OSDRI in Johnston hosts annual Veteran Assistance Weekend

By RORY SCHULER
Posted 9/24/21

Operation Stand Down Rhode Island (OSDRI) kicked off its annual veteran assistance outreach weekend on Sept. 17.

The two day event featured a wealth of resources to help veterans in …

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OSDRI in Johnston hosts annual Veteran Assistance Weekend

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Operation Stand Down Rhode Island (OSDRI) kicked off its annual veteran assistance outreach weekend on Sept. 17.

The two day event featured a wealth of resources to help veterans in need.

“The Veteran Assistance Weekend hosted over 300 in-need veterans who were able to access life-changing and in some cases life-saving services from nearly 50 providers,” said OSDRI Executive Director Erik Wallin.

The event also featured a special presentation of the Boots of the 29 fallen Rhode Islanders and the 13 American Service members killed in Kabul during the rescue efforts on Aug. 26, as a tribute to the 20th Anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The boots were part of OSDRI’s annual display of the Boots on the Ground for Heroes Memorial.

The weekend event took place at OSDRI’s Headquarters, the Anthony DeQuattro Veterans Service complex. Attendees parked at the Johnston War Memorial Park, and a shuttle service transported attendees to the event.

Services offered to veterans included housing, employment, basic human needs, legal assistance, welfare and social services, dental services provided by Thundermist Dental, and healthcare services provided by the VA. On-site healthcare services included COVID-19, FLU, Pneumonia, and Hepatitis Vaccines, and VA Healthcare.

The Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal and District Court were also on hand Saturday, Sept. 18, to assist with license reinstatements, traffic violations, misdemeanor criminal matters, expungements, and fees.

A broader array of services will be available this year to appeal to a wider audience of veterans, according to OSDRI. The programs included a job fair, expanded legal clinic, and morale, welfare and recreation activities.

“We have put a specific emphasis on providing additional resources to appeal to our younger veterans who have different set of needs than our older veterans,” said Wallin, a former U.S. Air Force captain.

Public officials joined OSDRI over the course of the weekend to serve meals to the veterans.

Johnston Mayor Joseph M. Polisena, Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, former Cranston Mayor Alan Fung, and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) served lunch on Friday. Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos served dinner on Saturday.

Polisena and Johnston Town Council members Lauren Garzone, Vice-president Joseph Polisena Jr. and Linda Folcarelli assisted with serving lunch to the veterans in attendance last Friday.

Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee stopped by and checked in with Thundermist Dental staff.

OSDRI gave Mayor Polisena a special award recognizing his support of OSDRI and veterans in general, during a short presentation and acknowledgement.

“OSDRI is extremely appreciative of the support we received from Mayor Polisena, the Police and Fire Chiefs, Johnston DPW and Johnston Parks & Recreation,” Wallin said. “Their support for veterans is remarkable and makes OSDRI proud to call Johnston home.”

Meals were provided by veteran-owned Smoke and Squeal BBQ Food Truck.

Over the past 29 years, the annual outreach weekend event has assisted thousands of veterans by providing them access to life essential services including healthcare, dental care, employment services, legal services, social welfare benefits, housing assistance, and clothing, according to OSDRI.

The organization was founded 29 years ago by three Vietnam era veterans in an effort to end homelessness in the veteran community. The first Stand Down weekend was held in 1992, in Exeter at the old Ladd School Property. The weekend has consistently been a staple in the veteran community and has assisted thousands of veterans over the past 29 years.

Operation Stand Down Rhode Island (OSDRI) is an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and Rhode Island's primary nonprofit resource for homeless and at-risk veterans. Founded in 1993 and headquartered in Johnston, OSDRI's mission is to help veterans secure stable housing, employment, and basic human needs.

OSDRI offers an array of services for veterans including a food pantry program, pro bono legal services, rental assistance, and a robust employment program. In addition, OSDRI has 88 units of housing for veterans spanning across the state from Woonsocket to Westerly. On average 2,000 veterans a year benefit from OSDRI’s services, according to the organization.

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