Over 450 veterans were provided with life essential services this weekend at the 21st annual Operation Stand Down Outreach Weekend in Diamond Hill State Park in Cumberland.The veterans that attended the three day event were given access to a variety of services including medical, dental, mental health, housing, employment, legal, veteran affairs benefits, restoration of driving privileges; social security, and welfare benefits.
“We are so grateful at the outpouring of support from the local community and service providers that helped make the 21st Stand Down Weekend the biggest and most successful one in the organization’s history. We provided the largest number of services to the most veterans we have ever had,” said Operation Stand Down Executive Director Erik Wallin.OSDRI staff and volunteers hit the field for the annual outreach event setting up a military style encampment for veterans in need of services to stay in throughout the weekend and access some of these life essential services. Meals were provided to the veterans at no charge by the studios at Johnson & Wales University.“We try to bring the veterans back to a time in their lives were they felt good about themselves and had a strong sense of camaraderie, that’s why we set it up like a military camp complete with a chow line,” said Tony DeQuattro, Founder and President of Operation Stand Down Rhode Island. “Every year we hold this event it gets bigger and better and we are honored to have the opportunity to serve our brothers and sisters in uniform” said DeQuattro.In addition to servicing hundreds of veterans during the weekend, Operation Stand Down was also proud to receive a $100,000 grant from Wal-Mart to offer employment and career services to returning veterans. “With this money we plan to expand our employment services center and our appeal to local employers so that the organization can offer more extensive employment opportunities to struggling veterans who find themselves out of work,” said Wallin. “We believe the skills that make these men and women so valuable in the military are the same skills that will help them excel in the work force and our staff works with the veterans to hone in on these abilities and find employment that will be complimented by their unique skill set.”Representative Eileen Naughton also presented OSDRI with a $2,500 legislative grant to help the organization fund the outreach weekend.Founded by four Vietnam Era veterans, OSDRI is a 501(C)(3) with the mission of ending and preventing homelessness among the veteran population and assisting those in financial need. Initially, the organization was limited to the annual outreach weekend, however, since its beginning OSDRI has grown tremendously and now houses 50 veteran families year round. Year round, OSDRI assists thousands of veterans with housing, employment and training, and accessing benefits at its Johnston and West Warwick service centers.OSDRI currently operates five housing units, including one for female veterans, throughout Rhode Island and a sixth unit in Westerly is currently under construction.