Scott Bellefeuille recalls the days when he combed through trash bins for recyclable bottles and cans, stomaching discarded food to fight off constant hunger.
He was homeless for several years, 11 of them on the streets of Madera, due to alcohol and drug addiction.
“I know how it was out there. I know how hungry I got,” he said. “I know how it is trying to search for food.”
When Bellefeuille found God, he said, everything changed. He owns a home in Clovis, works full-time as a ranch hand and has been clean and sober for more than eight years.
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Bellefeuille leads a team of 15 to 20 volunteers in delivering sack lunches and hygiene kits once a month to Clovis and Fresno’s homeless.
He founded Our Dog Ministry (“we deliver hot dogs … and dog spelled backwards is God”) about seven years ago to provide meals and clothing to those in need. But he and his volunteers bring more than tangible necessities to the homeless — they bring a message of hope.
Bellefeuille had been sober for about 14 months when he was assigned by his recovery group at First Baptist Church of Clovis to do a community project. That month he served 200 hot dogs to the area’s homeless.
“After that, God was saying, ‘I want you to continue.’ And I was like, me? How could I do it? How can I afford this?” Bellefeuille said. “But God always provides.”
The volunteer ministry has grown to serve 312 hot dog lunches, including chips and condiments, each month. When hygiene kits, pet food and other items are donated, Bellefeuille hands them out as soon as possible.
“I believe that whatever God provides, we give out,” he said. “I don’t hold back money just in case — that’s not our God. If the funds ever stop coming in, then I guess God wants me to do something else.”
The meals are delivered on the third or fourth Saturday of the month, because Bellefeuille recalls the end of the month being the hardest for the homeless who received Supplemental Security Income or other checks on the first of each month.
Christmas Eve runs are always the largest of the year. This year, about 30 volunteers gathered around tables in Bellefeuille’s driveway and stuffed Christmas stockings full of goodies.
“This year we had gloves, socks, beanies, scarves, homemade cookies and candy canes,” Bellefeuille said. “There were a lot of hygiene kits. Ziplocs full of toiletries from deodorant to toothpaste to washcloths.”
The Christmas Eve sack lunch included smoked sausage, oranges, potato chips and fruit snacks.
“People from our church made cash donations for our Christmas run,” Bellefeuille said. “Church ladies knitted some of the hats and scarves and baked homemade cookies.”
Bellefeuille’s eyes well up with tears when he describes Christmas Eve, which he remembers as one of the saddest nights of the year when he was living on the street.
“You just replay your life because you’re not around family, friends, loved ones,” he explained. “You don’t have that, so it’s just a hard time for (homeless) people.”
Bellefeuille instructs his volunteers to offer a handshake or a hug and ask the name of the person to whom they’re delivering a meal and a stocking.
“Everybody was born with a name and they don’t get asked that that much,” he said. “We just let the Holy Spirit guide the conversation, if any. You see a lot of tears on that run because a homeless person feels like an outcast. They feel like nobody cares.”
Our Dog Ministry volunteers have built relationships with many of the homeless people they serve, sharing their hope and showing love.
“When you don’t feel that you’re loved, that’s a pretty rough spot. That’s the greatest thing we can give anybody,” Bellefeuille said. “And I think the world needs a lot of love right now, not just the homeless.”
Volunteers come from various local churches, some aren’t affiliated with a church at all, and some are in recovery for their own addictions.
“Twice, a homeless person even came and help put everything together,” Bellefeuille said.
In Our Dog Ministry, Bellefeuille found more than a purpose and a passion — he found love.
Dee Dee Bellefeuille heard about the ministry and showed up one weekend to volunteer. The couple will celebrate their sixth wedding anniversary in February.
“God has been good,” Bellefeuille said. “I just continue to have faith and trust in him.”
Interacting with homeless individuals reminds Bellefeuille that he could go back to that life at any time if he isn’t diligent about staying away from alcohol and drugs.
“Because I’m clean and sober today doesn’t mean that I’m going to be clean and sober for the rest of my life — or tomorrow,” he said. “I take it one day at a time on that. I asked God this morning to keep me sober, and I’ll thank him for another day of sobriety.”
Helping others has been part of Bellefeuille’s recovery from addiction.
“What does God want us to do? To be of service to Him and others,” he said. “The one big thing that I struggled with besides drugs and alcohol was low self worth, low self esteem. I thought, ‘This is what I deserve, I can’t amount to anything. This is all I’m going to be, I’m going to die.’ That’s who I was. But coming and doing the 12 steps of recovery, and through God, I learned who I really was, and that’s a child of God.”
How to help
Contact Scott Bellefeuille at Our Dog Ministry at (559) 283-5533 or firstname.lastname@example.org.