Very few people know what they want to do with their life at the age of 12.
But that wasn’t the case for Nationwider Jon Rust, a finance process improvement consultant in Columbus.
His desire to serve in the military followed him to The Ohio State University where he joined Army ROTC. When the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 occurred, Jon says he was ready to defend our country. Jon served on active duty as a field artillery and military intelligence officer in the 101st Airborne Division from 2004-2009, including two combat deployments to Iraq. He continues to serve as an intelligence officer in the Army Reserve.
As a US Army veteran himself, Jon knows it’s important to have a strong support system as veterans transition back to civilian life. So three years ago, he and two fellow veterans created The Overwatch Partnership, an organization that provides mentoring and career development to central Ohio veterans.
Jon’s commitment to helping veterans in his community makes him Nationwide’s 2019 Volunteer of the Year.
He shared his story and what the Volunteer of Year honor means to him with Corporate Citizenship:
CC: The Overwatch Partnership started serving veterans three years ago. What challenges are veterans facing as they translate their military experience into civilian employment?
JR: As I transitioned from active duty and began looking for opportunities in the public sector, I found employers didn’t understand what type of roles I was a fit for with my military skills. Even I didn’t understand and couldn’t communicate this effectively. Although great companies, including Nationwide, employ to veterans, the challenge that remains for them is underemployment. Every veteran wants to find an employer and profession where they can feel they have a sense of community, but also where their skills, experience and contributions are recognized and valued.
CC: How has OWP helped veterans so far? What results are you seeing?
JR: We’ve supported 115 transitioning veterans with mentorships and career development coaching. Although we don’t guarantee job placement, most of our mentees have been placed into great opportunities at companies throughout central Ohio. We’ve engaged more than 100 mentors through our program — half are not veterans. This helps advance veterans causes throughout the community. Our partnerships with companies, government agencies and nonprofits have significantly improved the veteran transition landscape.
CC: As Nationwide’s Volunteer of the Year, what does it mean to work for a company that encourages you to pursue your passion and recognize you for it?
JR: One of the many great things about being a Nationwider is working for a company that provides the “work-life balance” to allow you to pursue your passions outside of work. I’m extremely humbled and proud to be recognized by Nationwide for my contributions to the veteran community as part of The Overwatch Partnership. It’s GREAT to be a Nationwider!
CC: What advice can share with other Nationwiders who may be looking for motivation to start their own non-profit?
JR: Don’t wait! There’s never a “good” time to start in today’s hectic world. You’re never going to be completely ready. OWP started the way most good things start — an idea between three friends scratched out on the back of a restaurant napkin. Surround yourself with great people, don’t try to do it all by yourself and be protective of your “brand” and what you stand for.
As the Volunteer of the Year, Jon earns a $5,000 grant for The Overwatch Partnership and two days of paid time off. Nine honorees receive $1,000 grants for their nonprofit organization and one day of paid time off.