Nonprofit builds house for homeless military family

Lennar Homes and Builders Care surprises family with new home

By Crystal Chen - Assignment editor/reporter

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. - A local military family that has been homeless for months now has a place they can call their own, and it’s all thanks to the community.

It’s been a tough year for the Natto family. For the past eight months, Sydney Natto and her son, Rhett, have been living in a hospital, spending nights on a blowup mattress placed next to a hospital bed where her injured husband lies.

Christopher Natto was a recon Marine who was hurt in a horrific accident earlier this year. His military career was ended during a night jump that didn’t go as planned.

“Christopher ended (up) hitting a tree and the branch he landed on didn’t hold him and he fell about 40 feet to the ground and landed on his neck,” Sydney Natto said.

The impact resulted in partial paralysis and a long road to recovery. Since the accident, Sydney and Rhett have made countless trips traveling from Charlotte to the Shepard Center in Atlanta, and then to the Veterans Affairs hospital in Tampa.

But along the way, their story got picked up by the Northeast Florida Builders Association, Lennar Homes and Builders Care, who decided to surprise the family with a home of their own.

“I imagine my family, if something were to happen to me, I’d want somebody else to step up and to help my wife and my children,” Lennar Homes Division President Matt Devereaux said. “So I felt it was almost our responsibility to do the same thing for the Nattos.”

With shovels in hand, the team of Lennar Jacksonville broke ground on the home they would spend the next couple of months building for the Nattos.

“Now we have a house,” Natto said.

For Sydney, this is the first step to piecing her family back together and having her husband home again -- it’s something she said she would have never imagined after everything that’s happened.

“I really didn’t think it was going to happen and, of course, I can’t thank Matt and his team enough or Builder Care enough and everybody who has just come out and had a hand in it," Natto said. I don’t think I could ever repay that kind of kindness. They really don’t know what this means to us.”

With an overwhelmed heart full of gratitude, Sydney says she is looking most forward to getting a sense of normalcy back and doing things that many people take for granted -- like spending their first Christmas together and Rhett’s second birthday in their new home.

“Chris being able to help Rhett during bedtime or bath time or go with us to take him to school,” Natto said. “(It’s) just the little things that some people take for granted.”

For her husband, Chris, becoming a homeowner means they now have a safe and secure home to build some of their best memories.

“I just don’t know how many times he can say thank you, or I can say thank you, but Christopher is over the moon and he’s just glad to have his life back and to have his family back and that’s what this house will give us.”

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