Our series, Chapel Haven Changes Lives, continues with John Orr, a talented artist and a beloved member of the Chapel Haven community.
John has been at Chapel Haven for over 28 years and is well known for his passion and talent as an artist.
John heads the custodial crew at Chapel Haven and stays busy in his free time painting and drawing. He is active with Tina’s art classes and enjoys forays to the Yale Center for British Art, to study the classics.
John’s drawings and paintings are on display in the offices of many Chapel Haven staff members. He is an active member of the Chapel Haven Art Guild, and his paintings have been shown often around New Haven, including at the Fellowship House.
“I kid John that I have become one of his top collectors,” says Catherine Sullivan-DeCarlo, Vice President of Admissions and Marketing at Chapel Haven, who displays many of his paintings in her office, including an original of the butterfly (left) that decorates the colorful fence surrounding the construction area. “But you will find his beautiful work all around campus. John is an amazing artist and just a great guy, one of the first people I really connected with here at Chapel Haven. He is so kind and welcoming to new students and families.”
John came to Chapel Haven from his hometown of Mount Kisco, NY, and said moving to Chapel Haven was fairly easy for him. He transitioned to Chapel Haven from another independent school, so it wasn’t hard saying goodbye to New York, but he was a little homesick.
“I was pre-independent when coming into Chapel Haven but what they have helped me to do is find some real outside employment,” John said. He also said that Chapel Haven has helped build his confidence.
“I never had a paying job until I came to Chapel Haven,” John noted. He has worked in maintenance at Chapel Haven for 11 years, and for Special Olympics for five years. Without Chapel Haven, it would not have been possible, according to John.
Chapel Haven has also helped him build his confidence. John says his most memorable moment at Chapel Haven was being recognized for a cover he designed for the Chapel Haven cookbook, used by students in the REACH program to learn the art of cooking. John’s passion for art and history comes from his father, who majored in history in college.
“In my free time I like to take the bus to Barnes & Nobles and read about history,” he states. He also enjoys going to the mall with his friends and the movies. Although, he doesn’t have a favorite genre, his top three are Disney movies, actions, and horror
Chapel Haven has also encouraged him in other ways, including enrolling in a semester of college at Gateway Community College. “It was tough but I tried it, Chapel Haven gave me the boost to try college,” he states.
John is proud to say that he has made lifelong friends here, has done public speaking for Best Buddies at Southern Connecticut State University, at Chapel Haven’s Family Brunch, and elsewhere. John is currently a member of Chapel Haven’s Building Committee, giving input to the architectural team from S/L/A/M Collaborative and to owner’s rep Leland Torrence as Chapel Haven’s campus expansion unfolds.
“I am excited for the future of Chapel Haven,” he states.
Congrats to John, you contribute so much to what makes Chapel Haven a great community!