What began as a simple request Kimberly Bass made to her friend William “Bill-Hutch” Hutchinson five years ago has resulted in upwards of $60,000 and over 25 truckloads of food for Operation Stand Down Rhode Island’s annual Thanksgiving Food Drive.
Hutchinson, who is known to most people strictly as “Hutch,” fulfilled Bass’ request to put a box in the lobby of the Providence Police Department headquarters to collect food for OSDRI, the highly-acclaimed Johnston-based nonprofit that has been serving veterans since 1993 and is near and dear to Bass’ heart.
So Hutch, who recently retired from the PPD after a 23-year career, cooperated.
Hutch also did so, he said on the second day of his retirement, because his son John is in the U.S. Air Force and deployed in Africa. He’s stationed in England, and Hutch simply could not think of him not having a Thanksgiving dinner.
Moreover, Hutch’s father was in the Air Corps and served with the military police during World War II.
“We have to always thank our veterans for protecting our way of life,” Hutch said, “the freedom that we have in this country.”
However, after the box had been in the PPD headquarters lobby for two weeks, there wasn’t much food. Needless to say, Hutch was disappointed, so he went to the 400-member police union and asked his brotherhood to help.
“The box was overflowing with food the next day,” Hutch reported of the heartwarming response. “There were also two $20 bills in the bottom of the box.”
He later collected another $300 from his fellow officers, which resulted in a total of $1,500 and two truckloads of food for OSDRI.
That was five years ago when Hutch also stood in front of such supermarkets as Stop & Shop and Whole Foods Markets on his days off and collected a modest amount of money for OSDRI.
Perhaps that’s why OSDRI Executive Director Erik B. Wallin, a former USAF captain, refers to Hutch as a “mighty man.”
Wallin, who also emphasized that Hutch has become a friend, said he’s been inspired by his dedication to support those who serve in the military.
“Hutch’s efforts have resulted in forging a unique and valuable relationship between Whole Foods and OSDRI to continuously support our year round food pantry,” Wallin said.
In the five years of Hutch’s extraordinary volunteer works, he also tapped into the generosity of his colleagues at the PPD and Providence Fire Department, along with his personal friends. “That’s why OSDRI has come to rely upon his efforts to support our veterans and clients at the holidays,” Wallin said.
George Arakelian, who owns and operates A Custom Car Stereo Center on Atwood Avenue, called Hutch’s five-year efforts “remarkable but not the least bit surprising.”
“I’ve known Hutch since my childhood,” Arakelian said while viewing pictures of the recent mock check presentation at PPD headquarters. “Think about it – in five years he has collected some big, big bucks and created an ongoing program that continues to provide food for our valuable veterans and their families.”
Take year two, for example. Hutch said, “I got better and better at this through the years.”
He hiked his total of $1,500 and two truckloads of food to $4,200 and three truckloads of food in his second-year effort.
In his third year, OSDRI received $17,000 and three more truckloads of food, while in year four the total money went to $18,000 and the organization upped its truckloads by one.
Now in its fifth year, the annual OSDRI Food Drive netted $21,488 and an amazing 25 truckloads of food.
Yet Hutch remains modest through it all, Arakelian said.
“He’s always been that sort of a man; he’s just a great guy,” Arakelian said of Hutch. “That’s why people continue to support him and know that his efforts continue to benefit the men and women who serve and protect our great country.”
So Hutch, who officially retired on Dec. 31, 2019, addressed what’s next on his agenda.
“I’m undecided,” Hutch quipped with a smile on his face that drew laughter from Arakelian. “I’m going to take time off.”
However his passion, his ongoing drive to help homeless veterans, their families and military personnel in general, will continue, and that will mean more smiles on the faces of Wallin and all OSDRI officials.
“Hutch brings a great sense of pride to the annual food drive,” Wallin said. “He is simply a godsend for OSDRI.”