A disabled Red Deer woman is celebrating a fifth anniversary in her custom-built home by expressing gratitude to the people who made it possible.
Brenda Schultz, 43, didn’t know how she could get by in her former rental accommodations after she lost the use of her legs six years ago. The single mother of two teenage sons had accidentally fallen from a friend’s 10-foot high deck that didn’t have a safety railing.
“I dropped below and hit my head. There were four bones broken in my back… my family didn’t know at first if I would come to, or if I would be brain damaged…”
While Schultz suffered no lasting head injury, she spent three months in hospital where she received the difficult diagnosis that she would be paralyzed from the waist down and would need to use a wheelchair.
She was contemplating a grim future. First Schultz had to give up her dream of becoming a police officer.
Then she had to try to figure out how she could continue to live in a rental house with a kitchen, bedroom and bathroom that were too tight for her to turn around in with her wheelchair — as well as basement laundry facilities she couldn’t access.
Even the front steps of the rental home would need a ramp. “It was an enormous struggle,” she recalled. “It wasn’t my house, and I couldn’t convert it. I didn’t have the money anyway…”
Schultz, who lives on a disability pension, got a life-changing telephone call from the parents of her childhood friend.
Sue and Phil Neufeld, the owners of Red Deer home builder True-Line Homes, had learned of Schultz’s injuries and called with a proposal. While the Neufelds had voluntarily been building homes for people in El Salvador for years, they were wanting to switch their efforts to help people in their community, said Shultz.
She recalled her shock and surprise when Sue asked her whether she would accept their assistance in getting a home built to suit her new needs?
“I can remember feeling so incredibly loved! …I felt that someone realized that my future was in jeopardy,” and was ready to help her attain a better life, she said. “I felt overwhelmed, for sure, and stunned that they would do this for me.”
While Schulz didn’t have a down-payment saved for a house, and was unable to put in the sweat equity that Habitat for Humanity generally requires to build a home for a client, the Neufelds and their dedicated crew — including staffer Andrea Holt — made it happen, anyway.
Schultz, who volunteers with the Red Deer public school district, now pays a mortgage on a new wheelchair-accessible home in Vanier Woods, where she can prepare family meals, wash clothes in a main-floor laundry area, and access the basement with a chair-lift.
The Neufelds “wanted something better for me,” said Schultz, and she will never forget their kindness. “I want them to know what great people they are, and how they made a huge difference in my life, every day.”