A Life Transformed: ‘I got my independence back’

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YORBA LINDA, Calif. – Zack Collie lost his independence when he was 15, the victim of swim accident that left him paralyzed and reliant on others to perform such simple tasks as brushing his teeth.

Now 22, he is getting that independence back – in college, with a career he is building toward and, now, an apartment to call his own.

“Just having a place that’s mine … it’s very, very satisfying,” Collie says from his one-bedroom apartment at the newly opened Oakcrest Terrace community in the Savi Ranch neighborhood of Yorba Linda. “Before the accident, I was very independent, then I lost my independence 100 percent. Now I’m able to live on my own and not have to rely on my parents for everything. That’s an amazing feeling.”

Collie’s determined pursuit of self-sufficiency illustrates why communities such as Oakcrest Terrace are so badly needed, said Steve PonTell, President and Chief Executive Officer of the project’s nonprofit developer, National Community Renaissance (National CORE).

“Self-reliance and independence go hand in hand with having a home you can be proud of and can afford,” PonTell said. “For our residents, moving from dependency to self-sufficiency is extremely important, and something we’re committed to help them with.”

Oakcrest Terrace, which held its grand opening in March, is among nearly 80 National CORE developments serving seniors, families and special-needs populations across four states. Accessibility is a key component of the 69-unit community, located adjacent to retail and employment centers, the 91 Freeway and public transit options.

For Collie, who is beginning the process to get his driver’s license, location and mobility were a major consideration in where he would live. A driver takes him to school at Cal State Fullerton, where he is studying for a career in human services. But it’s the ability to safely navigate his wheelchair to stores and restaurants nearby that was the difference maker.

“If I have to go out and eat, I can roll to the next parking lot and not have to worry,” he says. “That’s more important than you might think.”

His living unit itself in compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act, including wide doors, an accessible bathroom and kitchen, and hard-surface floors (as opposed to carpeting). He has a personal assistant to help him get out of bed, get dressed and handle other tasks he could no longer do on his own after the 2010 accident.

Collie had been been playing with friends in Newport Beach when he ran into the water and dove into a wave, breaking his neck on the shallow surface below. He lived at home ever since, but now that he has his own apartment, he is taking on more and more responsibility for tasks his parents took care of – making sure his medical supply box arrives every month, for instance.

“I was such an active kid,” Collie says. “We used to joke that I would have my bags packed and out of the house when I turned 18 … Now I have my independence back.”

About National CORE, Hope through Housing
National Community Renaissance, based in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., is one of the nation’s largest nonprofit developers of affordable housing. CORE manages nearly 9,000 affordable, senior and market-rate units in California, Arkansas, Texas and Florida. Over its nearly two decade history, the Hope through Housing Foundation has provided more than 2 million hours of transformational social services such as financial literacy training, senior wellness, and preschool and afterschool programs. For more information on CORE and Hope through Housing, please visit www.nationalcore.org.

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