NORTH TONAWANDA — For the past few years, Glenn DiTillio has been working to bringing his vision of a veterans retreat center to life.
His goal has been to create a space where veterans returning from active duty can go for assistance in transitioning back into civilian life. But after hitting some roadblocks in his efforts to form a non-profit organization, and running into some difficulty finding the right building to host the retreat center, DiTillio is trying a new approach.
He said that operating as a non-profit would have restricted the amount of people that he’s able to reach out to or provide help to, but as a for-profit, he would have a bit more freedom. But even though the business, called Your New Life, will be a for-profit company, DiTillio hopes to donate profits to veterans causes.
“Who’s to say that just because you’re a for-profit, you’re actually pocketing money for yourself?” he said. “If you can help somebody by obtaining funding through services provided ... then you’re technically doing the same thing whether you’re a for profit or not.”
He said he’s been looking at a number of different ways to provide services that offer veterans a sense of purpose once they return from their tours of duty.
Right now, he’s in the process of acquiring a piece of land on Zimmerman Street, currently owned by the North Tonawanda City School District, where he wants to build a garden or a green house that veterans can help to cultivate, which can in turn be enjoyed by members of the community.
“We could have an open area where they can set up different events,” he said. “(Non-profits) for veterans could coming in and rent that space out. That would pay for the property and the money that came in would go directly back to the very people that they want to help.”
Another component of that DiTillio would like to add is the use of visual therapy via virtual reality. He says the idea is to replace negative images that can result in post-traumatic stress disorder with more positive images, something he’s been researching after seeing something similar being demonstrated on a television program.
“In order to get past what we have seen in the past, that created the fear or anxiety or stress or depression, then we have to create something that does exactly the opposite,” he explained, saying that virtual reality technology could be used to achieve this. He added that he’d like to make this technology available as part of his business, though it would be free to use for veterans.
Additionally, DiTillio has created the Your New Life Citizen Soldier Award, which recognizes other veterans who have made it their mission to help veterans struggling to get back into the swing of civilian life. So far, he’s given out two awards to local individuals who he feels have made a difference in the lives of their fellow veterans.
While the idea of opening a veterans retreat center, which that could house, feed and provide services to veterans, has been put on the back burner, DiTillio said its still very much a part of his long-term plan.