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Magazine award opens door for FUSION

Peggy LaPorte helped launch FUSION in 1993. - Courtesy of Traditional Home magazine
Peggy LaPorte helped launch FUSION in 1993.
— image credit: Courtesy of Traditional Home magazine

Peggy LaPorte was recently recognized nationally for her success in providing shelter to Federal Way's homeless families.

LaPorte is the founder of non-profit Friends United to Shelter the Indigent, Oppressed and Needy (FUSION). The organization provides transitional housing to women (most of them victims of domestic violence) and children. Donations and volunteers are the charity's backbone.

"Just a warm safe place to come home to and put your head takes that fear away," said Phyllis Tellari, executive director of FUSION.

In November, LaPorte was recognized in Traditional Home magazine as one of six national recipients of the "Classic Woman" award. She was nominated for the award by another Federal Way resident and FUSION volunteer. The award is bringing national awareness to FUSION and Federal Way.

"It was an incredible honor," LaPorte said. "I'm just very very grateful."

The magazine flew LaPorte to New York and presented her with a check for $2,500 for FUSION. Since then, more volunteers stepped forward to help the non-profit. A New York philanthropist contacted LaPorte and wishes to donate to FUSION. In March, LaPorte will interview with WHVW radio host and author Jillian Quinn in New York's Hudson Valley.

"It's really opened the door for FUSION," LaPorte said of the award.

The heightened interest in FUSION marks the beginning of a year that is expected to bring changes and growth. In partnership with the Joseph Foundation, FUSION will purchase its 16th housing unit. Ten of the current units are located in Federal Way. Another five are located in Northeast Tacoma. The 16th unit may be available as soon as six months after it's purchased, LaPorte said.

FUSION furnishes the units and provides all the necessary amenities to help women get back on their feet. Rooms are decorated and the refrigerator is full when the families arrive, Tellari said. The women pay 30 percent of their income, if there is any, to reside in the unit. Counseling and services, such as help finding employment, is offered to them by Valley Cities Counseling and Consultation.

The unit occupants are considered "guests" and allowed to stay approximately 18 months. Eighty-five percent of the women and children housed by FUSION have moved on to permanent housing, Tellari said.

"It's a period in which they feel they have hope," LaPorte said.

This year will also bring more fundraisers and opportunities to support FUSION. The 2010 budget is $217,000. FUSION hopes to raise $75,000 more than it has in past years to continue housing and providing counseling to the guests, LaPorte said. It will hold its annual summer fundraiser and more, Tellari said. Grants are being pursued and FUSION will soon see a new Web site.

"Nearly all the money we raise goes directly to the cause," LaPorte said.

Get involved

Visit www.fusionfederalway.org to learn more about the organization or to volunteer. Equally important as volunteers, are cash donations. Donations can be made by calling (253) 874-1257 or sending a check to FUSION, P.O. Box 23934, Federal Way, WA 98093.

FUSION history

1993: FUSION is launched following a news story about Federal Way's homeless and a local priest's encouragement to help the homeless.

1994: FUSION holds its first summer arts fundraiser and collects enough money to to pay for the maintenance of one housing unit and case management services.

1995: FUSION opens its first one bedroom condominium housing unit.

2009: FUSION merges with the Joseph Foundation, an organization providing transitional housing to men, and increases its housing units to 15. The organization has grown to a point that requires it to hire its first paid employee. Tellari is hired. LaPorte is nationally recognized for her contributions to FUSION. The magazine spread and trip to New York result in more volunteers back home and contact by a New York philanthropist who wishes to donate money to FUSION. In December, FUSION was awarded a community development block grant to purchase its sixteenth housing unit.

2010: FUSION expects to purchase the unit, hold more fundraisers and continue to educate the public on the needs of homeless women and children.

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