Chapel Haven cuts ribbon on new welcome center in New Haven
New Haven Register - 2/3/2018
Feb. 03--NEW HAVEN -- Chapel Haven, an award-winning school for independence, now has an entrance to the campus as warm and state of the art as its program for those on the autism spectrum and with other special needs.
"We're together to celebrate the continuing success and progress of this facility, its programming, and its place in New Haven," Mayor Toni Harp said of Chapel Haven at a ribbon-cutting for the new campus gateway. "Chapel Haven's involvement with these residents is consistent with my vision for this city, and for its legacy of acceptance, tolerance, and assistance for those in need -- regardless of where they're from, what they look like, or the language they speak."
The ribbon cuttingwas attended by hundreds, including students, parents, teachers and dignitaries including U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3, and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.
The event marked a milestone toward the completion of phase one of a major, multi-year campus expansion with the goal of providing lifelong services to adults with social and developmental disabilities. The expansion includes state-of-the-art classrooms, social gathering spaces and housing.
Blumenthal said Chapel Haven is "miraculous" and "filled with heroes."
"This new facility will make it even more so," he said. "I was inspired and proud to join them today for this awesome ceremony to celebrate the major progress underway to expand and enhance the already exemplary services they provide to adults with developmental and social disabilities. I look forward to returning as these projects complete to see the difference these new facilities will make for the individuals served and their families."
DeLauro, a longtime supporter of the programs at Chapel Haven, said the agency "sets an example others around the country should follow -- one of compassion, kindness and support."
"Chapel Haven really was the first agency of its kind -- you have never wavered in your belief that adults with disabilities deserve happy, productive lives," she said, addressing the crowd. "The impact of your work reverberates through our community. You are such a critical part of our city, and I will always be in your corner. ... I cannot wait to see what is to come!"
Chapel Haven was begun by two families in 1972 and initially had six students and two staff members. Now in its 45th year, Chapel Haven is a nationally acclaimed, award-winning program serving more than 250 adults.
The program teaches students to live self-determined lives, independence and attain employment.
In addition to providing state-of-the-art classrooms, a community center with a gymnasium and theater, and program buildings, there will be an expansion of job opportunities for students in the community.
The welcome center celebrated Friday really lives up to its name. There is a curved glass lobby, soft-lighting, a huge, curved, white desk, a stone hearth, a gallery of artwork and cozy built-in seating.
Peggy Baker, chairwoman of Chapel Haven's board of directors whose son Matt is a graduate of the program and lives independently in a nearby condo, said she can't think of an organization that has "managed to raise $36.5 million in support of a vision and belief -- that Chapel Haven should be a pioneer in serving adults through their life span."
She thanked dedicated parents of Chapel Haven adults for making that happen. Matt Baker is also a member of the building committee.
Chapel Haven President Michael Storz said that in cutting the ribbon on the welcome center Friday, they were "turning a leaf in Chapel Haven's playbook -- charting the next 45 years of excellence in our field."
"It may sound trite, but there's an old saying, 'If I have seen further than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.' Today this welcome center is filled with giants."
It was Storz's vision to create a campus that can serve clients through their lifetime, allowing them to age in place in a community they adore.
At a groundbreaking for the campus revamp in September, parent after parent took the podium to praise Chapel Haven for the progress their sons and daughters made at the school.
A common thread among parents was that they never thought their adult children would live independently -- cook, clean, have a booming social life or even fall asleep under a roof without family there. Those same parents expected calls from their children to return home, but those calls never came -- to the delight of parents.
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