Work Place Wednesday: Josh S.G. loves his new friends at Casa Otoñal
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Work Place Wednesday: Josh S.G. loves his new friends at Casa Otoñal

Our Work Place Wednesday feature sends a shout-out to Josh S.G., a Bridge student at Chapel Haven who has found a second home at Casa Otoñal in New Haven.

Three times a week, Josh reports for duty at Casa Otoñal, a non-profit agency located on Sylvan Avenue in New Haven and dedicated to housing, social, educational and cultural services for families, particularly the Latino community. On paper, Josh is assigned with helping out during the lunch wave, clearing trays, sweeping up and supporting the food services folks. But Josh has added so much to the internship.

“I love this place a lot because I can speak Spanish here,” says Josh, from West Hartford and a native of Puerto Rico who speaks Spanish fluently. “Some jobs, I can’t speak Spanish.”

Josh has won the hearts of the seniors who come to Casa. He brings in sheet music and performs on piano and trumpet, catchy tunes like “When the Saints Go Marching In.”

Another friend is Ada, who says she’s grown very fond of Josh

“I love him,” said Ada, who was busy crocheting a hat.

Josh has made good friends with Israel Vazquez, a chef at the senior center, who laughed when he was asked what he likes most about Josh.

Josh has made friends with chef Israel Vazquez.

“His hair,” he joked, but on a more serious note he said, “I like the way he talks to me. He’s always happy.”

Josh was placed at Casa Otoñal by Danielle Chiaraluce, executive director of Chapel Haven’s new Center for Employment and Service Opportunities (CESO). Josh went through an assessment with a career management team from Chapel Haven first.

“I chose that site for Josh because Josh had an interest in working with the elderly and practicing his bilingual skills,” Danielle said. “It seemed like an ideal match.”

CESO Job coach Cheri Lucibella says Casa Otoñal is a great spot for Josh. “He’s comfortable here. It’s almost like a family. The atmosphere is good for him.”

Josh actually has three internships each week – at the Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen, Tower One and Casa Otoñal.

His mother, Vanessa Gonzalez Rivera, said interning at Casa has been a perfect fit.

“He really loves the interaction with the senior citizens and he loves that he can talk to them in Spanish,” she said. “He feels like he goes to work and that he makes a difference.”

For more information about CESO, contact Danielle at




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This has been a special needs program update from Chapel Haven. You may also click here to read the original article on the main program website.