Jonathan Ray, an Air Force veteran, likes to say that he was born in Atlanta but raised in Indiana. He’s not shy about admitting to being a bit of a nerd, with a prized Batman tattoo. He’s also a husband, just recently married, and he has something of a humanitarian spirit.
Ray works as what’s called a Local Veterans Employment Representative for WorkOne, which is part of Indiana’s state government. It’s an essential role where he conducts outreach with local businesses and executives to facilitate increased employment and hiring opportunities for veterans.
“The way it’s satisfying for me is kind of two-fold,” said Ray. “For one thing, I get to see and work with all kinds of businesses across Porter County, but then the bottom line is getting a company to the point of hiring a veteran. That’s basically the reason that I do what I do.”
Through his personal experience as a veteran, he knows that transitioning out of service is not always an easy process.
“When you get out, you’re unemployed,” he explained. “So, you’re trying to transition yourself from, ‘this is what I used to do,’ to, ‘this is what I want to be.’ Being able to help veterans get from point A to point B, or even point A to point C means a lot.”
His career is built on helping people, but volunteerism and humanitarianism are basic parts of his life. From volunteering as Santa and having lunch with kids at the school his wife teaches at, to helping with disaster relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina, he finds himself drawn to helping others.
“When I was in the military, I always found that I was a bit of a humanitarian,” said Ray. “One of the best things I got to do in a sad situation was going and helping the people during Hurricane Katrina. I got to go down and help the people out there that were losing their homes by providing law enforcement, but also doing outreach, like cleaning their clothes.”
Ray is also a big believer in getting to know the community you live in, and as such, one of his big hobbies is exploring Northwest Indiana. With such a strong diversity of cities, landscapes, and landmarks, there is a lot to discover in the Region.
“I like to play video games, listen to music, but beyond that, getting out and figuring out all the nooks and crannies of Northwest Indiana,” he said. “I love finding the big places to the small places that many people might not have heard of.”
Ray has found a score of great and friendly places in his exploration. The Valpo resident found that the community is very welcoming, and even found a couple of favorite hangouts, like the comic book store Galactic Greg’s.
“When I stroll through downtown Valpo, everybody is so friendly,” said Ray. “Somebody might say hi, and there’s always community events going on. And, as a veteran, that’s huge to me, having camaraderie as a town – especially one that’s growing like Valpo. As much as Valpo has grown, that community is still there.”
Ray is humble, and not someone who loves talking about himself. The one thing that he wants to share, for himself and fellow veterans, is how much he values being embraced by a caring community.
“I’m not a boastful person, so it’s hard to talk about myself,” he explained. “But one thing I really want to share is that coming from the military and seeing the community that has been built around Northwest Indiana, especially Valpo, is more important than people can ever realize.”