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Passing on the blessings

Milford farmer, others provide campers for victims of disasters

January 17, 2014
By KAREN SCHWALLER - Farm News staff writer (kschwaller@evertek.net) , Farm News

MILFORD - Hanging above a doorway in Duane Drost's home is a stenciled verse, "I am the vine, you are the branches," from John 15:5.

Drost's belief in that scripture passage is the underpinning of a new ministry he is building called, Bless You Inc." and through it, he hopes to provide temporary homes to people who have been displaced because of a natural disaster.

The homes consist of used campers, stocked with donations of food, toiletries, bedding, water - the essentials for daily life.

Article Photos

DUANE DROST shows off one of the campers his ministry uses to help give temporary housing to people who have been displaced from their homes due to natural disasters. Campers come to families stocked and ready to use.

In this way, Drost said, he is one of the branches shooting off from the vine.

"So many times when a natural disaster happens people send money, food, diapers, clothing and things like that," Drost said. "Those people do need those things, but what do they do with them if they don't have a home or a place to use them?"

The ministry has been in the making for a year, but was formulating in his thoughts much longer.

Drost said he had recovered from overwhelming personal struggles, and from that realized how blessed he has been.

"I wanted to do something to help someone ... to bless someone," Drost said. "A blessing isn't money. A blessing is an unexpected gift.

"It can be as small as when someone can't buy groceries, and another person hands them a box of food."

Drost seeks out good, used, preferably 30-foot campers.

He cleans them with the help from church volunteers, stocks the campers with necessities, including a generator. To date, he has six campers that have been taken to Moore, Okla., where a tornado tore through the lowest income area of the state, flattening everything.

"I hadn't been down there until then and I visited with some of the people we were helping," he said. "It was the best thing I ever did.

"I would get so caught up in my own work (farming), but doing this is now really important to me."

Drost compared natural disasters to a death.

"People hover over you right away and they want to help, but months later many forget about it." he said. "It's important that we help people in the months after they experience something like this."

At first, Drost said it was difficult to obtain liability and physical damage insurance because insurance companies weren't sure where the campers would be, nor if the prospect overall was safe. After months of persistence, and just shortly before the Oklahoma tornado last fall, he secured insurance coverage and was able to send the campers to that area.

"We try to put them where their home was if we can, because that way they can still be near their home," he said. "They can live in them as long as they need to until their homes are repaired or rebuilt. That might be a year or two or three.

"When they're done with them, someone else will use them. So far people have treated the trailers well, and have been grateful for them. There are still people living in tents from that tornado last November."

One of their campers is for relief workers there to have a home base.

The campers are funded 100 percent with donations, and Bless You Inc. is set up as a 501(c) tax-exempt nonprofit organization, with a small board of directors to govern it. Drost sees that growing as the ministry grows.

Currently, all of the campers they have are paid for through cash donations, and they have no debt. They will also take used campers, but they need to be in good condition and livable.

Drost said 100 percent of the funding goes directly to the cause, which also needs donations of gasoline or gasoline gift cards because hauling the trailers to areas where they are needed takes a lot of gas.

"We could let the people come and get them, but that's not really a gift then," Drost said. "In order to truly give, you have to go that extra mile and go to the people."

Bless You Inc. works with churches and civic organizations in the devastated areas to identify people or families who have been left homeless by natural disaster.

Drost said he knows that if he had five or six more trailers, they would be gone in a week - and named off areas of the United States where other disasters have happened, where he thinks they could use this kind of gift.

He survived childhood struggles, the farm crisis of the 1980s and a divorce. However, the loss of a daughter caused him to attempt suicide with a shotgun.

While he was in the hospital recovering, he said he felt a literal "touch from God," decided to pull himself together and "quit feeling sorry for myself."

It was then that he decided that, while he enjoyed farming, it wasn't what his life was about anymore. Although he started over in farming, he said, but he said his life are now about "being the hands and feet of God on earth." He was determined to find a way to do that.

"Our pastor asked me, 'Now that He saved you, what are you going to do with it?' It really got me thinking about what I should do," Drost said.

Drost said he was so o grateful for God's touch and for sending the right people to him in his time of need, that he wanted to bless other people in the same way-thus, the name Bless You Inc.

"If God is using you to help other people, you should feel so blessed, because that means he trusts you," Drost said.

Today, Drost and wife, Lisa, live on a farm west of Milford and have a few stock cows, feeder cattle and some grain. But when he's not farming, Drost said Bless You Inc. is his first order of business.

"God saved me, and so I know I have to help other people," he said. "I understand now why God uses the broken to help heal the broken-because they have been through it, too. "I will be God's hands and feet, but this project is not about us - it's about the people we're helping, and it's about Him."

 
 

 

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