Former Habitat for Humanity Homeowner Comes Full Circle

    You never forget your first home – and in my case, it was a two-bedroom Habitat home on 39th street.


    By Jacob Engels


    On one Saturday afternoon, East Orlando resident Naomi Hattaway volunteers to help build a Habitat for Humanity home. After swinging her hammer – fighting a stubborn nail – she gets a slight sense of déjà vu.


    Seventeen years ago, she was a single mother faced with the need for a decent place to live. Realizing that she finally won the battle against the persistent nail, the nostalgic moment soon passes and Naomi is no longer a struggling young woman, but an entrepreneur, wife and mother of three children. She credits Habitat for Humanity for giving her a solid restart on life.


    “You never forget your first home – and in my case, it was a two-bedroom Habitat home on 39th street,” recalls Naomi. “The key I received on the day of my closing unlocked the home, but more importantly, renewed energy that made me desire more out of life.”


    Now coming full circle with the nonprofit, Naomi is continuing her love for helping others as a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Orlando’s Women Build. She joins nearly 300 Central Florida women who come together annually to fundraise and build a home for a local family.


    Naomi got her philanthropic start in India a number of years ago. Coming face-to-face with poverty’s ugly head, she was inspired to become active in a number of causes. She ran the American Women’s Association of New Delhi and assisted with the integration of the Make A Difference English program in a local slum in Delhi.


    She now inspires people closer to home … like Sherall Leo, who will receive this year’s Women Build home. Sherall shares Naomi’s sentiment and is filled with anticipation as she works on her home with volunteers in anticipation for the completion of the project.


    “I used to believe that my 550-square-foot one-bedroom apartment was the end of the road for my family,” says Sherall. “But Naomi’s encouraging story makes me more excited to walk through the doors of my first home.”


    Habitat for Humanity of Greater Orlando Area will close out its Women Build ceremony on Saturday, May 10 from 8:30 – 9:30 a.m. To learn more about upcoming projects and volunteer opportunities, click here.



    Jacob Engels, is the Founder of East Orlando Post & Seminole County Post. He is a seasoned political operative who has led numerous statewide political groups and has worked on several high-profile local, statewide, and national races. Jacob has been interviewed on national television & radio programs, with his work having been featured in the Orlando Sentinel, New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald and other publications nationwide. He can be reached at