On a recent morning, Hank Drost helped a new client navigate the complicated task of obtaining insurance.
Like most of his customers, the woman walked into his Upper State Street office without an appointment, having heard of the Santa Barbara man’s generosity and willingness to help those struggling more than most.
She sat on a black leather couch beside cookie-filled plastic containers on hand in case a client or, more likely, one of Drost’s many fans in the local homeless community comes hungry.
The woman exchanged a smile and handshake with Drost before departing, another local added to a long list of beneficiaries of the Pentecostal lay preacher’s generosity.
Drost, a 79-year-old native of Holland and a black belt in judo karate, has gained notoriety over the last 40 years for what some dub the “Hank Show” — a weekly Sunday morning ministry Drost hosts for area homeless at Pershing Park’s Plaza del Mar.
He preaches the gospel and sings hymns mere feet from Santa Barbara’s tourist-packed waterfront, and he spends every dime earned feeding and clothing the hundreds of homeless who show up.
Rain or shine, Drost has never missed a Sunday.
When the Tea Fire destroyed his Mountain Drive home in 2008, Drost thought only of others and continuing what he believes is his God-given mission.
“The next Sunday I was feeding 200 people,” Drost said, chuckling at the memory. “He told me to go to the park and feed these people. I’ve never been a dollar short.”
Because of that undying devotion, the local homeless community recently honored Drost with a plaque to show its appreciation.
Nancy McGradie, a longtime local homeless activist, helped organize the Pershing Park award ceremony, commending Drost’s compassion.
She also noted his courage to continue preaching even after the City of Santa Barbara’s thus-far unsuccessful attempts to have Drost arrested for gathering so many homeless in the touristy area.
“People love him,” McGradie said of area homeless. “They were so happy. He feels that he shouldn’t be honored, but one should only honor Jesus Christ.”
For a man who can’t get enough of praising the Lord, Drost is humbly at a loss when accepting any praise himself.
“I told them, ‘Don’t honor me,’” Drost said. “But I feel it is nice that they do that. I love these people. I don’t need the money.”
Drost, who previously served in the U.N. military, immigrated to the Central Coast and founded Santa Barbara Insurance Broker Agency in 1963.
He said God told him to help the homeless after an experience he had at a local Pentecostal church gathering.
Bagels, sandwiches, pastries and coffee are regular staples of the 9 a.m. “Hank Show,” as well as toothbrushes, shoes and socks.
And if Drost doesn’t have what someone needs, he goes the store to get it.
Drost may be pushing 80, but he doesn’t plan to quit anytime soon. He proudly plans to continue his ministry and giveaways “till the Lord comes.”