'He wanted to help kids that were like him': Frugal carpenter saved up to give full college scholarships to 33 strangers

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Thursday, July 18, 2019
Carpenter leaves life-changing gift for 33 poor, hardworking students
A carpenter from Iowa who owned two pair of jeans and an old rusty truck paid for 33 strangers to get a college education.

DES MOINES, Iowa -- A carpenter from Iowa, who owned two pair of jeans and an old rusty truck, paid for 33 strangers to get a college education, according to KCCI.

Dale Schroeder was a simple man. He grew up poor. He never went to college. He never got married. He worked at the same business for 67 years.

"He was that kind of a blue-collar, lunch pail kind of a guy," Schroeder's friend Steve Nielsen said. "Went to work every day, worked really hard, was frugal like a lot of Iowans."

When Schroeder died in 2005, he did not have any descendants. What he did have was a pair of work jeans, a pair of church jeans, a rusty Chevrolet truck, and a desire to help small-town kids in Iowa go to college.

"He wanted to help kids that were like him that probably wouldn't have an opportunity to go to college but for his gift," Nielsen said.

Over his nearly 70 years of carpentry work and frugal living, Schroeder had amassed almost $3 million in savings.

Much of that money went into a scholarship fund, and it helped 33 people go to college free of charge.

Those people got together 14 years after the death of a man they never met. They all gathered around Schroeder's old lunch box and talked about the difference he made in their lives.

Kira Conard is one of the people who now call themselves "Dale's Kids."

At her high school graduation party, she was preparing to tell her friends that she wouldn't be going to college. She had the grades but didn't have the money.

That is until her phone rang, and she learned about Dale Schroeder.

"I broke down into tears immediately," Conard recalled.

Now she's graduating from college debt-free and looking to start her career as a therapist.

Dale's Kids all finished college without debt, but there was one string attached, "All we ask is that you pay it forward," Nielsen said. "You can't pay it back, because Dale's gone, but you can remember him, and you can emulate him."