River Falls Rotarian and Sergeant at Arms, Gerd Jon Bents, presented his classification talk to the club, where he touched on his current and past work experience, his family, and some of the things he has learned on his journey. 
River Falls Rotarian and Sergeant at Arms, Gerd Jon Bents, presented his classification talk to the club, where he touched on his current and past work experience, his family, and some of the things he has learned on his journey. 
 
Gerd (rhymes with scared) goes by his first or middle name, with varying results. He started using "Jon" after some marketing analysis in real estate sales - i.e., he received better responses to his ads when he used the name Jon. His unusual name comes from his grandfather, who came to America in the early 1900s, as one of 18 children and served as a preacher in northern Wisconsin and southern Minnesota.
 

Early years

Jon has lived many places in Minnesota and Wisconsin but spent his formative years in Northwood, Iowa as the son of a Lutheran minister. He attended college at  Dana college in Blair, NE and after graduation managed a 24-hour crisis shelter for youth in crisis.
 
He did his graduate studies at UW-Stout and finished a Masters in educational psychology. But he wasn't done. After becoming involved in his home congregation, Jon heard the call and continued on to Luther seminary and finished his Master's of Divinity there.
He has worked at Boys and Girls Town in Nebraska, and also spent time at the Stout Vocational Rehabilitation Institute in Menomonie, where he worked with adults with disabilities.
 
As a pastor, Jon served at several churches, including Rush River Lutheran church in rural River Falls. He enjoyed being there and it was instrumental in getting him involved mission development.
 
"Helping the congregation do visioning around their mission work made me realize that it was a gift I had to get things like that going - and put the system in place so that it could be run by others," he said.
 
He also got into reconciliation and mediation processes, as well as helping a church make the difficult decision to close.
 
Throughout his life, however, he has maintained a a very entrepreneurial spirit, developing a variety of businesses, including a painting business and six other ventures with varying success.
 

A theme of helping others

All of these skills, combined with his own personal interests - he has flipped 12 houses and built a cabin from scratch - eventually led him to real estate development. He especially enjoyed the organizational planning and consulting work involved. And finally, to where he is now - in the role of a financial advisor with Northwestern Mutual.
 
"All the time spent in ICUs or nursing homes with families that are watching loved ones die, working funerals, doing weddings, sitting at kitchen tables taught me that there are a few core things that families, businesses  all have in common," Jon said.
 
"Aside from vulnerability, hope and peace of mind, families want help with certain things. Finances become unspoken fears that no one wants to talk about, so you end up having some of the same conversations as a minister and financial advisor."
 
Jon likes the idea of helping people plan for what they don't expect to see, and feel a sense of accomplishment with their finances -- feeling like they have some power and control over their future.
 
"If we can't gain peace of mind in our finances, it infiltrates into other places in life," said Jon. "The things we try to do revolve around empowering people to gain peace of mind."
 
One of the best parts of his job is that he gets to meet new people daily. He likes to help people think creatively and strategically about the things that are important to them. And it's a bonus that he gets to work with a team of problem solvers that helps clients achieve tangible, visible results.
 
In his free time, Jon does volunteer work with The Drawer, which distributes socks and underwear to people in need. He also loves spending time in the wilderness and the life-changing power of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.
 
Jon lives with his partner, Sosha, and has a daughter, Raena 17, a senior this year and one son, Harm, 14, a freshman.
 
"They are amazing kids, and remind me not only how lucky I am, but how humble I can be because of what they give to me," he said.
 
 
 
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