Two photos of Carrissa Lynn

Blue Ridge student launches nonprofit for female veterans

Carrissa Lynn, a U.S. Navy veteran and Blue Ridge Community College Human Services Technology major, is starting her own non-profit, called The Homestead NC, designed to help women exiting the military transition smoothly to civilian life.

The 34-year-old is originally from Ocala, Florida, and moved to Hendersonville with her parents when she was in middle school. She attended Hendersonville Middle before attending boarding school in Oneida, Kentucky, for her high school years.

Lynn didn’t join the military until she was 24, beginning on March 28, 2010.

Throughout her service, she was stationed in New Orleans, where she was first attached to a Strike Fighter Squadron, then transitioned to an Intelligence command before moving on to Jacksonville, Florida, where she was attached to Coastal Riverine Squadron 10, a command responsible for land and sea security around the globe.

Exiting active duty in 2017, Lynn then served in the U.S. Navy Reserves until 2019.

Upon her return to normal life, however, Lynn was thrust into an unfamiliar world with very little local resources available for her kind – female veterans.

This hardship forced her to face the reality for many female veterans, that far too many women leaving service have to face alone, which often means little to no resources catered to transition services for women.

“The military changed my way of thinking, so just getting out of the military mindset and into civilian society has been a challenge the entire time,” Lynn said. “There is a plethora of programs for men for problems like this, but not for women.”

Lynn attributes this issue to the fact that women didn’t make up as large a percentage of troops as they do today, so resources for these veterans are still catching up.

Lynn’s non-profit, the Homestead NC, Inc., will consist of a 12-week transition program for female veterans of all backgrounds, races, sexualities, etc. For any veteran that needs to stay longer, Lynn said the Homestead will be able to accommodate them for up to 24 months.

Although the Homestead will provide men’s programs as well, housing for the men will not be offered.

Prior to the Homestead being built, however, Lynn plans to open what she calls the Outpost, which will serve as a community center for veterans and non-veterans to gather together for a variety of interests and needs. One aspect of the Outpost will be offering classes, such as practical courses like changing a tire and will be offered at little to no cost to the community.

“I would like the Outpost to be a place of gathering, helping and creating. A space where bridges are built within the community connecting cultures and strengthening families,” Lynn said. “I want everyone to feel welcome and I plan to be able to accommodate most everyone’s needs.”

The Homestead will provide a “safe space” for all participants, offering a secure sanctuary for those seeking it. Providing a safe space is exactly what the SafeLight program in downtown Hendersonville is known for. This program offers victims of child abuse, domestic abuse and sexual assault a safe location to live and even provides community programs like job training.

The cornerstone of SafeLight’s job training is the Dandelion, a local eatery which helps participants gain job experience and strengthen interpersonal skills. The Dandelion is also where Lynn volunteers her time.

“The Outpost is going to be like the Dandelion. A place where people can gather without fear of judgement or scrutiny and relax, hang out, sign up for classes and much more,” Lynn added.

The Outpost and Homestead will also both offer networking opportunities for veterans, who may not have a long list of confidants with similar backgrounds.

Despite a growing community interest in the Homestead, Lynn explained she wouldn’t have had the courage to start her own non-profit if not for her military career.

Some virtues Lynn’s service taught her include perseverance, the importance of never quitting and realizing how much untapped willpower humans have when put in stressful situations.

“You may be facing an impossible situation in a civilian setting, but in the military – impossible or not – it’s getting done one way or another. So you are trained to apply what you’ve learned to your normal everyday life as well,” Lynn added.

As a Human Services Technology major at Blue Ridge, Lynn is excited to work in a field she’s passionate about and to help her community.

“Blue Ridge’s Human Services Technology program perfectly aligns with the impact I want to make with the Homestead,” she said.

She praised the College for its accommodating approach to students, and for always being flexible and going the extra step when working with veterans.

At the moment, only a few final pieces of the puzzle remain to start construction on the Homestead, such as acquiring a large enough portion of land to build on. However, the outlook is positive, and Lynn already reports having several board members enthusiastic about the project.

Local businesses are also learning about the program, and Lynn is seeing new community partners signing on to help with the Homestead’s growth.

Fundraising will start in December 2020, if all goes according to plan. Lynn hopes to have the Outpost opened by Spring 2021, with the Homestead’s construction started by the end of 2021.

For anyone interested in learning more about the Homestead NC, contact Lynn at (828) 702-3335 or at theHomesteadNC@icloud.com.

To learn more about Blue Ridge Community College’s veteran services, contact Crystal Smith at (828) 694-1815 or cc_smith@Blueridge.edu.