WEST WARWICK – Rhode Island’s leading non profit supporter of local veterans, Operation Stand Down RI, accepted donations from two local organizations on Friday to support the running of two of their residential homes for veterans.
The Brian St. Germain Home is a housing facility for homeless and at-risk veterans. The home opened at 790 Providence Street, West Warwick, in 2005 and was later dedicated to Sgt Brian R. St. Germain, a West Warwick native who was killed on April 2, 2006 as a result of injuries sustained during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Today the home can house up to nine veterans who are being offered “a hand up, not a hand out.”
OSDRI also has a facility specifically for female veterans called the Holly Charette Home, located in Johnston and named after Marine CPL Holly Charette, a Cranston native who lost her life on June 23, 2005 when her convoy was struck by a suicide bomber in the Anbar province of Falujuah, Iraq. Charette was Rhode Island’s first female killed in Iraq. The home can house up to six female veterans at any given time and is the only all-female veteran housing available in the state.
OSDRI also has a number of other housing facilities throughout the state for disabled, low-income veterans.
Together the Holly Charette Home and the Brian St. Germain Home offer housing and support services to area 15 veterans. Both the West Warwick Elks Club #1697 and the American Legion Post 2 made donations to OSDRI this week to support the homes and their residents. The Elks made a donation of $1,500 to each of the homes, totaling $3,000.
OSDRI Executive Director Erik Wallin said OSDRI offers a range of housing options for veterans, including single-room facilities with shared common areas and apartment units. He said OSDRI works hard to make sure the houses feel like homes for the residents.
“It’s the little things that make it a home,” Wallin said. “These are supposed to be homes. Not institutions. They can stay here as long as they need to to get back on their feet.”
Just like stocking any home with food and maintaining the many other needs, it can get expensive fairly quickly.
“It’s a good environment because you have the support of somebody next to you with common shared experiences and challenges,” he said. “Our goal is that somebody will go from housing like this into permanent, stable housing. We’ve had in nine years maybe a handful of veterans who couldn’t make the transition. It’s a very small faction. But support from the community is critical to what we do at Operation Stand Down.”
Gold Star Mother Lynn St. Germain-Lundh, whose son the St. Germain Home is named after, is very active with OSDRI, Wallin said, as are Holly Charette’s parents, Ed and Regina Roberts, who were present for the check presentation Friday afternoon.
Members of the American Legion and West Warwick Elks posed for photos with Wallin and other OSDRI officials in front of a painting of Brian St. Germain in the living room of the St. Germain Home.
“We just wanted to show West Warwick that we support our veterans,” said West Warwick Elks Grant Chairman Gina Kingsborough. “My father was a vet and so I’ve always wanted to help out veterans. I joined to help veterans.”
The Elks perform various community outreach activities throughout the year, including primarily work with veterans and youth.
“Post 2 appreciates helping local veterans in need,” said American Legion Member Bob Schierschmidt.
Wallin said the money donated by the Elks and the American Legion will largely be used to support keeping food in the homes as well as other living expenses.
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