Competition raises funds and awareness to support homeless women Veterans
BAYADA Home Health Care Nurse Kristin Leone, RN, BSN, a Lieutenant Commander in the US Navy, was placed as one of the top 10 finalists in the Ms. Veteran America competition, which is designed to highlight the strength, courage, and sacrifice of military women.
Whether she is providing nursing care at home to children with complex medical needs or caring for soldiers injured in battle in Afghanistan, being called to serve has been the driving force behind Kristin’s impressive 22-year career.
“I was about 12 when I decided I wanted to be a nurse,” shared Kristin, who works for BAYADA’s Washington Township, NJ Pediatrics office. “I originally wanted to be a doctor, but nurses spend more time with their patients. I wanted that human connection, it’s where I thought I’d make the most difference.”
Kristin earned her bachelor’s in nursing from DeSales University in 1998, and a master’s in nursing from Drexel University in 2019. Her experience includes working in a hospital neonatal unit and an adult intensive care unit. At BAYADA she provides care in her patients’ homes and served as a clinical educator training new nurses.
While her work brought her tremendous satisfaction, her family’s proud military history spoke to her, laying the foundation to take her career to a higher level. In 2010 she was commissioned into the Navy Nurse Corps Reserve as an officer, earning the title of Lieutenant Commander.
“My grandfather served on a destroyer during World War II and I have uncles who are Army and Air Force veterans. I wanted to carry on the tradition,” said Kristin, who became the first woman in her family to serve in the military.
During her six-month deployment to Afghanistan in 2015, she treated patients in the intensive care unit at a combat hospital in Kandahar. Her charges included sailors and soldiers from the United States and other countries as well as civilian contractors. She credits her BAYADA co-workers for helping with the difficult transition back to civilian life.
“They were so supportive when I was deployed and welcomed me back to my role as clinical educator when I returned,” said Kristin. “If I needed to take a break or shut a door, they gave me the space I needed.”
When a friend encouraged Kristin to enter the Ms. Veteran America competition, she didn’t immediately embrace the idea. “I was working at BAYADA, going to school for my master’s and also a full-time mom to my teenage son,” she explained. “I didn’t have time to breathe.”
However, when Kristin learned that the competition supports Final Solute, Inc., an organization that provides homeless women veterans with safe and suitable housing, she changed her mind.
Reminiscent of the classic Miss America Pageant, the competition tests each participant’s strength, poise, creativity, and grace under pressure. Tasks ranged from a push-up contest, to an evening gown competition, to the interview portion where Kristin spoke about topics ranging from current events, women in military history, and her passion for helping homeless woman veterans.
“The majority of VA programs are geared towards men,” said Kristin. “There is limited support for women, and even less support for women with children.”
According to Final Solute, Inc., there are an estimated 55,000 homeless women veterans, who are two to three times more likely to be homeless than their male counterparts. More than 60 percent of programs that serve homeless women veterans do not house children or put restrictions on the ages or number of children. More than 70 percent of homeless women veterans are single mothers. Limited housing for women and their children puts these families at risk of remaining homeless.
Finale Solute, Inc. provides transitional housing, financial assistance and resources, and employment transition support.
Kristin raises awareness for Final Solute, Inc. by speaking at schools and community organizations and has started her own campaign to support the organization, which has raised more than $1,000.