By Chad Ruiz
While most Louisianans counted their blessings following the Hurricane Harvey disaster in Houston, Houma resident Dean Schouest headed west. With the help of friends and the community, Schouest loaded a trailer with food, huge cooking pots, home supplies and other materials and drove into the disaster area. There, the Dean Team prepared and fed thousands of residents while giving away clothes, water and other household goods.
Shouest is at his best when hosting giveaways, fundraisers, toy drives and other charitable events. He’s Clark Kent during the week and Superman on the weekend raising money for strangers with medical conditions or burial expenses.
“I’ve done it all over. I’ve been to Lafayette a few times, Houston for the hurricane, Baton Rouge for the floods and many others,” Shouest said. “We brought trailer loads of cleaning supplies and pots of food to Baton Rouge. We also formed a group called Louisiana Flood Benefit where we got a bunch of bands that played for free. We sold food and drinks and donated it all to Acadiana Parish and Baton Rouge to help them get back on their feet.”
Schouest’s altruism began nearly a decade ago when a friend from high school battling cancer asked him to cook at his fundraiser. He had the experience and equipment to cook for hundreds of people but most importantly, he had the heart to do it free of charge. That event led to another and another and soon his fundraising forte and his huge pots circulated Terrebonne Parish.
“The feeling I get from knowing I helped someone in need and seeing their family and friends come together and show them love when they are down and out…that’s the reason I do it,” Schouest said. “My biggest blessing is my community. Because of what I’ve done for different families, now everybody supports everything I do. I can wake up one day and say, ‘I want to do this’ and the community backs me 110 percent.’”
Schouest markets his events to his 5,000-plus friends on Facebook and with flyers posted around the community—it works.
“We did a blanket drive for the homeless two years ago and filled three trailer loads of blankets and clothes. It was so successful, channel 4 news showed up. Our most successful one was probably a cancer benefit where we raised about $50 thousand.”
Schouest gives all the credit to the community and the volunteers.
“I have a group I call Team Dean of about 20 volunteers I reach out to whenever I’m putting something on. All I’m giving is my time. All of the food and supplies are financed through donations from local businesses and residents. I consider myself just a facilitator,” Schouest said.
Currently, Schouest and his troupe are promoting a March 24 skeet shooting benefit at Bayou Country Sporting Clays where they hope to raise money for Kenneth Breaux’s fight against lung cancer. And the weekend after that? You guessed it, there will be another event, and then another.
“I got a call today from a guy who lost his brother-in-law and they don’t have the money to bury him. And right now, I’m in the process of helping another family put on an event for their son that’s 25 years old dealing with cancer.”
The need for help can be overwhelming but thankfully, Schouest and the people of Terrebonne Parish have huge pots and even bigger hearts.