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Giving disabled persons the gift of independence

Mari Doyal (second from right) and friends peruse the brochure for the annual golf tournament that raises funds for “Just” People.

BY: Mickey Goodman
PHOTO: Jennie Helderman

As parents of a child with developmental disabilities, Buckhead residents Mari and Larry Doyal worried what would happen to their daughter, Julie, as they aged. Although Julie and others with issues such as Down syndrome, autism and Asperger’s can be high functioning, they often lack the skills to live independently without help with transportation, finances, socialization and job training.

Becky Dowling, who worked with Julie and other disabled adults, had a goal: to create a village called “Just” People, Inc. that would be staffed 24/7 and offer programs for both residents and non-residents. She selected the name because the people she serves are “just like everyone else.”

The Doyals immediately became involved. “Without their faith in me, ‘Just’ People wouldn’t be here,” says Dowling. “Mari helped put the program together, and Larry, who was a real estate developer, became my mentor. He opened doors to large foundations and corporations that made significant contributions. He also organized an annual golf tournament to raise funds. After his death in 2009, Mari ramped up her involvement with the tournament named in his honor.”

The first “Just” People village opened in Roswell in 2004 and was instantly filled. Among the first residents was Julie Doyal. “We were thrilled to open up the second ‘Just’ People village in Flowery Branch in December 2018,” says Mari. “The two facilities offer hundreds of social and instructional programming for the 275 residents and day participants.”

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