Operation Stand Down volunteers give veterans a helping hand


With the frost just melting on the grass in Johnston on Tuesday morning, Operation Stand Down Rhode Island (OSDRI) and volunteers were already hard at work with a new renovation of housing outside their headquarters for the once-homeless veterans they assist.

OSDRI is a non-profit that has fully adopted the “Housing First” program from the Department of Housing and Early Development to assist disabled and vulnerable veterans who are homeless and at-risk of being homeless. They provide assistance in the form of everything from HUD and VA loans for housing, to actually providing housing for those in immediate and urgent need.

On Tuesday, it was the housing provided by OSDRI that was being renovated by volunteers from Home Depot’s “Team Depot” project, along with students from Lincoln Christian University all the way from Illinois.

Dee Dequattro-Rothermel is the communications director for OSDRI and was very happy with both the renovations and the help that was being offered by volunteers for the next few days.

“We’re repainting, replacing floors, lighting fixtures, and appliances,” said Dequattro-Rothermel, “It’s essentially a home makeover for the veterans and their families who live in these houses.”

The homes were built in 2002 and had not been renovated much during the past 15 years, according to Dequattro-Rothermel, “and these houses are for disabled veterans who couldn’t really move themselves out. So we had volunteers help move them out for a couple of days and get settled at a hotel.”

Dequattro-Rothermel made sure to emphasize the help that Home Depot’s “Team Depot” had given them. “Team Depot” is an effort inspired by the 37,000 veterans that work for Home Depot, and the company has made a pledge to assist with volunteering projects that are directly related to helping veterans causes and natural disasters. “This is our sixth project with them in the past 5 years,” said Dequattro-Rothermel, “They’ve contributed over $28,000 to this project alone. We’re incredibly thankful to them.”

One of the volunteers from “Team Depot” was Errol Ruginski, the “Team Depot” captain for the Warwick store. He’s been with Home Depot for 14 years, with nine as assistant manager.

“Operation Stand Down and “Team Depot” come together about twice a year,” says Ruginski. “We do big jobs like this…that are around $25,000 or more, in collaboration with other volunteers from around the country.”

Ruginski is very proud of the volunteers who work with him, “[They] are all here on their own time. They aren’t paid for this, and they do it on their days off. We even have a couple of volunteers from a college in Illinois here today helping out. It’s really amazing.”

One of those volunteers is McKenna Southard. She’s a student from Lincoln Christian University in Lincoln, Illinois, and she came here with her friends and professor to help out with OSD’s renovation project.

“I’d never done volunteer work in the United States before, and I really wanted to finally see the East Coast,” says Southard with a smile on her face, “I really like getting to learn about people, but also getting to do service.”

Southard pointed out the white paint all over her pants and all of her friends’ pants as well, “Sometimes you just have to get your hands dirty.”



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