been 41 years we’ve been around and there’s a long relationship with the police department, it goes way back.”
At three Whataburger locations in Grand Prairie, including the one at State Highway 161 near Pioneer Parkway, where Castaneda often ate, 20 percent of the sales between 5:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. Thursday will be given to Castaneda’s family.
Julie Bethel, Brand Development Coordinator for Whataburger said, “We just want to help in any way we can. Whataburger has a great philosophy about giving back to those who serve the community.”
Castaneda loved interacting with children, and aside from the rec center, he worked extra jobs at some of Mansfield ISD schools in the city of Grand Prairie, so that he could provide for his son with special needs.
On the day he died, he was working overtime for the police department he loved so much.
Castaneda was struck and killed while running radar on the President George Bush Turnpike two weekends ago.