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Allison Haines has dreamed of being a photographer and having her own business since she was in middle school, growing up in Bernardsville, New Jersey. Now, at age 27, Allison, a REACH graduate who is part of Chapel Haven’s Supported Living community, will have her work seen by hundreds of people. Her beautiful photograph of a lily, taken in a botanical garden while she was traveling in Australia, was chosen as the artwork for invitations to the National Down Syndrome Conference June 6 in New York City. Allison also has been invited to speak at the conference and will have a table to feature her photographs.

“What does being a photographer mean to me? I would have to say, there is a reason that I was born on this earth – to share my gift with people,” Allison notes. Her inspiration, she says, is her father. “My Dad owns his own (interior design) business and I want that for myself,” said Allison. “I look up to him because it was always a dream of mine to be a photographer and to have my own business.”

And, in fact, Allison also has her own photography business (, has trained and worked with Chris Volpe, a former New Haven Register photographer who has his own studio, Chris Volpe Photography, located on Whalley Avenue in Westville Village. Allison has helped out at Chris’s studio, has studied with Chris and has learned a lot from him about the technical and business side of having your own professional photography business.

Chris Volpe, who has done photography work with Chapel Haven, was delighted to learn of Allison’s achievement. “Allison is a wonderful person and she is passionate about photography so I always enjoy working with her. She has a unique eye and her photographs are elegant and evocative. I am not surprised at all to hear she has won a national competition.”

Allison brings her camera along everywhere she goes. “The best part of being a photographer is traveling to different places. I do events like parties, wedding anniversary parties, family portraits and photo shoots. I also take pictures of nature and different subjects and sell them online or in art shows.”

Allison grew up in New Jersey and graduated high school in 2005. She continued her interest in photography when she earned a certificate in mass communication at Cape Cod Community College’s Project Forward Program. She came to Chapel Haven to attend the REACH residential program, graduating in 2008. She then moved out into the community and became a community member, sharing an apartment with other Chapel Haven graduates such as Heather and Monya. Currently, she works part-time at the Barnes & Noble at Yale bookstore and has a busy adult life. She is part of the newly formed Chapel Haven Art Guild with Tina, and is a fixture at Chapel Haven’s art shows, selling her photos and notecards. She also is an avid figure skater, and she and her support coordinator, Erika Greig, can be seen whizzing around the ice at the Milford ice pavilion as Allison practices her spins and jumps. In the past, she has taken part in figure skating competitions. She has a boyfriend and also loves to write.

“I feel like Chapel Haven is another home,” Allison says. “I have had a great experience here. I treat the staff and Chapel Haven like a young adult and they treat me like an adult right back.”