Paul Bedard was an angry, selfish man, but when he found his calling as a man of God 42 years ago, he was transformed.
A man of God first, he is also a passionate volunteer and is letting people know that there is hope for change. Since taking on a leadership role at the local Salvation Army office, he has helped grow its volunteer base.
Having gone through his own struggles in life, Bedard believes others can change as well.
“I was an angry man, and because of my own anger issue, I ruined my relationship with my wife and my children,” he shared.
In his desire to save his family, he sought help from a Presbyterian counsellor, David Sherbino.
The journey saw him change from selfishness to more selflessness.
From the time that he decided to change, Bedard said that God restored his relationship, not with his marriage, but with his children.
Bedard studied the Bible and when he was ready he started teaching and leading the prayer meeting.
He is also part of the street ministry with the Timmins Pentecostal Church. They walk around the community on Saturday nights searching for homeless to feed and share the gospel with.
“So we help out the people in every aspect. I referred them to wherever they might need,” he said.
He also drives individuals who are living with addiction to their detox schedule and helps their family members find work, acquire a driver’s license, or drive them wherever they might need to go. For children in need, he drives them to their doctor’s appointments and to school and brings them food.
“I’m just hands-on with referring and helping people get on with their lives — we counsel them, we teach them, we bring them food — whatever we can,” he added.
When the pandemic hit in 2020, he started volunteering for Salvation Army in its feeding program.
Due to his constant presence in the Salvation Army, Robert Donaldson, who was the captain of Kirkland Lake Salvation Army at that time, asked him to run the Timmins branch on a volunteer basis.
Since his leadership began, Bedard has increased the number of volunteers by linking up with different churches and encouraging churchgoers to commit to volunteer at the Salvation Army as servers, ministers or helpers in the kitchen.
He said when he joined Salvation Army three years ago, his team in the Pentecostal Church were also volunteers.
“There’s more volunteers now, more churches are involved,” he said.
Bedard said he aims to get all churches in Timmins and South Porcupine, whatever their denomination, to work with the Salvation Army.
The food drive on Wednesdays from 4-5 p.m., he said, is funded by Salvation Army, while the Sunday program is run by the Pentecostal church.
Salvation Army also has a drop-in café called from 1-3 p.m. every Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday. They host a Bible study and gospel music as well.
Bedard said they are also changing their approach. The group is focusing more on bringing the children to vacation bible school, ministering them, and driving them to Sunday mass, in hopes that their parents will be encouraged to join them and attend the service.
So far, there were some individuals in Salvation Army that his team were able to minister, who are now active members of the church or regularly joined the weekly Bible study.
At 80 years old, he may retire soon. He will continue volunteering as long as he can, though.
“As long as I can, as long as I feel I have mental faculty, and physical abilities, I will continue as long as I can. Right now, I am looking to pass it on (the torch), just to make sure the work here continues. Trying to build something, as part of my legacy,” he said.