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KTD speaker Duane Drost to share story of faith, hope and forgiveness

Duane Drost (right) is ready to haul one of the Bless You Inc. campers back to home base in Iowa in this 2017 photo. (Submitted photo)1 / 3
Duane Drost (left) parks one of the Bless You Inc. campers at the site of a family home near Kirkland, Ill., that was destroyed by an EF-4 tornado in April 2015. (Submitted photo)2 / 3
Duane Drost stands next to one of the campers in the Bless You Inc. fleet. (Submitted photo)3 / 3

WORTHINGTON — The 2018 King Turkey Day speaker won’t have time to give his entire life story during his 20-minute speech next Saturday.

Attendees, however, will come face to face with a man who has triumphed over adversity by giving his life to God to be able to serve others.

Duane Drost grew up on a farm southeast of Rushmore and would have been a 1978 Worthington High School graduate if he hadn’t dropped out in the ninth grade.

“I was a slow reader and couldn’t understand what I read,” shared Drost. “When you don’t read so well, a lot of the courses — outside of math — are kind of tough.”

He worked at home on the farm until his 18th birthday, and then he walked away from there, too.

Life never seemed to get easier for Drost, who refers to the first 45 years of his life as one big tornado or hurricane. At age 45, he attempted suicide.

“I was a very angry person for the first 45 years of my life — how I was brought up, my first marriage,” he admitted. “Everybody kind of ran me down, and I just couldn’t stand it.”

The death of his daughter brought him to the end of his rope, Drost said.

Pulling the trigger on the shotgun, he thought, would end his pain.

“It should have blew a hole right through me, but it didn’t,” Drost said. “I knew God’s hand was in it.”

Laying in a hospital bed in severe pain, Drost asked God to forgive him. It took another six or seven years before he figured out what God wanted him to do.

Today, Drost lives in rural Sibley, Iowa, where he operates a nationwide nonprofit, Bless You Inc., focused on providing temporary living space for individuals and families who have lost their homes to hurricanes, fires, tornadoes, floods and other disasters. His fleet of 35 campers are delivered to wherever they are needed, and have stayed in one place for as short as a few weeks to as long as a few years.

It was down in Texas last year, after Hurricane Harvey struck the Gulf Coast and Drost delivered some of his campers there to help, that King Turkey Day board member Terri Odell learned of Drost’s eagerness to help others and his Worthington-area roots.

“We’ve got probably 10 trailers in Texas, in about three or four different spots,” Drost said. The hurricane hit the region little more than a year ago.

Bless You Inc. is non-denominational, but works directly with churches to help those most in need and give glory to God across the miles.

Formed six years ago with six campers, Drost said Bless You Inc. has grown by word of mouth. Of its current fleet, 25 campers are occupied by families today in California, Louisiana and Texas. Campers have been used by families close to home as well, in both Iowa and Minnesota.

“There’s some trailers that get used six or seven times a year,” Drost said, adding that he can’t even guess how many lives his campers have sheltered over the years.

Drost said he is often asked by those helped through the organization why he founded Bless You Inc.

His simple response is “God’s gift is free.” It’s also about his belief that actions should speak louder than words.

Drost said that so often after a disaster, truckloads of goods are delivered to disaster areas, and while those supplies are needed, there are still people who don’t have a place to live. The campers provide transitional housing until the individual or family finds a permanent home. While the hope is that happens within a year and the camper is returned, Drost said a Colorado woman lived in her temporary camper for three years.

Before the campers are delivered to a disaster area, they are fully stocked with bedding, toiletries, food, water and other necessities.

“We do everything on donations,” Drost said. “Not one person in the organization gets paid a dime. Every dollar that’s given goes right back into helping.”

When he considers the impact he’s made on others during the past six years, Drost gives God the credit.

“God likes to use the broken,” he said. “They can kind of understand people who are down and out because they’ve been there themselves.

“I’m starting to understand more of that. Until you go through some sort of disaster of your own — it doesn’t have to be weather — it takes you down to your knees and you have to say it’s out of your hands.”

To learn more about Bless You Inc., visit its website at blessyouinc.com or find it on Facebook. The non-profit accepts both financial contributions and donations of campers.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at The Farm Bleat

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