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‘What do we want our legacy to be?’: Couple makes $500K donation to Habitat for Humanity
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Habitat for Humanity of Hall County holds a home dedication Wednesday, May 25, 2022, for Jessica Doughty and family in the Copper Glen subdivision. - photo by Scott Rogers

Jessica Doughty was paying more than $1,000 a month for a two-bedroom apartment in Winder, raising her two teenage daughters as a single mother. 

On Wednesday, May 25, she began moving into her new Habitat for Humanity home, where her girls will each have their own bedroom for the first time. 

“It’s really tough for a single mom,” Doughty said. “You have to make four times as much to get a house for yourself.”

The Doughtys are the latest family to move into Copper Glen, a subdivision built by Habitat for Humanity of Hall County, and they will soon have more neighbors. 

The land for the planned 21-home neighborhood was donated to Habitat in 2015, and the organization now has the funds to finish the last six homes, thanks to the largest private donation the organization has ever received. 

Don and Sandra Tieken recently agreed to donate $500,000 to Habitat of Hall over five years to help build the last six homes in Copper Glen. 

“We were asking ourselves, ‘What do we want our legacy to be?’” Don said. “I liked that it was not a hand-out organization, it was a hand up.”

Don worked at ExxonMobil and other chemical companies during his career, he said, and he served as the executive director of Habitat in DeKalb County in the mid-2000s. The couple initially wanted to fund a project in DeKalb or Cobb County, where they used to live, but they could not find the right project without having to jump through hoops, Sandra said. Habitat of Hall had a plan ready to go. 

“We already had land and the ability to be shovel-ready,” Executive Director Alison McElvery said. “Our books were in good shape. We looked like we had our act together.”

Habitat also received $250,000 toward the project in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds distributed by Hall County last month. 

McElvery said her organization has already received $200,000 from the Tiekens and has started construction. They hope to complete four homes by the end of the year.

People who are cost-burdened by rent or live in substandard conditions can apply for a home through Habitat, and some companies sponsor homes for their own workers in need. 

Doughty, 37, has worked as a process safety management coordinator for eight years at Fieldale Farms, which also sponsored her home by donating $135,000. It is the fifth Habitat home Fieldale has sponsored, said Fieldale President Tom Hensley.

“The American dream is take care of your family and work hard to own a home, and Habitat offers people the opportunity to do that,” Hensley said. “We believe in these people, and we believe in the concept of Habitat.” 

Doughty will cut her commute to work in half at her new home, and her mortgage will be about $300 less than she was paying in rent. Habitat allows families to pay interest-free loans on their homes after they qualify and work required volunteer hours. 

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A group gathers Wednesday, May 25, 2022, in the Copper Glen subdivision for a Habitat for Humanity of Hall County home dedication ceremony. - photo by Scott Rogers

“Volunteers are very important,” Doughty said. “We rely on volunteers to get these houses done.”

Doughty had to put in 240 hours of volunteer work herself. It took her about a year and a half, she said, because she could only volunteer on Saturdays while working a full-time job. 

The homes give people the opportunity for generational change, McElvery said, because they can own an asset that will increase in value and increase their wealth. The first homes in Copper Glen were appraised at about $135,000 in 2015, McElvery said, and the Doughtys' home is now worth about $265,000. 

The home is 1,200 square feet and sits on an acre and a quarter. 

“I have gotten way more than I bargained for,” Doughty said. “The relationships that I’ve made, the love and support that I’ve been shown from family, friends, people at work, volunteers. — they come out here, they donate their time away from their families just to help me have a home, and they do it with a smile on their face. 

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Habitat for Humanity homeowner Jessica Doughty receives a toolkit from Habitat for Humanity of Hall County construction director Kendrick Dye Wednesday, May 25, 2022, during a dedication ceremony in the Copper Glen subdivision. - photo by Scott Rogers
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Habitat for Humanity of Hall County Executive Director Alison McElvery, right, speaks to a group Wednesday, May 25, 2022, in the Copper Glen subdivision for a new home dedication ceremony. - photo by Scott Rogers
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Habitat for Humanity of Hall County home owner Jessica Doughty says a few words of gratitude to visitors Wednesday, May 25, 2022, at her new Habitat home following a dedication in the Copper Glen subdivision. - photo by Scott Rogers