Stokes: Stay Home. Stay Safe. Save Lives. Part 9.

Our series of Local People, Local Stories, Local Impact continues with Matt Dotson, Founder and President of Rustic River Craftsman Foundation, a place where veterans can find a purpose.

These veterans discuss how COVID19 has impacted their purpose of engaging with other veterans and being #veteranstrong #communitystrong.

At Rustic River Crafstman Foundation for veterans, instead of going out and isolating, being depressed by yourself, come here. We can teach you woodworking, blacksmithing, we can give you a task and purpose that you are used to having. #veteranstrong

Rustic River Craftsman Foundation is a local organization for veterans struggling to adjust to civilian live.

RRCF provides a purpose and task for veterans who are returning and transitioning.

It is a resource center for veterans having problems with disability or dealing with life. It is a place where veterans can work or just be with buddies that understand.

This is a place where veterans come to work out issues, where woodworking serves as occupational therapy.

We asked Matt, “How has COVID19 affected Rustic River Craftsman Foundation?”

“Well we’re about a month deep into this and at first there was a lot of uncertainty and I guess we didn’t know if we were going to get pulled over on the way up here, if we were allowed to connect even if we kept our social distancing, we didn’t know what was going to happen so it was kind of a looming situation I guess.”

“The more veterans I can get in here and I can teach this concept to, the more veterans I can send back to their communities and that is how you ultimately make a big change”, Matt Dotson

“We had a fishing tournament scheduled here which involved a lot of other veterans, especially our Recreational Director, and one of the things we do here is provide purpose, like the fishing tournament, I know when I give that seed to that guy he’s going to water it, and for the next couple months or weeks whatever it is he’s going to be focused on that and that’s his purpose and when COVID came around the wind went right out of the sails.

It kind of sucks being president sitting back watching some guys motivation and confidence kind of diminish but at the same time there’s positivity, some things that happened we had a fundraiser my guys did all the work we did it online, we connected we made teamwork happen and honestly that’s what it’s all about.”

Eugene is a Marine Corp veteran and RRCF Recreational Therapy Director and was asked: “Can you think of something positive and uplifting during the uncertainty of COVID19?”

Eugene says, “I’ve never seen anything like this, especially in this area, that has got what we got for veterans”

“I mean look around, look where I’m at, I’m here now it’s 3pm on a Friday, I’m not at work and that sucks but I can always come here and see my buddies and see my bros, do some wood work, paint a little bit, talk about life stuff, talk about other peoples life stuff, cause I’m not the only person that has a problem.

All my buddies have problems and they’re free to vent to me and I feel good knowing I can come here and do that for them and just do that with them, that’s important.

I can’t name another place that I’ve ever seen, especially in this area, I’ve never seen anything in this area that’s got what we have here and offers what Rustic has offered me and brought me into, this is awesome.

Tony, Secretary and Mission Director for RRCF was asked: “How has RRCF supported you and other veterans during COVID19?”

Tony, Army and Navy veteran, utilizing woodworking to address PTSD.

“After the initial two weeks of everyone going crazy I realized how much this place means to me, because my PTSD was getting crazy, isolating at home and I realized that our doors are always open.”

“I started coming back up here and it really calmed me down. A lot of people still cant come into the doors which is sad because of everything going on but we reached out and did a sweatshirt and tee shirt drive and made some money for the foundation and that gave me a purpose, even when I was at home I could reach out and talk about Rustic River and help out the foundation”

Ranger, Tony’s service dog.

We asked Matt, “Why is it important for RRCF to be here for veterans during COVID19?”

“It’s real simple, people have to have a place to go. Every community has a YMCA, every community has a church, they have a school.

If I was a struggling veteran and I came up to you and asked, “where can I go?”, you would say VA (Veterans Affairs) and it doesn’t work that way. That is why it is important we are here, so my guys can come in they can have something to do and we can connect, we’re winning.

It’s the whole point, as long as there are 22 a day we’re open. Godspeed.” 
Matt Dotson, Founder and President of Rustic River Craftsman Foundation.
You can find Rustic River Craftsman Foundation on Facebook by clicking this picture.


Providing veterans with a purpose.



The warehouse is a safe space to share feelings with fellow veterans.


Information above was taken from vidoes provided by RRCF to Stokes Citizens.

Read our other entries in Local People, Local Stories, Local Impact here.