North Bay man offers military veteran community free meals – CBS San Francisco
WINDSOR (KPIX 5) – A North Bay business owner who started a breakfast club for military veterans is this week’s Jefferson Prize winner.
Jose Castañeda starts Saturday morning punching his guests. They are military veterans who come for a free breakfast at Castañeda’s Marketplace, his 14-year-old business in Windsor.
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The weekly meals started ten years ago. He invited a group of military moms to lunch and it all evolved from there.
“We just kept going. We maintained it during the recession. We maintained it through the fires. We maintained it despite the floods,” Castañeda said.
On the menu that day: huevos rancheros, rancho fries and breakfast steak.
Castañeda and his staff prepare the meals. He pays them with 10% of the profits from his catering business, Paella Guy.
Between 15 and 50 veterans come to the table each week. Many served in Vietnam and Korea. The oldest is Harold Goldman, 90.
The Air Force Staff Sergeant calls Castañeda’s group a highlight of his week.
“There should be more people like him with his attitude and his charm,” Goldman said.
There are rules: don’t talk about religion or politics. Just keep it social, Castañeda said.
The group didn’t meet in person for a year during the pandemic, but Jose packed breakfast burritos, hand sanitizer and toilet paper for pickup and delivery.
But he says it wasn’t the same.
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“I didn’t really know what it meant for some of these veterans until we called it quits for the year,” Castañeda said.
“Can’t you come here? It was terrible,” Goldman said.
It was like a family reunion when they resumed the rally at the market in May.
Steve Henricksen served as an army sergeant in Germany during the Vietnam era.
“A lot of us get a little bit depressed from time to time and you always know you can come here and take a lift,” Henricksen said.
They forged deep bonds from stories and lives with each other and with the de Castañeda family.
This morning, they catch up with Castañeda’s daughter before she leaves for college.
For the band’s tenth anniversary in June, he brought in a mariachi band.
“He’s just like this amazing guy who really, really appreciates what we’ve done, probably more than we do,” Henricksen laughed.
“It really is a privilege,” Castañeda said of his commitment to serving the group.
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So for providing healthy connections through free Saturday breakfasts, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Jose Castañeda.