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Operation Stand Down Rhode Island Veterans Endowment Fund
By Jean Cohoon / August 16, 2016 /   Loading Disqus...
“We provide veterans with a hand up, not a hand out,” states Erik Wallin, executive director of Operation Stand Down Rhode Island (OSDRI), in explaining the organization’s wide-range of services: permanent supportive and transitional housing, case management, food, clothing, employment training, coordination of veterans’ benefits, and more.

Founded in 1993 by Tony DeQuattro, president and chairman of the OSDRI board, the organization’s initial focus was housing. “The organization was started to address the fact that 20 years after the Vietnam War, there were still veterans on the street, homeless. In the past five years, we’ve expanded to homeless prevention and developed new programs for younger veterans and families,” Erik says.

OSDRI has a staff of 14, and all staff members are veterans or have immediate family members who are. “We’re all deeply rooted in the military. It helps us connect much more quickly. Our staff feel fulfilled because they’re helping their brother and sister veterans,” shares Dee DeQuattro, OSDRI’s director of communications and development.

OSDRI owns and operates 88 units of permanent supportive and transitional housing across the state, operates four food pantries, and serves more than 2,000 veterans annually. Its Stand Down Weekend, held each fall, affords veterans the opportunity to access not only OSDRI services, but also those of federal, state, and community agencies.

OSDRI’s Boots on the Ground for Heroes Memorial, held this past Memorial Day weekend in Roger Williams Park, provided another opportunity to reach out to veterans and also to raise public awareness of the organziation. “It was a huge accompishment,” Dee marvels of the memorial which involved 6,844 pairs of boots, each with a name placard for an individual killed in action since 9/11.

OSDRI receives federal grants, but also relies on fundraisers and private contributions for support. “A lot of careful decisions allowed us to get the resources to start this endowment,” Erik says, adding, “We feel it’s essential that we put funds aside to help bridge any future funding gaps and to allow us to diversify our services. And there’s an inherent trust in the Rhode Island Foundation.”
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