Through laughter, tears and applause, more than 100 people witnessed the grand opening of the Flowery Branch Village on Tuesday, Dec. 12.
Thanks to the new apartment community, adults with developmental disabilities in Hall County now have the chance to live independently.
The Flowery Branch Village is a partnership between “Just” People Inc. and Beckel Inc., a property management company.
“This means a lot to me because all my life I’ve wanted to help people,” Becky Dowling, co-founder of “Just” People said before the crowd. “This is just over-the-top to me, it’s my opportunity to say, ‘You deserve this.’ I love them all so much and I’m so excited for them to have a real life, like we all do.”
The development in Flowery Branch is the nonprofit’s third residential facility. Over the past week 62 people have moved into the residential area, and 25 more will arrive in the upcoming weeks.
The Flowery Branch Village is able to house 144 residents with 64 independent living apartments and 20 supportive living apartments. Carroll Daniel Construction Co. implemented the building of the small community.
From competing in the local Special Olympics, to taking bowling trips, residents with “Just” People receive many opportunities to live like people without disabilities. They additionally are provided with transportation to and from work.
Frank Roberts, who lived in the nonprofit’s Roswell location for 14 years, moved into his new home in Flowery Branch last week. Roberts said he is happy to be a part of such a wonderful organization.
“I love just being by myself and more independent,” he said. “It’s more peaceful here.”
Although the Flowery Branch location only started receiving residents on Monday, Dec. 3, Dowling said she has already seen a positive difference in the way they perceive themselves.
Most of those who come into “Just” People’s embrace have experienced their own success story. For Dowling, she will never forget the man who she found behind her thrift store.
When she first discovered him, he was curled up in the back of a truck. Dowling said the man had been dropped off on Roswell Road after coming out of foster care.
She took him into “Just” People and he now is married and works full-time.
Kevin Dowling, co-founder of “Just” People and Becky’s husband, said the nonprofit first began with 15 rented apartments in 1995. After the couple received negative remarks from those at the complex, they decided to build their own apartments.
The two sold their home to finance a portion of the project, moved into a houseboat on Lake Lanier and built the nonprofit’s first 53 apartments in Roswell. They later expanded the housing and bought 30 townhomes in Gwinnett County.
Kevin Dowling said throughout his time with his wife, she has taught him two valuable lessons.
“One is, they’re not broke, we don’t fix them,” he said. “Number 2 is just because they’re disabled, doesn’t mean they don’t deserve nice things.”
Ray Brennan came out to Tuesday’s grand opening to show his support for not only “Just” People, but his children who will soon move into the Flowery Branch Village.
Brennan has held a close relationship with the Dowlings for more than 25 years. Having tried myriad programs for adults with developmental disabilities, he found that “Just” People truly treats its residents like family.
“Whenever anybody asked me years ago what I think about it, I always say to drive up there unannounced and what you’ll see is a bunch of people having a good time, enjoying life,” Brennan said.