With the first stings of cold weather in the air, two ministries to Baton Rouge’s homeless men, women and children are teaming up to collect 1,000 coats in the next few weeks.
Catherine Comeaux, of Signs and Wonders Outreach Ministry, and Russell and Debby Gautreaux, of Fire House Ministries, are asking for for coats, jackets, sweaters and blankets they will begin distributing Dec. 6 in downtown Baton Rouge.
Donations can be dropped off at the Thee Heavenly Donut locations at 5830 S. Sherwood Forest Blvd. and 1732 Highland Road, says Comeaux, an evangelist who owns the shops.
“My heart is on the street,” says Comeaux of her work to help the homeless.
She has been serving the homeless for five years in a variety of ways, including buying tents and sleeping bags for some men and finding homes and jobs for others. But her mission is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, she says.
“When I’m preaching to them I preach, ‘it is Jesus plus nothing,’” Comeaux says. “It’s not Jesus plus your drugs, it’s not Jesus plus any addiction, it’s not Jesus plus gambling. You have to come out from where you are at. I have seen people delivered and set free from addictions.”
Russell Gautreaux adds: “When you give someone a coat or a blanket, you are showing them that you care, and they feel you are investing in them, and then they will listen to what you have to say.”
The homeless are more than the stereotypical image of the mentally ill, alcoholic, drug addicted or disturbed veterans, Comeaux says. There are also homeless women and some of them have children with them.
“I’ve met intelligent people, men and women, who have had something dramatic happen in their life and they never got over it,” Comeaux says. “Our part is to help them and bring them back to the place where they believe in themselves.”
Russell Gautreaux says that, for example, he and Debby met a woman who had two children in another state, and found her a small apartment and a job and she is now reunited with her children here.
“They need to know where the resources are,” Debby Gautreaux says. “We help them find resources, to find a job, to get transportation to a job or to get bus tickets to get home.”
Comeaux and the Gautreauxs say they don’t know how many homeless there are in Baton Rouge, but estimate the number is in the hundreds.
“You can find them anywhere — sometimes at the red lights,” Comeaux says.
She and the Gautreauxs cooperate with Keith Richard’s Elevate Ministry and Bethany Church’s homeless ministry, who will also be involved in the coat distribution.
The Gautreauxs have been married nearly a year and have dedicated their lives to ministering to the homeless. In fact, Russell, 60, proposed to Debby, 50, twice — once at the fancy Nottoway Plantation and again later that evening at an empty lot near St. Vincent de Paul Homeless Shelter, where several homeless men were their witnesses.
“When we first met I could just feel God’s presence in her,” Russell Gautreaux says. “We both have a passion for the needy so I asked her, ‘would you marry me and help me help the needy?’ And she said ‘yes.’”
“We would go on dates and then go downtown and go minister to some people,” Debby Gautreaux says. “We work well together. He will minister to the men, and I will minister to the ladies. We were married Dec. 31, on a beach in Florida.”
This is the second marriage for both of them. He has three grown children and she has two. Fire House Ministries, they say, is funded by their own paychecks from his job as a safety manager and hers as a hospital receptionist.
“I have a pastor’s call to someday plant a church in downtown Baton Rouge,” says Russell Comeaux, who is also an ordained minister. He is also a family counselor and Debby, who recently published a book, “God’s Promises for Women,” often speaks at local women’s conferences.
“When you hand someone a plate of food, or a blanket or a coat, it is at that moment you can not only talk to them about the Lord but you can talk to them about how they can better their life,” Russell Gautreaux says. “You are showing them you care.”
For more information, call Comeaux at (225) 368-0090 or Russell Gautreaux at (225) 323-6053, or visit Fire House Ministries on Facebook.