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THEN & NOW: Jill Dugas

Nov 14, 2018 02:45PM ● By Scott Brazda

“It was definitely an honor to have been chosen, and I was definitely surprised when I got the phone call,” Dugas recalls. “My initial reaction, though, was:

‘Who?  Me?’”

After the dust settled—and the initial shock wore off—Dugas truly appreciated the selection by the editors of FACE. “I think being on the cover of this magazine truly validates what you do. It’s recognition for the agency for whom you work, and I think it just kind of gives you that extra motivation to keep doing what  you’re doing, and maybe even do a little bit more.”

At the time, Dugas served as the executive director of Lafayette’s Hearts of Hope, a group that continues to do amazing work for those who have experienced the trauma of sexual violence. “Hearts of Hope truly was my ministry, and my second life. It was my second home, and our staff was my family. Anytime you can lessen the trauma for children who have experienced that type of abuse, it is so fulfilling.”

However, in December of 2015, Jill Dugas decided it was time for a change. “It was very hard to leave,” she recalls, “because I had lost my father unexpectedly in October of that year, and felt that I needed to transition into the family business. Still, that combination—losing aspects of my two families—was a rather major loss for me.”

Dugas says leaving a place where she’d planted roots and helped others for so very long also set into motion a loss of identity, too. “Oh, definitely, and now I’m working to reinvent myself into a new industry. Now, there was a lot of stress as an executive director.I don’t miss doing budgets and having to prove something to your board or show the public that your organization is viable and needed—but there were so many positives, so many rewards.”

The aforementioned new industry is the family business, Howell Environmental Companies. “We have a utility company, a service company, and we have an equipment company.” And how’s it coming?  “Slowly,” she laughs. “But it’s coming. I’m involved with marketing and sales, and I enjoy that, but it’s learning about the industry that’s very challenging. My brain has been programmed in the nonprofit world for so long!”

Are there any common threads, I asked. Any people with whom she had relationships in the non-profit world that have continued into her for-profit one? “Nope,” she responds, “totally different. Totally new industry, a totally new group of people, and it’s a man’s world, from what I’ve seen.” That being said, Jill Dugas is beginning to make her mark.  “I just got my first contract,” she said excitedly. “There’s most definitely a sense of accomplishment, and the achiever in me is very pumped up!”

Similarities? “Now, the sales and marketing side are about the same, because you’re always trying to sell yourself and sell your business and sell the product. I do enjoy that, and feel very comfortable doing it.” Most importantly though, comes the people with whom she works. “I love the sense of family that we have there, and carrying on my dad’s legacy.”

Her mother is the owner and president, and her brother is essentially running the business, continuing with the sense of family. There are some who have been employed at Howell Environmental Companies for many years. But, what if there’s a family dispute at this decidedly family business?  “I’m happy to say that, in our case, it’s pretty easy,” smiles Dugas. “It’s whatever the president and owner wants. It’s all up to Mom; she’s got great ideas and kind of keeps us on our toes.”

The mother of three daughters [10, 18, & 27], Jill Dugas is moving along just fine into the latest chapter of her life. As she does so, she’s slowly reentering the world of community involvement, and with her background, it’s easy to see why. Giving back and getting involved are reflective of just who Jill Dugas is.

“I guess it’s part of my DNA, working with people and working to help our community.  All good stuff, I think.”

* Jill Dugas was featured in the December 2013 issue of Face Magazine. Click Here to read her original cover story.