Kurt and Brenda Warner’s dream of a community for young adults with developmental disabilities is a step closer to becoming reality.
Treasure House, a Christian-based supportive living community, will be built in Glendale on the Community Church of Joy’s property.
The Warners spoke during three of the church’s services Sunday about their lives before meeting, how they met, their life as a couple, the reality show “The Moment” and to announce the Treasure House development.
The couple has seven children, two of whom Brenda had from a previous marriage and Kurt adopted, including Zachary, who has a traumatic brain injury and blindness after an accident as a young child. He is the inspiration for Treasure House.
Brenda said Zachary, 24, is too old for public school and “as parents, you’re on your own. You don’t have anybody else coming along helping you like the school system did, and we found ourselves there and thinking, what’s next for Zach?
“He lives with traumatic brain injury and blindness and he’s very high functioning, but when he lives with us at our house, with six other kids, he basically just has to follow us around our busy lifestyle.”
She said they started considering what’s next for him and feel strongly about Treasure House because it gives individuals with intellectual disability a chance for a full life. “He can be completely independent on his own; he just needs someone to come alongside and to help him do things and Treasure House was birthed out of that.”
At 19 years old, Zach, had never been invited to a birthday party, a school dance, a play date or sleepovers. At Treasure House, he would be with his peers where they can get a job, share the same interests, learn how to budget money and lead a full life.
The couple came up with the idea a year ago and Brenda said: “We want to build it in such a way that’s so good, that we can build it across the country. Other parents who have a child with special needs don’t need to send their children out of state “to have that full life, if they can have it in their state. We can take it nationwide and who knows?”
Kurt, a retired NFL football player with the Arizona Cardinals, said: “You understand what it’s like to dream about what your children are going to be when they grow up. What they’re going to accomplish. What kind of impact they can have on the world around them. I hate to say it, but for six of my children, I had that dream.”
He didn’t know what to dream for when it came to Zach.
The couple prayed for healing — Zach can walk when the Warners were told he wouldn’t be able to sit up.
Kurt said the inspiration for Treasure House was when they saw Zach in different settings, such as dances and birthday parties and the impact he had on other people, more so than the rest of the family.
“A lot of people unfortunately will look at Zach and those with disabilities of any kind, and they notice the disability. We’re able to see the amazing ability that God placed inside of him. For me, it is where the heart of Treasure House is. We call it Treasure House because inside of each one of these individuals, I think there is a hidden treasure, because too often we don’t see it from the outside. We notice something else. Inside there is an amazing treasure they have to offer,” Kurt said.
He said when Zach graduated from high school and was home all the time, everything he did, was connected to one of his parents. If someone had to go somewhere, one of them had to take him; and if Zach wanted to be involved in something, somebody else had to reach out to him.
Kurt said Treasure House is an opportunity for individuals “where they may not see hope, family members may not see hope, individuals that run across him on the street may not see hope, but we see that God placed something inside of him that’s unique, that’s amazing and impacts not only the small community but the community in the world around him.”
The Rev. Walt Kallestad, pastor at Community Church of Joy, said the church has 3-5 acres parcel for Treasure House.
“God put the dream in Kurt and Brenda’s heart, and they started talking about it, praying about it, as part of their foundation.” Kallestad said. “I just felt in my heart that this is something that we were also wanting to do. We have the property; we have the opportunity here to do that so we got together and we walked the campus and talked until they ended up saying that this is where they wanted to be and this would be the first one in the nation and from here kind of the model for the rest of the country.”
He also said the church is trying to develop a recreational district that will be an attraction for the whole community. Church leaders are talking with the cities of Peoria and Glendale because the Agua Fria River is part of the recreational district and the city boundaries are on each side of the river.
“Stuff happens to us and we need each other,” Brenda Warner said. “We need someone to come alongside and help us do things and I just appreciate that this church is willing to do that with us.”
Members of the church, Sun Citians Shirley Ouren and Bill Anderson, and Virginia Jesser of Peoria, attended the Warners’ presentation.
“I just think it’s going to be such an asset to the whole community. I’m not saying Joy’s community, I’m say the whole community. I am excited to see it developed and coming into being,” Ouren said,
Anderson said: “I think it’s a great opportunity. I’m a physical therapist. I’ve worked with many people with problems, so I know that they need extended care and I’ve worked with some that were trying to live on their own and had struggles with that, so I understand that a little bit, so it’s a great, great program and I just hope that it can all work out and we can get the dreams that some of these kids want to have.”
Jesser said she is surprised there isn’t a community such at Treasure House already in place. “I guess I really hadn’t thought about it until they brought it up, but I think it’s a fantastic idea, I think it would be a great opportunity for young people and young adults.”
“We want to let our kids know it’s not about what we do,” Kurt Warner said, “but what we give.”