In 2016, Melissa bought her home in Habitat Orlando & Osceola’s Butler’s Preserve community. She was ecstatic, not only because she could provide a safe home for her daughter but also because she had something she could leave behind someday.

“I was letting my daughter know that you don’t always have to rent. I was showing her that you can work hard and own a home in your lifetime,” Melissa said. “Not only can you do that, but the sky’s the limit. You can get whatever you want in life if you put your mind to it.”

Once she was in her home, Melissa mainly focused on working and getting her daughter through high school and later into college. Like many homeowners, the last thing on her mind was home insurance.

“I came to a point where I got injured and then unemployed,” she said. “It gave me time to focus on my house and I started looking at all my paperwork and came across my insurance information.”

Melissa found out that she was paying nearly $5,000 a year for her insurance premium, which was putting a huge strain on her, especially since she was living off her savings. She quickly set up an appointment with Habitat Orlando & Osceola, where she was referred to the new Habitat Inspects program and signed up to receive a free wind mitigation inspection.

“All of the things that I learned originally with the Habitat about taking care of my home made me interested in this program,” she said.

Once the wind mitigation inspection was completed, she worked with Habitat Orlando & Osceola staff to find a more affordable home insurance policy to fit her needs. She now pays about $1,700 a year — a $3,300 savings compared to what she was paying before.

“I really appreciate Universal [and others] so much because they are helping us preserve our homes which is something that wasn’t given to us. This is something that we had to come out here and work hard for and we had to dedicate two years of our lives to get to where we are today,” she said.

As part of the Habitat Inspects program, she also took Habitat U classes hosted by experts on topics like home insurance, disaster preparedness, and how to create a will.

“I pay my mortgage and keep up with my property, but there’s more to it than that,” Melissa said. “The classes opened my eyes a lot and helped me understand the principles. The preparedness courses about hurricane damages and roofing and flood insurance…all that stuff just really blew my mind.”

Melissa feels safer and more secure in her home than ever before and has started focusing on recovering from her injury with support from her beloved dog, Fancy.

“She actually keeps me going. She helped me through my injury and has been helping me get better. If it wasn’t for her, I don’t think I would heal the way I’ve been healing. She’s a big part of me,” she said.

You can learn more about the program here.

Habitat Inspects is made possible by Universal Orlando Foundation with support from Wesco and Duke Energy.