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Activist is Humanitarian of the Year

By PAT JENKINS

The Mirror

Peggy LaPorte, already widely respected for her efforts in Federal Way to help the homeless, will receive even more acclaim Monday when she is formally named the 2004 St. Francis Humanitarian of the Year.

The 22nd annual award, sponsored by Sisters of St. Francis and the Franciscan Health System Foundation, honors individuals in south King County and Pierce County whose lives reflect the values and philosophy of St. Francis of Asissi, a Catholic patron saint.

LaPorte founded FUSION, a non-profit, Federal Way-based organization that owns and operates transitional housing for homeless women and children. Nine housing units are safe havens for women while they rebuild their lives, helped partly by South King County YWCA's counseling and education programs.

FUSION (Friends United to Shelter the Indigent, Oppressed and Needy), supported by volunteers and funded by private contributions and government grants, has served about 160 people in the past 11 years.

Jeanne Burbidge remembers how LaPorte got the ball rolling.

"I remember her talking about the issues of homelessness and that something needed to be done to help people. Then she followed up and researched it with such diligence. She put something new and very important in place," said Burbidge, a Federal Way City Councilwoman who has known LaPorte for 15 years and served on FUSION's organizing committee.

"Peggy is deserving of this award. She's done a great deal with FUSION," Burbidge added.

The sponsors of the award, which will be presented at a ceremony at 10 a.m. Monday at the St. Francis Medical Building in Federal Way, said LaPorte –– a former airline flight attendant and now a bed-and-breakfast proprietor and interior designer –– could have just written checks to worthy causes. Instead, she and like-minded community members organized FUSION.

“Helping others in need has been a spiritually rewarding calling for me. I feel fortunate to be part of a wonderful group like FUSION that offers help and hope to women and children in crisis,” LaPorte said.

Dini Duclos, chief executive officer of Multi-Services Center, another Federal Way social agency that deals with homelessness, said LaPorte "has a good heart. We like working with her and FUSION. We applaud this selection" for the Humanitarian of the Year Award.

Last year's award was presented to Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Jack Gamble of Lakewood, a retired military officer and a community activist on behalf of the poor.

Franciscan Health System includes three St. Francis Hospital in Federal Way, St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma and St. Clare Hospital in Lakewood, plus other care facilities.

LaPorte was named Federal Way's Citizen of the Year in 2003 by the Mirror and the Chamber of Commerce.

Editor Pat Jenkins: 925-5565, editor@fedwaymirror.com

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