Sadly, that happened Tuesday, when Castaneda sold plates of jerk chicken to pay to bury his 26-year-old niece, Ashley Miranda, who was shot to death last week in Gary.
"With my organization, Stop the Violence Movement East Chicago, I've helped raise money for people's families," Castaneda said as savory-smelling smoke wafted from a grill next to Euclid's Tap. "Unfortunately this is my family."
Miranda, a mother of five from East Chicago, was killed and two other people were wounded in the shooting Thursday. She died of a gunshot wound at about 9:20 p.m. at Methodist Hospitals Northlake Campus in Gary, according to the Lake County coroner's office. Her death was ruled a homicide. (Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call the Lake County/Gary Metro Homicide Unit at 219-755-3855, or 866-CRIME-GP to remain anonymous).
Her loved ones said she had her struggles but was moving in a positive direction. She had recently bought a van and was planning to become a restaurant manager and move into her own apartment, they said. Her boys were ages 7, 3, 2, 1 and 8 months.
"It's horrible," said her mother, Nichole McCloud, of Las Vegas. "It's the worst pain you can ever feel. I wake up every morning and I wish this nightmare was over."
Castaneda and Juan “J.R.” Ortiz, both former gang members, founded the Stop the Violence Movement East Chicago last year to help families affected by violence and inspire kids not to get involved with gangs. The group has also raised money for other causes, such as sending East Chicago high schoolers to a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program in New York.
"If I'm making a big impact, why did my niece get killed?" Castaneda wondered aloud Tuesday, as "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted" played through the speakers. "She motivated me to try harder, to make sure this didn't happen as much, as it's happening with our family. This is just going to push me harder."
Children screamed and played in the yard next to the bar, where people were eating chicken, rice and potato salad.
"That's what been helping us ... is the kids," McCloud said. "Being around everyone."
About 2½ hours into the fundraiser, Castaneda said he had almost sold out of chicken.
"From the family, we want to say thank you," he said. "We see how much Ashley was loved, by your support. With everybody's help, we can help her lay to rest and have a nice funeral."
Her wake is scheduled for 3-9 p.m. Thursday at Fife Funeral Home, 4201 Indianapolis Blvd. in East Chicago.
Castaneda said parents need to play a bigger role in making sure their kids don't get mixed up with gangs.
"My niece is going to be six feet deep and someone's going to be in a 6-by-8-foot cell," he said. "Two families are going to suffer from that."
Miranda was the oldest grandchild in the family and would often babysit the younger ones growing up, her relatives said.
"She was a jokester," Castaneda said. "She liked to cut up on her cousins."
Her father, East Chicago resident Manuel Miranda, said she could have been a comedian.
"She was a wild woman, but she was a loving wild woman," said her uncle, Victor Castaneda.
"This is the last time we seen her," her dad said, pulling out a phone to show a Facebook video of her. She was smiling and dancing to rap music in the backseat of a moving car, purportedly a few hours before her death.
She was wearing a Stop the Violence Movement T-shirt.