Jose Castillo, Spanish Casework Supervisor Volunteer

“Hispanic Heritage month isn’t just about being Hispanic, but it’s about those that you bring into your familia; The Red Cross is a part of my family,” said Jose Castillo, Jr., Volunteer for the Texas Gulf Coast Region.

Over 21 years ago, Jose Castillo, Jr. joined the American Red Cross in 2001 as a volunteer after Tropical Storm Allison devastated the Houston, Texas, area.

Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Castillo serves the Texas Gulf Coast Region, American Red Cross as the Spanish Casework Supervisor. The majority of his work encompasses casework follow-ups, where Castillo helps Spanish-speaking families after devastations. While both his parents are from Mexico, Castillo did not learn how to speak Spanish until he lived with his grandparents in Mexico at around 4 years old. Watching Spanish soap operas and cartoons while also reading Spanish comic books, Castillo was able to learn the language rather quickly.

In his 21 years of service, Castillo has deployed to over 11 disasters, with his first DR (Disaster Relief) being the most impactful. Once with the American Red Cross for a couple of months, in late September of 2001, Castillo deployed to the World Trade Center after the September 11 attacks. Within 24 hours of deciding to deploy, Castillo was on a plane for the first time and headed to Edison, N.J., full of adrenaline to help people. The desire to help was intense enough to compel Castillo to extend his volunteer work until January.

“If I’m still of service, then I’m still helping,” said Castillo. “I wanted to represent my community and help people.”

Castillo is diagnosed with cerebral palsy and uses a power chair to be mobile, which has challenges. Yet, Castillo does not let that keep him from helping others, and his message remains clear.

“If I can do it in a wheelchair, then you can do it,” said Castillo. “My Red Cross family looks at me, and they don’t see a disabled guy. They see someone doing the job like everyone else”.

During his 21 years with the American Red Cross, the comradery is what has consistently stuck out the most to Castillo.

“I have my family at home, but I am very thankful for my Red Cross family,” said Castillo. “Whether paid or volunteer staff, none of it would function if we didn’t have the comradery. Those of us that take the time to represent the Red Cross, whether speaking in Spanish or English, no matter your beliefs, when you put on the Red Cross vest, you’re all family.”

“No matter where we are in the city, country or world, those that represent the Red Cross represent an entire society,” said Castillo. “Which is what we are; the Red Cross Society.”

Story by Kyndal Dugger