33 Iowa kids got to go to college thanks to generosity of frugal carpenter

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DES MOINES, Iowa – An Iowa carpenter who died more than a decade ago is still taking care of “Dale’s Kids.”

Dale Schroeder was the unassuming type, a carpenter for nearly seven decades at the same Des Moines business, reports KCCI. He never married and lived frugally. Friends say he only had two pairs of jeans: one for church and one for work.

But when he strolled in to his lawyer’s office one fateful day, he revealed he had $3 million and wanted send small-town Iowa kids to college—an opportunity he never had.

Since then, his generosity has helped 33 of those small-town Iowa kids, including Kira Conard.

“I grew up in a single parent household and I had three older sisters, so paying for all four of us was never an option,” Conard said.

She was resigned to her fate—then the phone rang.

“And I broke down into tears immediately,” she recalled.

Thanks to the generosity of Dale Schroeder, a man she’d never met and would never meet, Conard would go to college.

Friends say Schroeder grew up poor and wanted to make sure kids like him had the chance at a better life.

“He was that kind of a blue collar, lunch pail kind of a guy. Went to work every day, worked really hard, was frugal like a lot of Iowans,” said Steve Nielsen, Schroeder’s friend and attorney.

When Schroeder died in 2005, he left behind a rusty pickup truck and instructions to send kids to college.

“I said, ‘How much are we talking about, Dale?’” Nielsen recalled. “And he said, ‘Oh, just shy of $3 million,’ and I nearly fell out of my chair.”

“For a man that would never meet me, to give me basically a full ride to college, that’s incredible. That doesn’t happen,” said Conard, who’s now a therapist.

For 14 years, Schroeder’s money has helped send kids to college. The 33 recipients—who call themselves “Dale’s Kids”—gathered over the weekend to honor the unassuming man who changed their lives.

They’re doctors. Teachers. Therapists. All started their professional careers with no college debt.

But such a generous gift didn’t come without a 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.”

And as for those 33 “Dale’s Kids?” They’ll be the last ones. Schroeder’s account has finally run out of money after paying their tuition.

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