On April 27, Chapel Haven hosted a 40th anniversary gala attended by 450 families at Woodwinds in Branford, CT.

“It was truly an honor to dedicate the evening to the success of the men and women of Chapel Haven,” said President Michael Storz. “Chapel Haven began when two Maplebrook School families pooled their resources and bought a house at 1599 Chapel Street that became Chapel Haven. As the program grew, we moved our founding program to 1040 Whalley Avenue, New Haven, where we have steadily flourished. We now have two distinct programs in New Haven and another in Tucson, Arizona.”

Click here to enjoy photos from the evening. Thank you to Ron Guerrucci of the Supported Living Program for his fabulous photography, community member David O’Donnell for his photo contributions, and to ASAT student Craig Altman for creating the album.

Among the many highlights of the evening:

New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, Jr. spoke and offered a proclamation in tribute to Chapel Haven’s longevity. Community member Sandy Goldberg, who lunches regularly with the Mayor, introduced Mayor DeStefano, and got many laughs when the Mayor complained that he always has to pay the lunch tab (pictured, at left, Mayor DeStefano with Sandy). We were pleased to present the Mayor with a “Friend of Chapel Haven” award in recognition of the City’s continuous support of our agency.

We also took time to recognize community members who have lived 30-plus years in the Chapel Haven Supported Living community. Matthew Baker, a second-year student who is soon to graduate the REACH program, introduced each and helped us honor them. We also honored community members who have lived for at least 5 years or more with independence in our community. Special congrats to our 30-year-plus club (in photo, left to right): Steve Kanter, Rick Savard, Andrew Auerbach, Cathy Cutler, Lori Krass, Jon Sherman, Paul Seigel and Laura Mintz.

Rich LaManna, a REACH graduate and community member who is the supervisor of Chapel Haven’s café, was a featured speaker and said he is thankful that his family chose Chapel Haven for him in 1986. Rich came here from his home community of Milford, CT, attended the REACH program and then graduated to Chapel Haven’s extensive Supported Living community. “I was 19 at the time and I was ready to start my own life and that’s exactly what has happened.” Rich said Chapel Haven is where he met his wife, Kim, where he learned how to live independently, where he trained for a certificate in food services, and most all of, where he has developed his own community. “All of you are really my second family and I know that I speak for many friends in the audience who feel the same way,” Rich said.

Jacob Shore, who graduated from the Asperger Syndrome Adult Transition program, brought tears to peoples’ eyes and received a standing ovation for his remarks. He said Chapel Haven has been instrumental in helping him “grow and develop in a number of ways, I’ve been introduced to a lot of things about being social, and about working, handling money, how to live with someone else, and even how to make it so that no one single thing dominates my life, such as my comic books, tv shows, DVDs, what have you.”

Jacob, who is from Phoenix, AZ, is attending college and will be graduating and moving into Chapel Haven’s supported living program, said he has also learned a lot about Asperger Syndrome. “Sometimes Asperger Syndrome is not noticeable at all with some people! Some people might go nearly their whole lives without knowing that they have it, …My Asperger’s is only a small part of who I am as a person. There are many more things that make me who I am, such as the things I write, or do… If you are a parent sitting out there, just know this: be patient with your child. Try to help them understand themselves if they can’t do it for themselves, and understand who they are, and what they want from their life, even if it’s not what you want. Just make sure that they’re happy.”

Families were touched when they listened to a warm greeting from our Chapel Haven West students who shared their happiness through a video message created by Director Ken Hosto and Supported Living community member Chris Brown.

We also took time to recognize the families of Kent Atkins (in left photo) and Harriet Schleifer (right photo, with son David), both longtime parents and board members of Chapel Haven, for their lead gifts to kick off our Endowment Campaign of 5 Million More for the Fifth Decade. “These two remarkable families have increased our Endowment fund by over $2,000,000,” Storz noted.

“We are very proud of Chapel Haven’s unique history and even prouder that we continue to serve adults with such distinction. We will continue to observe Chapel Haven’s 40th anniversary throughout 2012 with open houses, workshops and other events. Stay tuned,” Storz said.