OSDRI opens Ryder House in honor of Warwick mom and veteran

Finally more beds for RI women who served

Posted 12/6/23

Johnston-based Operation Stand Down Rhode Island (OSDRI) has more than doubled its capacity to help former servicewomen in need of a helping hand and a warm, safe bed.

Last Monday, their newly …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

OSDRI opens Ryder House in honor of Warwick mom and veteran

Finally more beds for RI women who served


Johnston-based Operation Stand Down Rhode Island (OSDRI) has more than doubled its capacity to help former servicewomen in need of a helping hand and a warm, safe bed.

Last Monday, their newly expanded Woonsocket facility was dedicated to a Warwick mom and U.S. Marine.

Recognizing the need for more shelter options for female veterans, OSDRI renovated a historic building, and reopened its Woonsocket Home for Veterans in honor of Marine Corp. Andrea T. Ryder.

“Andrea Ryder is a local Rhode Island hero, who not only served her Country selflessly, but continued to put others before herself when she made the decision to risk her own health in order to give life to her unborn child,” said OSDRI Executive Director Erik Wallin. “We are honored to name this property after her and let her legacy continue to live on through OSDRI’s work with female veterans.”

Ryder’s husband Dennis M.G. Bourassa Jr. attended Monday’s ceremony with their daughter, Olivia.

Ryder’s daughter, now 9 years old, led the pledge of allegiance to start the event. Audience members included Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rhode Island Director of Veterans Affairs Kasim J. Yarn.

“After extensive restoration, OSDRI has repurposed the historic Woonsocket property into a transitional home for homeless female veterans,” according to OSDRI.

The house at 492 South Main St., Woonsocket, was dedicated in honor of Ryder, a native Rhode Islander who enlisted in the Marine Corps after attending Warwick Veteran’s High School and CCRI.

Ryder was a corporal in the United States Marines. She deployed to Afghanistan and served in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. According to her 2020 obituary, “she was very proud of being a Marine.” Ryder loved to travel, explore, take road trips and visit casinos. She collected Care Bears.

“After leaving service she was diagnosed with stage 3 melanoma cancer connected to her overseas deployments,” according to OSDRI. “After numerous surgeries she appeared to be in remission. In 2014, Andrea learned she was pregnant, and that the cancer had returned and was now stage 4. When faced with the decision between treating the cancer or the life of her unborn child, Ms. Ryder chose her child.”

Ryder gave birth to baby Olivia later that year.

“On June 29, 2020 Ms. Ryder ultimately succumbed to her cancer after spending time in hospice,” according to OSDRI. The wide-reaching organization helps an estimated 2,000 veterans annually, and, like the rest of the nation, the Ocean State’s share of female veterans grows each year.

Director of the VA Providence Healthcare System Lawrence B. Connell spoke at Monday’s ceremony.

“The house is truly magnificent and has accommodations for up to 10 homeless women Veterans while they work towards self-sufficiency,” he said, according to an online post by Public Affairs Officer John Loughlin.

“The facility is named after USMC Corporal Andrea T. Ryder who passed away at the age of 34 from service-connected cancer,” Loughlin wrote. “Most notably, Andrea refused life-saving chemo and radiation therapy when she learned she was pregnant.”

U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) Denis R. McDonough visited OSDRI’s Johnston headquarters last week and confirmed the “fastest growing cohort for veterans in VA are women veterans.”

While the overall number of U.S. veterans has been shrinking nationwide, the percentage of women in the military has soared. While the vast majority of veterans’ resources had historically been targeted for men, OSDRI recognized the trend more than a decade ago. In 2010, OSDRI named the “Holly Charette House” after Lance Corporal Holly A. Charette, of Cranston, who was the nation’s first female Marine killed in Iraq.

“(Since, OSDRI founder and Board President) Tony DeQuattro founded the Holly Charette House, which was the first 10 years ago, there hasn’t been a night when the beds have not been full,” Wallin said last week. “So we’re going to commit ourselves again, to helping more of our sisters who have served alongside all of us in the last 20-25 years.”

“We at VA have to be better prepared,” McDonough admitted.

According to OSDRI, the Woonsocket home dates back to 1865 and has been added to the historic registry of homes.

The building will house “10 female veterans identified by the Department of Veterans Affairs as homeless,” according to the organization. “The residents will be enrolled in OSDRI’s transitionary program and have access to OSDRI’s myriad of services as they work to transition to permanent housing. Services include employment, benefits assistance, legal assistance, basic human needs, and case management.”

Sen. Whitehouse secured a $225,000 earmark in fiscal year 2023 for OSDRI “to fund improvements and renovations to the interior of its women’s housing units in Woonsocket,” according to his staff.

“It was a honor to have a small role in the renovation of Operation Stand Down RI’s supportive women’s housing,” Whitehouse said. “The new homes for women veterans stand as tribute to a remarkable veteran who we lost long before her time, Marine Corporal Andrea Ryder. This will be a place of hope for women veterans returning home to Rhode Island, and a lasting reminder of Marine Corporal Ryder’s selfless devotion to her nation and to her family.”


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here