Victory Village on Port Penn Road will house as many as 32 veterans in their transition to civilian life.
If all goes as planned, Middletown will have one of the best veterans’ facilities in the state, according to L. J. “Nick” Callazzo, a former Marine and the executive director of National Veterans Assistance Coalition – a new Middletown-based organization.
With the financial help of Hagar Andrews LLC, a Pennsylvania real estate company, Callazzo acquired a 5.5 acre property on Port Penn Road that will serve as a comprehensive one-stop resource center for veterans in the state. The property has been named Victory Village at Boxwood Manor and has received 501(c)(3) status.
According to Callazzo, Victory Village will also offer housing to 24 male and eight female homeless veterans as they make their transition to civilian life. The veterans will receive job training, medical and mental health services, wellbeing services, and physical therapy.
“We want to alleviate a lot of the frustration of our veterans,” said Callazzo. “This is a place that our veterans need, right here in this region.”
Victory Village’s main building is about 150 years old and it was once known as the Van Hook-Walsh School for Retarded Children. According to Callazzo, the family closed the school and offered it to him last year.
Callazzo came to Middletown from his home city of Philadelphia six years ago. He teaches at Delaware State University and has been involved with many organizations, most recently with Operation Homefront, which offers assistance to veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
During World War II, Callazzo’s father was drafted by the Army and was sent to war. As a child, he and his mother built a victory garden for the neighborhood so that people in the community could have fresh fruits and vegetables.
“Those were tough times,” said Callazzo. “I learned a lot from those days.”
All these experiences in life have brought him full circle to this latest endeavor he is undertaking, he said. Despite financial setbacks, Callazzo remains optimistic that Victory Village will open its doors in the near future.
“He is the ‘Energizer Bunny’ and we’re honored to have him and his vision. He has been working tirelessly for veterans for quite some time now,” said Rick Hagar, CEO of Hagar Andrews. “What Nick is doing is building is a national model for veterans in this country. This will be his legacy.”
Already, the organization has received donations such as furniture, TVs, appliances, and electronics. Cash donations, however, are harder to come by. According to Callazzo, an estimated $250,000 to $500,000 would be needed for Victory Village to open its doors.
“I got a check for $200 yesterday from someone who read about us in the paper,” said Callazzo. “We need more people like that to give.”
Callazzo said that many groups and organizations have already approached him offering to do fundraisers for Victory Village, including a music festival to help raise money. Other groups, such as the American Builders & Contractors, and Team Home Depot have also offered their support.
“A lot of people are starting to come out of the woodwork to do things for us,” he said. “There are people who really want to help.”
These days, Callazzo said he is busy going to meetings in and out of state, advocating for Victory Village to businesses, corporations, and government. Each face-to-face encounter or phone call is a stepping stone that brings the facility closer to reality.
“This is going to be a great place for our veterans. I’m so excited for what the future holds,” he said.