Deborah Rickert—Someone You Should Know

May 2015 View more

NMAG0515_SYSK_nm deborah rickert 1_800pxWhat was your inspiration to start Operation Support Our Troops-America (OSOT-A)?

After the attacks of September 11 and two of my sons joining the military, I became very aware of the local families, like myself, who were suddenly going through all of this uncertainty and fear. I wanted to provide a place where people could come together and support each other while also providing support for our troops that were already deployed into dangerous areas. I honestly had no idea at the time it would turn into what it has, but I had a lot of people who believed in me along the way and that continued to inspire me as well.

OSOT-A is now one of the largest volunteer-based military support organization in the country. How do you manage and coordinate everything?

There is no way I could manage and coordinate everything! I have been blessed with an amazing team of dedicated volunteers—some who put in 30 to 40 hours a week—and they really help to keep things running and our mission growing. I think I am more of a visionary and, in fact, my team often teases me about how the details of it all makes me a little crazy!

You’ve been honored by numerous community groups, including the Rotary Club of Chicago, for your continued commitment to helping others. What is your proudest accomplishment so far?

Well I think Rockin’ for the Troops would be close to the top of that list. Creating a partnership with Gary Sinise and an event that has raised over 2 million dollars and supported many other organizations besides ours is something that has taken a huge team effort. So I am not only proud of the event that continues to be a day that brings a lot of joy and goodness, but also of the team that puts it on.

If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?

I would probably find a way to stress a little less about things. Looking back, so many of the things that you worry about (like whether or not it will rain on the day of Rockin’ for the Troops!) really are out of your control and don’t happen anyway. So, I would fret a lot less about the outcome, trust in the process, and live in the moment.

What motivates you to keep going everyday?

I have faced serious burnout probably three or four times over the years. I think it is important to take a step back when you get to that point and regain your perspective. My husband Bill is one of my greatest sources of strength and encouragement and he helps me to keep it all in perspective. Also, knowing what our service members go through everyday in performing their job makes you think twice about whining too much!

What advice do you have for others looking to give back to their community?

There are a lot of great organizations out there that can use your talents and may even see skills in you that you didn’t even know you possessed. You don’t necessarily need to start an organization to make a huge impact. Decide what matters to you and find a way to affect change in that area. Everyone has the ability to make the world a little better place. It would sure be nice if we all tried.

Photo by Robyn Sheldon