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Published on 
May
 
15
2024

Northshore Philanthropist Steve Tujague Gains National Recognition for Fighting Child Abuse in Louisiana

Published on
May
 
15
2024

Northshore businessman and philanthropist Steve Tujague, founder of the IJN Foundation (In Jesus’ Name), is receiving national acclaim for his support and advocacy in Louisiana’s fight against child abuse and trafficking, and specifically his financial impact within the local and statewide Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) movement. 

Tujague will receive the “Community Philanthropy Leadership Award” at the 2024 National Children’s Alliance Leadership Conference in Washington D.C. on June 3rd. Selected from numerous nominations across 1,100 Children's Advocacy Centers nationwide, Tujague is one of only eight award recipients to be honored at this year’s event. These individuals represent the CAC movement’s most innovative leaders, dedicated champions and devoted volunteers.

For nearly three decades, Tujague worked in various capacities with the prestigious Boh Brothers family of companies. He eventually acquired and ran Boh Environmental, FPU Systems, which designed and constructed Department of Defense Command Centers and patented container systems for the military. It later became a global business. Following a successful and fulfilling career, Tujague felt a greater calling to serve his community as he stepped into retirement. He and his family established The IJN Foundation (In Jesus’ Name) to empower organizations across Southeast Louisiana, focusing on initiatives such as child exploitation justice and recovery, human trafficking prevention, and mentorship programs.

Over the last seven years, Tujague has contributed over $1.5 million to CACs across Louisiana and the state chapter – all given In Jesus’ Name. More than $1.15 million of that contribution was given to Children’s Advocacy Center - Hope House, an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to ending the cycle of child abuse in St. Tammany and Washington Parishes. Tujague’s efforts have resulted in incredible growth, development, and most importantly, positive outcomes of justice and recovery for child abuse victims across the state, and particularly the Northshore.

“While many might perceive the amount given as the most noteworthy factor in Mr. Tujague’s story of partnership, even more incredible is how the gifts were delivered. Mr. Tujague wishes for no personal acknowledgment, praise or recognition. He has only one request, that you acknowledge the gift In Jesus’ Name. He has truly been a beacon of hope and an example of Christ’s love in the lives of countless children,” said Thomas Mitchell, Executive Director of CAC - Hope House.

In 2018, during a time when Hope House faced significant financial hardships, Tujague changed the trajectory of the organization forever. That same year, Hope House received a call that a local family wished to create a matching campaign for the organization. After learning about Hope House’s mission, Tujague pledged $150,000 in matching funds for every dollar raised in the organization’s signature annual fundraiser, Men Who Cook. This would prove to be a catalyst for Hope House’s growth and financial stability, rallying countless community members and stakeholders to take ownership of the recovery of local child abuse victims. 

“After meeting Executive Director Thomas Mitchell, I knew quickly that our core values aligned; we both want to serve children and honor Jesus as we do it. Thomas’s amazing dedication and leadership toward ending child abuse and trafficking, while providing excellent outcome of justice and recovery for all children he and the Hope House team encounters, is exceptional! Hope House has an extraordinary team of dedicated, hardworking, loving, and caring professionals that provide a path to recovery while supporting justice and healing for child abuse victims with much love. They are amazing!” said Steve Tujague.

Prior to Tujague’s initial collaboration with Hope House in 2018, the organization’s Men Who Cook fundraiser drew an annual attendance of 150 to 200 guests and raised $63,000 at its highest point. Since 2018, Men Who Cook’s attendance has increased to over 1,000 guests as more advocates are being developed and cultivated, and Hope House has averaged more than $300,000 in annual fundraising through the event, with 2023 marking an all-time high.

Through funding received In Jesus’ Name, Hope House has been empowered to expand operations, programs, staff and services for the increasing number of child abuse victims – more than 2,500 children since 2018 – served on the Northshore. In 2019, with Tujague’s support, Hope House launched Play It Safe, an evidence-informed child abuse prevention training that is offered free of charge to local schools and organizations serving children. Since then, Hope House has trained more than 1,700 local children in body safety and abuse prevention. In 2020, Hope House expanded with a 1,250-sq-ft. renovation to increase its trauma counseling services. In 2023, Tujague provided financial support for Hope House to open a new, state-of-the-art CAC in Bogalusa, one of Louisiana’s most impoverished cities. Additionally, with Tujague’s help, Hope House has strengthened its forensic medical programming, created robust vicarious trauma resources, increased staff retention programs, and empowered multidisciplinary partner agencies such as law enforcement and the Louisiana Department of Children & Family Services with advanced training in trauma-informed care and best practices in investigations. 

Furthermore, Tujague was instrumental in saving the state’s CAC chapter while advocating for state legislative funding for all CACs in Louisiana. Prior to 2021, Louisiana was one of seven states in the country lacking state legislative support, despite being statutorily defined and mandated. Tujague worked with state leaders to secure funding for child abuse and trafficking victims.

In a February 2020 meeting at Hope House with Louisiana’s former First Lady Donna Edwards, who is a dedicated supporter of the state’s CAC movement, Tujague advocated for the securing of a 28-year dream for Louisiana’s CACs – state legislative funding.  Tujague provided a $300,000 contribution, dispersed to all Louisiana CACs, creating a public-private partnership that served as a catalyst for state funding.  Two months later, CACs across Louisiana celebrated a major victory – it was announced that state legislative funding would be included in the state’s budget.  

“State legislative funding to support our CACs in the fight against child abuse is a great thing for the state of Louisiana, and an incredible victory for our kids! Because of Mr. Tujague, thousands of children are back to being kids again. He is truly a special, inspiring partner, and friend – not just of Hope House, but of CACs statewide,” said Thomas Mitchell. 

CAC - Hope House thanks the following state and local leaders for their letters of endorsement for Steve Tujague’s “Community Philanthropy Leadership Award” nomination: State Senator Patrick McMath, former Louisiana First Lady Donna Edwards, St. Tammany Parish President Mike Cooper, St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Randy Smith, 22nd Judicial District Attorney Collin Sims, St. Tammany Parish School Board Representative Gia Baker, LACAC Director Krystle Mitchell, and former LACAC Director Kate Shipley.

For more information on this year's awards and how you can tune in live to the awards ceremony on June 3, CLICK HERE.

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