Frank Castillo is the man in the coolers at Tarrant Area Food Bank keeping track of food and making his time count.
"Love anything with numbers. I have a photographic memory when it comes to numbers. That's why I love working here. Everything is numbers. Boxes. Locations. Weights. Everything is numbers, and I love it," said Castillo, who was so good in algebra, it led to a college scholarship.
He let the opportunity pass by to join the National Guard and then the U.S. Army. He spent eight years in the military before going back to civilian life.
"I've had jobs with larger companies; made very good money with companies. And I've never, ever looked forward to going to work once like I do here," Castillo said.
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Being here is a full-circle moment for Castillo. He found Tarrant Area Food Bank a year ago not knowing it would be the resource to help him turn around his life.
"I didn't have a job. I started being on the lines, getting food for myself because I didn't have food to eat. It was very hard for me to pay my bills," he said.
In 2020, Castillo's landscaping business was going under. A client suggested volunteering at a food bank mobile pantry might lift his mood.
"He found himself upon a hard place. and I suggested to him, 'Frank, you know what I do, but you don't. Let me invite you to come join us at a volunteer opportunity because volunteering makes you feel better; when you can do something for somebody else'," recalled Castillo's client, Jim Macphearson, the vice president of development for TAFB.
Macphearson did more for Castillo. He gave him an advance on a landscaping job so Castillo could pay his bills. But it was that first visit to the mobile pantry at Herman Clark Stadium in Fort Worth where he discovered resources to get back on his feet.
As Castillo volunteered, he realized he could get food for himself and his neighbors. Even at his most desperate, the Army veteran was thinking about how he could help others.
Now a year later, the 57-year-old is working full-time at the Tarrant Area Food Bank. He has a steady paycheck and benefits, and a job that reminds him of how far he's come.
"I've been participating in Herman Clark food drives, and it's very, very close to my heart," he paused. "It's very close to my heart because I used to be in line getting food. And now I'm giving it away."
Here's how Castillo describes the man he was then and who he is now.
"A broken down Frank. You would've met a person desperate," he said. "And then you would've met a person who was grateful because total strangers came to my help."
"He wanted to do things on his own. And I said we do it on our own but you're paying back. And you've got such a strong heart, such a strong work ethic. And that's what we look for in people," Macphearson said of the opportunity at TAFB
Castillo will never forget those who helped him, the kind strangers who nudged him along on the path forward.
He encourages others who find themselves in hard times to get out there and volunteer. Putting others before self just might lead to something good.