One of the joys of First Friday’s is meeting new people and sitting down for a meal to get to know them. I recently had this opportunity with Jarrod Wilson. He works for AEP and oversees over 600,000 meters area wide, but what impressed me the most about Jarrod is his successful journey of building his future.
Jarrod grew up in a home with not much, but his family did the best they could do. Not only did he graduate from high school, had a powerful stint in the military, and finished not one, but two college degrees to earn a Master’s in Leadership. He also recently finished the Leadership Fort Wayne program ran by Greater Fort Wayne.
Jarrod’s father died in 2016, he lost one of the most influential people in his life—confidant, mentor, Veteran. He was the guiding force who helped Jarrod become the man he is today. In fact, Jarrod served in the United States Air Force because of his father’s influence. His death was a devastating blow.
To honor his father’s memory and service to our great nation, Jarrod began the grueling process of finding the necessary resources to honor his father with the military funeral he deserved. Along his journey, Jarrod found numerous veteran resources he didn’t even know existed. He also learned most veterans know nothing of these resources. Was this due to lack of knowledge? Was it lack of access to the resources? Regardless, it inspired Jarrod to make a difference, but where to start?
In 2018, Jarrod was nominated by his employer, AEP, to participate in Leadership Fort Wayne, the prestigious leadership and community engagement program sponsored by the Greater Fort Wayne Inc. As part of the curriculum, members of the course engage in community action plans designed to enhance the local community.
This was Jarrod’s opportunity. His story so moved his classmates that it was chosen as one of eight community engagement activities for the Leadership Fort Wayne Class of 2018. And with this, Veterans Connect 211 was born! (excerpts from Veterans Connect 211).
Jarrod’s connection at First Friday’s paid instant benefits. Before our event started, he met Tisha and they visited about what they both do each day. That night Jarrod was apprehensive to take his middle school daughter to an overnight event in the Muncie area. When he dropped her off for her trip, the person running the event was none other than Tisha who he met that morning.
The power of networking and connecting was alive and well that morning and every time we meet for First Fridays. Come out and meet people like Jarrod Wilson and others to grow and network with our areas best leaders.