When you meet Daryl Lynn Cox and talk to her, you wonder how she manages to fit so many activities into just twenty-four hours. Ms. Cox is a psychotherapist in private practice and an independent contractor therapist with Devereux Behavioral Health. However, she is most proud of the work she does with the Veterans’ HEAT Factory (VHF) as a psychotherapist and their administrative director. She is also involved in the VHF Homeless Initiative, which supports People Helping People with their homelessness outreach. The HEAT, its participants, and its staff are avid supporters of veterans in need, especially those who are homeless.
Gus Guadagnino, founder and CEO of Veterans HEAT Factory, nominated Daryl Lynn as a Hernando Hero and states, “In Daryl Lynn’s world, there are no time clocks nor weekends off.
She has dedicated her life to the work we are doing at the HEAT. Many times, I had to throw her out of the building and remind her that she has a husband at home waiting for her!”
Daryl Lynn’s passion for working with veterans and first responders comes from her son, a retired Army veteran; her daughter, who currently serves in the Air Force Reserve out of MacDill Air Force Base; and her late sister, who was a nurse at HCA Florida Oak Hill Hospital.
In addition to a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in social work, Daryl Lynn will start working on her doctorate degree in January. She specializes in PTSD, ADHD, anxiety and grief, and has experience with borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.
Another activity that keeps her busy is serving on the board of directors for the Hernando National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), where she also facilitates their grief support group and holds quarterly grief workshops.
Daryl Lynn has had several mentors throughout her career. Chief among them are Diane Scotland Coogan and Jessica Dimara.
“Diane was a catalyst for my joining the HEAT and is my current supervisor there and at my private practice. Jessica is my supervisor for Devereux and has been instrumental in my development as a therapist and leader,” Ms. Cox remarks.
Her greatest personal mentor has been Gus Guadagnino, about whom Daryl Lynn states, “Gus’s passion and business sense is inspirational, and his gentle encouragement fosters my leadership growth.”
As if working as a psychotherapist, social worker and non-profit administrator wasn’t enough, Daryl Lynn started her own 501(c)(3), Designs in Hope. This came about when Daryl Lynn’s sister passed away by suicide four years ago. As a way of coping with her grief, she started making jewelry. Daryl Lynn’s sister had been an avid jeweler, and with this hobby, she felt a closeness to her sister.
“I started making suicide awareness bracelets and giving them away. Then, someone asked me to make a cancer bracelet, and I did. It took on a life of its own after that.”
The anniversary of her sister’s death hit Daryl Lynn hard, so she reached out to Diane Scotland Coogan and a student who was an intern at the HEAT Factory. Through them, she learned about Veterans’ HEAT Factory and started donating bracelets to the organization.
“Once I started to interact with the veterans and first responders, I realized this was my calling and made a commitment to join the HEAT officially as a therapist, and then a short time later accepted the Administrative Director position.”
Daryl Lynn has a number of goals; both professional and regarding VHF. For personal goals, she wants to complete her Ph.D. and then finish the clinical hours needed to sit for her licensure as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW).
Her first goal for the HEAT Factory is to secure grants, which are the lifeblood of just about every non-profit organization. Daryl Lynn also wants to continue upgrading their building, which is a large open warehouse space at Joni Industries. Thanks to a generous contribution of paint, other supplies and labor by Lowes in Brooksville, the building got a facelift a few weeks ago, but there are other improvements they want to make.
She would also like to see the Veterans’ HEAT Factory develop into a community center that provides counseling and activities five days a week instead of the current three days a week. Eventually, Daryl Lynn wants the HEAT Factory to be open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week and have satellite centers in other counties or states. Ambitious goals, but not unreachable to someone like Daryl Lynn Cox and the dedicated volunteers at Veterans HEAT Factory.
Gus Guadagnino sums it all up:
“I know that much credit goes to Daryl Lynn for the many veterans and first responders who expressed that our program at the HEAT has helped them immensely and the ones who said, ‘Because of this program, I am alive today.’ In my eyes, Daryl Lynn Cox is definitely a Hernando County hero.”
For more information on Veterans HEAT Factory, to volunteer, or to receive help, call 352-251-7015 or go to www.veteransheatfactory.com.