Champlin grant to help complete the OSDRI Legal Services Center
By JACOB MARROCCO
A $ 75,000 grant from the Champlin Foundation will help Operation Stand Down Rhode Island complete its legal services center, which the organization plans to open “fairly soon.”
Executive director Erik Wallin told The Sun Rise on Monday that the facility was in its “final stages” and Champlin’s funds covered about half of the capital needed to build it. About a year and a half ago, OSDRI established a full-time veterans legal aid program, but it has grown too large for its current household.
The team includes two full-time attorneys who process VA disability and Social Security disability claims, respectively, and a full-time certified paralegal for VA claims. Wallin said these are services already provided during OSDRI’s popular Stand Down Weekend, but will be “much more permanent” and year round on site at the head office at 1010 Hartford Ave ..
“This is really important because although we strive to provide safe and permanent housing, as well as employment and training, these people have often, as a result of their service, suffered from a long-term illness – be it a physical disability illness or one of the related mental illnesses – and by providing them with this type of legal assistance, you can often increase household income and create a more stable environment for that veteran and his family, ” Wallin said.
Wallin said he and OSDRI “very much appreciated” the Champlin Foundation’s help in getting the center up and running. The next steps are to make the center feel right at home and move the team inside.
“We want to make sure they have a professional environment where they can have confidential communications with their clients and not be in an open or closed space, and that’s essential for anyone who comes in for these types of services, like they would. in any other establishment, law firm or office, ”he said.
Wallin said the challenges imposed by the coronavirus pandemic have made it much more difficult for OSDRI to provide its essential services in person as it normally would. Major events like the Boots on the Grounds for Heroes Memorial and the aforementioned Stand Down Weekend have been drastically reduced.
Wallin said he was proud of his staff for “their willingness to continue to push and provide in-person service when needed.”
“We have no way of completely delivering the services we provide remotely,” Wallin said. “We’re trying to help low-income veterans and a lot of times they don’t have all the resources you could find in terms of online capacity, computers – the kind of things that indirectly make the job easier, they do. do not have. So we continued to do it, and the staff worked well with it, so I’m very proud of them.
OSDRI’s holiday food drive has also felt the ramifications of the pandemic. Usually, employees could drop cans into boxes on their way to the office or take them to church or their children’s Boy Scout events. Now that a large majority of people are working from home and most gatherings beyond a few are canceled, OSDRI is adjusting to ensure veterans are well fed.
“Food has always been an integral part of the type of service we provide,” Wallin said. “I would say the majority of clients who come to our headquarters need food assistance. So with the reduction in the number of people engaging in group activities, you are losing that kind of organic food drive that a lot of organizations do and give us food… And it can be more difficult because what you find, they are individuals. drop a bag here, a bag there, so it’s very different than when a company collected 10 crates of food. ”
Wallin said those interested in making a donation can bring food to the Hartford Avenue head office, call the front desk inside and someone will come and pick it up. Food can be delivered between regular business hours, Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
People can also send gift cards directly to OSDRI, but Wallin asked for smaller amounts like $ 25 so they can be properly distributed.
“We’ve been able to stay on top, but there’s no question that the demand is high and the supply is low,” Wallin said. “And now what we’ve done is pack them in advance, so the veterans will get a bag or two of food, depending on their needs, preselected food so that we can keep guard.” -eat safe for our staff and volunteers to make these bags.