A life purpose is often hard to find.

Some search for it forever.

Others find it in their youth and carry it forward for years.

For Curtis DeBerg, a Grundy Center native, it came later in life.

He calls it his new mission.

A former Waverly police officer, DeBerg is the founder and CEO of a budding non-profit called Give Blue Hope. Its stated mission is “to bridge the financial gap” when a family loses a loved one, who works as a law enforcement officer or a first responder, until the benefits package kicks in.

How this idea came to fruition is intertwined with the story of DeBerg’s upbringing and his career in law enforcement, which began in Waverly.

In his worklife, which spans police service, corrections and security, he said, he has often asked himself what one can do to help bereft families of fellow law enforcement professionals.

He kept asking himself this question for years, he said, but the answer became clear to him fairly recently, after discussing the idea with his mentor, Warren Buffett.

That’s how Give Blue Hope was born.

DeBerg has worked in security for Buffett for the past four years, and has found the opportunity inspirational, hence his intense focus on how to turn an idea into an impactful force for good.

DeBerg says his experiences in law enforcement and security so far have prepared him to lead the non-profit.

“When they lose a loved one in the line of duty, families have to deal with a lot,” he said.

In the midst of grief, he added, the family often loses its most significant– and often the only– source of income until survivor benefits are processed.

That’s when Give Blue Hope would step in and help the family of the first responder or the law enforcement officer.

DeBerg said he was injured on the job when he was a police officer in Waverly early on, and that experience alerted him to the need for assistance in times of loss and grief for others.

In the years since, he felt he was called to help somehow, but it wasn’t until he started working for Buffett that he grew into awareness and saw a path forward. He shared the idea with Buffett, who encouraged him to take action and move forward with the project.

Waverly years

DeBerg graduated from Grundy Center High School in 1984. Working construction, among other jobs, he also started his career as an EMT in Grundy Center in 1987.

He had graduated from Hawkeye Community College, earning a degree in criminal justice, positioning himself for a career in law enforcement.

While working part time for Grundy Center Police Department, DeBerg attended and graduated from the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy.

That made him a valuable prospective candidate and eventually, the late Art Simpson, then the chief of the Waverly Police Department, reached out to him and asked him to apply for an opening.

Following the successful completion of the tests, DeBerg started his service in October of 1991.

Looking back on his Waverly years in law enforcement, DeBerg recalls them fondly.

In Waverly, the newly minted officer, then 24 years old, appreciated the community-based approach of the department.

He said he especially enjoyed riding around town and issuing ice-cream tickets to kids who wore their helmets, a tradition that continues today. In the department, DeBerg taught CPR and defensive tactics, among other duties.

He split his days between wearing the uniform, working out in the gym he ran in Waterloo and helping his father on the farm.

At the age of 36, DeBerg was injured on the job, which ultimately changed the direction of his life in ways he could not have imagined.

“Mine wasn’t a life-ending injury, I was able to go back,” he said. “Years went by but I kept thinking about that situation.”

Finding himself unable to report to duty after the injury threw him off course, DeBerg said, prompting him to ask himself this existential question.

“What am I going to do for the rest of my life?”

It took another 20 years to find the answer.

What followed was a career path that took unconventional turns. DeBerg went back to school for sports injury therapy, but also, continued to work in law enforcement as a corrections or security officer in Missouri and California, until he moved to Nebraska in 2015 to be closer to family.

DeBerg eventually started working security for Buffett and his company, Berkshire Hathaway, where his life changed again.

Meeting the renowned financier transformed his thinking.

“I didn’t even know that Warren Buffett worked in Omaha,” he said, reflecting on the path fate has charted for him.

After working in a security capacity at high profile, red carpet celebrity events in Southern California for several years prior to moving to Nebraska, DeBerg found Buffett’s authenticity refreshing.

He found Buffett’s work ethic, working at the age of 92, impressive and laudable.

DeBerg sought Buffett’s counsel on the non-profit idea he had been contemplating for years.

“If you have a great idea, just get it done,” he said Buffett told him when he shared his thoughts about Give Blue Hope.

The good will to do something for others was there, but he said he didn’t know how to run a non-profit. Talking with Buffett, who has become a mentor, motivated him to move forward and file the paperwork for the non-profit.

DeBerg said the non-profit is now conducting a fundraising campaign, details of which can be found at www.givebluehope.org.

“To kick things off, an anonymous donor has pledged to match the first $250,000 raised,” the organization said in a press release. “Once $500,000 has been donated, Buffett has committed to matching the full amount, giving the nonprofit $1,000,000 to impact the lives of families who have lost a loved one in the line of duty.”

Recounting his Iowa roots, and the fact that his dad, the late Kenneth DeBerg, served on the Grundy Center Fire Department for 35 years, DeBerg said he finds his career path hard to believe. Those humble beginnings and the unexpected mentorship of Buffett have brought him here and put him in a position to do good in an intentional way.

“When I was in Grundy Center, Iowa, I would never have thought I would end up in Southern California and also in Omaha, working with Warren. It’s been a helluva ride.

“This is my new life mission,” he said. “My new life mission is to get this thing very successful.”