The pantry shelves at Johnston’s own Operation Stand Down Rhode Island are nearly bare, and the organization is looking for the community’s help in restocking them to assist veterans in need.
It’s the middle of summer, and about as far as one can get from the holidays when food and toiletry donations seem to peak. With a lack of recent donations, food stocks at OSDRI are at dangerously low levels.
“People obviously have it on their mind around Thanksgiving and Christmas to donate food and we’re usually pretty stocked up,” said OSDRI’s Executive Director Erik Wallin. “As we exit the spring and move through summer it becomes pretty difficult.”
OSDRI is an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and Rhode Island’s primary nonprofit resource for homeless and at-risk veterans. The non profit was founded in 1993 and is headquartered at 1010 Hartford Avenue, Their mission is to help homeless and at-risk veterans secure stable housing.
The organization offers a wide range of life-changing services for veterans, including supportive permanent and transitional housing, intensive case management, basic human needs assistance in the form of food and clothing, and an employment training and placement program.
According to Wallin, the organization’s food pantry specifically caters to veterans in need. Unfortunately the Rhode Island Food Bank has rules which prevent the organization from getting food from the bank at a significantly reduced price because the organization only serves veterans and not the community at large.
“Our mission is just for veterans, and even if we wanted to we don’t have the staff to support non-veterans,” said Wallin. “Our food pantry is supported solely by donations by individuals, groups, churches, and schools. As you can imagine, come summer less people are going to churches and no one is going to school.”
Wallin said that the organization currently serves about 50 to 60 veterans a week through the pantry. He’s concerned about current food and toiletry levels and does not want to turn veterans in need away.
OSDRI is looking for donations of non perishable items, including but not limited to cereal, juice, canned meat, soups (both dry and canned) oatmeal, rice, beans, applesauce, raisins, peanut butter, jelly, tuna, shelf milk, pasta, pasta sauces, instant potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and canned goods.
Toiletry items needed include toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, deodorant, mouthwash, floss, razors, shaving cream, bar soap, and Q-tips. While these items are needed, the real issue is food.
“We have an organization that helps with toiletries year round, so it’s really the food that’s needed,” said Wallin.
Donations may be dropped off to 1010 Hartford Avenue in Johnston Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. For more information, visit their Facebook page or website at www.osdri.org.