It only takes an instant to change a life completely. Few people know this better than Richard Cortez, who lives at the Alhambra Senior Apartments. Richard uses a wheelchair to get around, but that wasn’t always the case. He worked in the technical end of the entertainment business from the time he was a teen. “Audio, video, sets, lighting—I did it all,” he said. “I was fearless; that guy up in the cherry picker changing a light for a rock concert, that was me,” he said. But it was a fall in his own bathroom that changed his life forever.
Back injuries from the fall necessitated multiple surgeries, left Richard with severe, chronic pain and greatly limited the use of his arms and legs. His pain is so extreme that he can only sit up in his wheelchair for an hour at a time. Yet Richard is upbeat. “I keep a smile, go from day to day. Being negative is just not my style,” he said.
Resident Services Coordinator Elisa Beckmann first met Richard when he was in the Alhambra office paying his rent. She learned that he would soon be renewing his lease. “I knew he was going to need my help,” Elisa said. “He’s in so much pain; I knew it would make him more comfortable if I saw him at his apartment rather than making him come down to my office,” she said. “I explained that if we could show out-of-pocket medical expenses, he could lower his rent.”
Elisa meticulously combed through page after page of the necessary forms with Richard and was able to lower his rent substantially. He now can afford nutritious food and medicines, which used to stretch his budget to the breaking point. “He trusts so few people, but I’ve now gained his trust and he knows he can count on me for anything,” she said.
Richard is only one of many at the Alhambra whom Elisa helped make it from day to day. When she walked through the apartment community, she has a cheerful, personal greeting for everyone she encountered. She knew their families, their likes, dislikes and special needs. She has tears in her eyes when she talks about the residents she feels privileged to serve. “It’s very rare to find someone like Lisa. When I met her, our relationship just clicked. It’s like I’m grasping for air and she’s there,” Richard said. Lisa is now the community manager at Casitas de Villa Corona.