D-backs thrive in community during holidays
Charitable efforts help Meals on Wheels, Child Crisis Arizona
PHOENIX -- When it comes to off-the-field endeavors, there is no better time of year than the holidays for the D-backs organization.
"All the funds that we raise, this is the time of year that we get to see them in action, and it's pretty overwhelming," said Debbie Castaldo, the D-backs' vice president of corporate and community impact.
One of the club's ways of giving back is through the Ken Kendrick Grand Slam Awards, which has awarded over $6 million since 2002. This month, the Prescott Meals on Wheels was a recipient of a $35,000 award while Child Crisis Arizona received $40,000.
Castaldo and former D-backs closer J.J. Putz along with organist Bobby Freeman were on hand last week in Prescott, Ariz., when Prescott Meals on Wheels had a grand reopening of its kitchen.
The organization, which distributes some 65,000 meals a year, used the D-backs award to expand their kitchen and upgrade equipment after being tasked recently with not only serving Prescott, but Prescott Valley, as well.
"We got a chance to hang out with a number of the volunteers that deliver the food to people's homes and they have unbelievable stories of the people that they serve," Castaldo said. "Keep in mind this hot meal may be the only one that some of these people get each day. These volunteers take it very, very seriously and have extraordinary compassion. It made us a little emotional."
Putz, who spent 12 years in the big leagues, including the 2011-14 seasons with the D-backs, joined the team's front office as a special assistant to team president and CEO Derrick Hall and has a new appreciation for the work the organization does.
"I think that's probably one of the best parts of this role is getting out in the community and actually seeing what the organization is doing," Putz said. "Because as a player, you always hear about how generous the D-backs are as an organization and all that stuff, but there's only so much you can actually go out and do while you're playing. But in this role, to be able to go out and see all this stuff is pretty incredible."
The Child Crisis Arizona organization, which strives to protect Arizona kids from abuse and neglect, used its $40,000 award to replace its security doors to make sure the kids and families are safe in their temporary home there.
"The thing that blew us away was the extraordinary kindness and compassion of the staff and volunteers that work there," Castaldo said. "This is another organization that is heavily dependent on incredible volunteers from the community that come in and support these kids and mentor them and play with them and read to them, comfort them and we saw all of that. It was inspiring and at the same time heartbreaking because the facility was full and anytime a facility like that is full you know there are a lot of kids and families that need support from all of us."
As the holidays continue, people's work schedules may slow, but for a D-backs organization committed to giving back, this is the one of the busiest -- and most rewarding -- times of the year.