Douglas Holok grew up in Merrillville until the age of 13 and then moved to Richmond, Indiana, where he graduated from high school. Then he graduated from Valparaiso University on a football scholarship and majored in finance, met his wife Jennifer, who was originally from the area, and stayed.
“We grew up together and today we have four kids, Andrew age 9, Jackson age 7, Rae age 4, and Luke who is 20 months old,” says Holok.
Six years ago, Douglas and Jennifer decided to make a change in their lives that would set them on a course of helping others. “We made the decision to start investing in real estate as a supplement to retirement down the road. At the time I was selling machinery for the corrugated box industry and I was traveling all over Midwest, which wasn’t a good lifestyle for us and raising kids. So we made the decision to do real estate full-time. Then four years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer. It was a rare carcinoma on my fingertip and they caught it early and everything is clear, but it provided some important perspective for us and we decided to simplify and do what we love,” he says.
Pursuing real estate full time began first as a money-making endeavor and then turned into something much deeper, Holok says. “We started prior to the diagnosis and were looking in Gary. We wanted to invest in real estate purely from a profit standpoint because there was a lot to buy affordably. But then we stumbled into a purpose. There’s a huge need, both for the City of Gary as a whole for the neighborhoods to be revitalized, and then there’s a whole population of people who need a stable living environment. We started working with agencies, such as mental health facilities and organizations like the Catholic Charities that have special housing programs to give folks a second chance to live on their own. It’s more fulfilling, taking it from a pure profit business model, and adding a purpose aspect to it,” Holok says.
The Holok Group
10769 Broadway, PMB 335, Crown Point
The Holoks have two part-time office staff and a full-time office manager working with them. He says, “We look for buildings that need attention and are neglected. We fix them up to like-new standards and turn them into places that are warm and inviting for families to live in and do extra things for safety and comfort, like add security cameras, because they are still living in Gary and we’re trying to isolate them from as much of that as we can.”
He says that the work is hard, but it is fulfilling knowing they are helping to change people’s lives. “The work is not without its stresses for sure, but it’s ours and we’re basing our own success on our own initiative and work ethic.
“If it’s just profit-based it would have died off a long time ago, because investing in Gary is hard. But we’re helping people turn around their lives and we have success stories that motivate us to do it. There are single moms with a kid or two and they go from shelter to shelter trying to keep everyone warm and safe. They can now have a safe home, get a job, and balance a budget. We have other folks we have taken chances on who have been formerly incarcerated who now turn their lives around and are contributing members of society,” says Holok.
He says that they have plans to grow in the future and are already taking the steps to move forward. “We have really big plans to do more of the same type of work, specifically in Gary, but on a much larger scale. We have been consulting with companies in Indianapolis that do the same work and are acting as mentors and sharing their business model, so we’re busy trying to recruit interested parties, because it needs to be more than just two people. It needs to be a group effort,” he says.
Outside of their work, Doug and Jennifer stay busy with their children’s activities. Holok says, “They do everything from karate to soccer to basketball, and you name it, there’s always an activity going on. We want them to be exposed to a lot of different activities, which takes up a lot of our free time. This year I am the president of St. Mary’s Catholic Community Home and School Association, I’m a member of the Crown Point Rotary, and a member of The Cursillo, which is a spiritual organization of the Catholic Diocese of Gary.”