Chapel Haven Breaks New Ground At 45

Markeshia Ricks PhotosOn the same day that Chapel Haven commemorated 45 years of serving adults with disabilities, it also broke ground on a new campus that many hope will take it 45 years into the future and beyond.

Chapel Haven staff, residents, parents along with state and city officials gathered at the agency’s Whalley Avenue campus Friday afternoon to throw some ceremonial dirt in honor of the changes coming over the next year.

Phase one of the campus transformation calls for building three new structures, including a new 32,500 square foot building for the REACH program, in which Chapel Haven adults with social and developmental disabilities learn skills like budgeting and how to take public transportation to aid their independence. There also will be a new welcome center and a new facility for those who have more advanced life skills and medical needs to continue on at Chapel Haven. (Read more about the reason for the campus rehab here.)

“We were the first agency of our kind to champion the idea that adults with disabilities can gain independent and happy, productive lives,” said Michale Storz, Chapel Haven’s president. “With the expert help of our architectural and building team ... we are ready to write the next 45 years of our history and to become a pioneer once again in serving adults through the lifespan.”

The welcome center and the REACH building are scheduled to be completed by July 2018. Construction of a new building for the Schleifer Adult Independent Living, or SAIL, program and the new aging services facility is expected to be completed July 2019. The SLAM Collaborative, which has done work for Yale University, Hopkins School, and Yale-New Haven Hospital, is handling the design and construction of the new campus.

Peggy Baker, Chapel Haven Board president, noted Friday that the not-for-profit has come a long way from its humble roots as one multi-family house on Chapel Street serving six adults with two staff and a dog. It now serves more than 250 adults with a staff of 180 people.

“Today there are two dogs in attendance,” she said.

“Three,” someone shouted, drawing a chuckle from the crowd packed under a tent.

Chapel Haven has been able to raise nearly $36 million through its capital campaign to fund the upgraded campus, board member Harriet Schleifer said. It needs to raise $9.6 million for the construction of the SAIL/lifelong learning building.

Both Mayor Toni Harp and West Hills/Westville Alder Richard Furlow were on hand Friday to add their congratulations and reiterate how much Chapel Haven is a part of the city and the fabric of the Westville neighborhood.

State Comptroller Kevin Lembo said that when he dropped one of his two sons off at Chapel Haven, he thought that it wasn’t going to work out. He and his husband Charles had spent the first 18 years of their son Matt’s life fighting with the school system and advocating for him to have what he needed. Who was going to do that when they went home?

At first, Chapel Haven did the advocating and negotiating that his parents had handled for most of his life. Eventually Matt learned to advocate for himself. He now lives independently.

“He left this program ready to live independently,” Lembo said. “And for that, my family and I will always be very grateful. Countless families have been touched by your loving kindness and so many yet to come.

“Good for you Chapel Haven and here’s to another 45 years,” he said.


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