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This husband and wife have the same name. They also share the same passion for public service
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Andre Castleberry (right) and Andre Cheek-Castleberry are husband and wife sharing the same name. Both are heavily involved in the community through various organizations, which can be a source of confusion for those who only know one of them. - photo by Scott Rogers

Having the same name isn’t the only commonality between Gainesville husband and wife Andre Castleberry and Andre Cheek-Castleberry. Both of them are devoted to leveraging their experience and resources for the greater good of their hometown.

Married for six years, both Castleberry and Cheek-Castleberry are Gainesville born-and-bred, graduates of Gainesville High — Cheek-Castleberry was a freshman when Castleberry was a senior — and staunch advocates for the vulnerable, voiceless and marginalized.

Castleberry, a 23-year U.S. Navy submarine force veteran, is commander of the American Legion Post 7 — the first Black commander in the post’s 102-year history — and Disabled American Veterans Chapter 17 in Gainesville. He’s also involved with Veterans of Foreign Wars and Forty and Eight, and has a background in cybersecurity on the county government level.

In addition to sitting on the Newtown Florist Club’s board of directors and E.E. Butler Center steering committee, Cheek-Castleberry is an outreach unit program coordinator with the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice, where she works with youth preparing to reenter society and reunify with their parents, guardians and loved ones. 

Prior to that, she worked in higher education, first at North Georgia College and State University in Dahlonega and later Gainesville State College — both of which have since consolidated as the University of North Georgia — as director of diversity.

The couple recognize that sharing a name and passion for active volunteerism is likely confusing for residents who may only know one of them and question how one person can shoulder so much responsibility. 

The couple said they decided early on that Cheek-Castleberry would hyphenate her name to try to mitigate as much confusion as possible. Those who know them both tend to refer to Cheek-Castleberry as Andre and to Castleberry simply as Dre.

Having the same name was never an issue for the couple, Cheek-Castleberry said, though it did pose a challenge to sorting their mail.

“We have fun with it,” Cheek-Castleberry said. “Every time we go out to eat or are checking out somewhere people are like, ‘Are you serious?’ and we’ll have to take out our IDs and show them.”

“Just introducing ourselves – ‘I’m Andre and this is my wife, Andre’ — they’ll say, ‘Wait a minute, what’d you say her name was?’” Castleberry echoed.

A blended family, the Castleberrys have two sons. Their oldest, Marcquel Woodard, runs a social media and marketing business and is directing a documentary on desegregation in Gainesville, while their youngest, Jeremiah Castleberry, recently reported to his duty station in Guam, where he’ll be for the next three years with the U.S. Marine Corps.

Together, the couple have a 130-pound Rottweiler named Rocky.

Castleberry’s family history covers all branches of the armed forces, he said, with Jeremiah being the bloodline’s first Marine.

As a veteran, Castleberry’s chief mission today is connecting fellow servicemen and servicewomen with one another and resources they may not know are readily available to them, whether it be on the local level or a larger scale with organizations like the PTSD Foundation of America.

“A lot of veterans don’t understand the benefits that are available to them, that they’ve earned,” he said. “When they deal with the VA, they just give up. There’s a method to the madness; you have to know how to deal with and navigate that bureaucracy. PTSD is a real thing, although people don’t understand it. When you're in the midst of all that, it’s like being in battle. You’re so covered up, all you’re thinking about is trying to get one foot in front of the other and just trying to make it through not even the next day, but the next hour.”

The American Legion Post 7, he said, is aimed to lend these veterans a listening ear and provide a gathering place for them to build camaraderie and a support system to “pull that weight off their shoulders, lift that veil and get them what they need.”

“A lot of veterans coming back now were (involved in) Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom; they saw a lot,” he said. “Getting them in a group, that’s the biggest thing, because then they’ll open up — one person starts talking, then it’s a domino effect and the others start talking. You can’t explain military service to someone; you have to really experience it. Most veterans have seen things, had to do things, endure things that you can’t explain.”

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Andre Castleberry (right) and Andre Cheek-Castleberry are husband and wife sharing the same name. Both are heavily involved in the community through various organizations, which can be a source of confusion for those who only know one of them. - photo by Scott Rogers

Currently, Castleberry is formulating a plan to address the issue of homelessness in the local veteran population.

The Legion has identified a number of veterans experiencing homelessness and is working toward securing a van to shuttle them to the post on Riverside Drive and "take the resources to the people instead of having them have to come out to the Legion."

“That’s one of the hardest things with the Legion’s location — we could have all the resources in the world out there for the homeless, but we’re not in the middle of town, so it’s not like people are going to come all the way out to the end of Riverside Drive (if they don’t have transportation).” 

While Castleberry-Cheek has no military background, as an outreach coordinator in the juvenile justice system, she, too, works with education-, community- and faith-based organizations to help a specific population transition back into society, which she said goes hand-in-hand with her work with the Newtown Florist Club and E.E. Butler Center.

“One has supported the other and afforded me opportunities to meet people in different sectors,” she said.

Though she’s only recently joined the Newtown Florist Club — of which her husband’s grandmother was a founding member — Cheek-Castleberry’s support of the organization goes back as far as she can remember.

“There are pictures of me on the wall from plays that we would participate in during the MLK Day celebration, where we would do all different types of renditions of influential people from the ‘50s and ‘60s. I think I must have been 12,” she said. “It’s just been a natural thing.”

It was the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020, Cheek-Castleberry said, that spurred her toward more active involvement as an adult.

“We were sitting here (in our living room) the night that he was killed watching a Facebook Live. It was 10:30 at night and I was sitting on the edge of my seat and my husband goes, ‘Go. This is what you want to do.’ I did not know how I was going to jump back into the community and get involved, but I committed … whatever is needed for our community, I’m willing to do it.”

According to Cheek-Castleberry, among the most refreshing aspects of initiating difficult yet vital conversations in the wake of such incidents is the amount of people “who do not look like me want to help. They are saying, ‘Now is the time.’”

“That’s helpful when you are advocating for your community and you have people walking beside you, helping do the work, having conversations, giving you some insight on some things,” she said. “It’s not easy work, but you just make the decision that it’s not about you — it’s about all those who are going to benefit. It’s about the voiceless, it’s about those who may not know what step to take. You just continue to trust that God has prepared you and equipped you for whatever conversation it may be, whatever room you may be in.”

Using her position on the E.E. Butler Center steering committee, Cheek-Castleberry was instrumental in resolving a safety issue at the park — a steep embankment leading to a ravine — with a retention wall that’s now the canvas for a 120-foot mural depicting key figures of the former E.E. Butler High School. 

The couple stay in their own respective lanes when it comes to volunteerism, but a common thread run through both their efforts: helping their neighbors.

“We’re able to support each other but not, for lack of a better word, be in each other’s way,” Castleberry said. “At the end of the day, it’s all the same — it’s bringing support and elevation to a niche group within the community. It’s the same thing, just a different group of people. At the end of the day, it’s all people that need support.”

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Andre Castleberry (right) and Andre Cheek-Castleberry are husband and wife sharing the same name. Both are heavily involved in the community through various organizations, which can be a source of confusion for those who only know one of them. - photo by Scott Rogers