Caitlyn O. marks 15 years with Ken’s Krew

Caitlyn O’Brien was 21 when she first signed up with Ken’s Krew for job training and employment.

At that time, she was living at home with her parents, James and Sharon O’Brien, in the Philly area, and was assigned to work in the paint department at a Home Depot in Frazer, PA.

Since that time, a lot has happened for this lovely young lady. As she puts it, “I finally left the bird nest” at age 36 and came to reside in the REACH program at Chapel Haven Schleifer Center, where she is learning how to live independently.

And this week, she started her 15th year of being a part of Ken’s Krew, this time in the paint department at the Home Depot in North Haven, where she works two days a week.

“I love it here,” Caitlyn says of Chapel Haven, during a chat in the REACH student lounge. “It’s become like a family – the staff, the people here, all the friends I’ve made…just living independently with a roommate is great. My roommate (Jessica) is a perfect match!”

Chapel Haven Schleifer Center is the first agency in CT to partner with Ken’s Krew, a non-profit dedicated to enabling individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to successfully enter the workforce. The program has been in existence for 20 years and is in nine states.

Chapel Haven currently has 9 adults employed in various Home Depot stores in the region.

Caitlyn says she loves Ken’s Krew as much as they love her. She has served on the board along with family members and believes it can really help adults with disabilities become highly employable.

In the paint center, Caitlyn loves to help customers. She mixes paint and does some stocking and shelving. “My first Home Depot was like a second family. I’ve been through so many department heads and a lot of co-workers as well. They all just built into one big family.”

Caitlyn has a busy schedule. Along with her new job, she is progressing through the REACH curriculum in weekday classes and is doing life skills at night in her apartment with evening staff. She is learning to cook (every other night) with her roommate, and counts quesadillas with chicken and cheese and pasta with meatballs among her favorite dishes. On the weekends, she takes full advantage of Chapel Haven’s robust weekend trips. Just this past week, she attended a fall dance in Chapel Haven’s Outreach Center; went to Medieval Times in New Jersey with Chapel Haven; did her first autism fitness workout at the JCC of Greater New Haven, went on a movie trip to see the animated movie, “Abominable” and took part in Special Olympics bowling on Sunday night.

Whew!

During the week, she looks forward to Best Buddies Night at Chapel Haven Schleifer Center, which pairs CH adults up with mentors from the college chapter at Southern CT State University.

Chapel Haven’s Center for Employment Services and Opportunities will have more openings for CH adults to join Ken’s Krew. To learn more, email Kimberly Freeman at kfreeman@chapelhaven.org

Congrats to Caitlyn for “leaving the nest” and for all that she is accomplishing at Chapel Haven!

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