FUSION is celebrating 25 years of helping more than 200 homeless families find stability in their lives.
In the fall, FUSION will expand its capacity to serve 20 families at a time by purchasing a 20th transitional housing unit. These fully furnished residences are discreetly tucked away in Federal Way and Northeast Tacoma.
In addition to lifting people out of homelessness, FUSION brings together people from all walks of life. The charity’s annual summer arts festival – scheduled this year for Aug. 1 – not only raises more than $100,000 for homeless families every year, but also forges connections with local artists and like-minded community members.
Peggy LaPorte co-founded FUSION with some friends in her kitchen back in 1993. She marvels at the charity’s longevity, and she consistently credits the loyal volunteers and donors who make it all possible.
Below are highlights from a recent conversation with LaPorte about FUSION’s past, present and future.
When did you realize FUSION was here to stay?
I had no idea that it would be such a strong organization and we would have developed to the degree that we had in the past 25 years. I had no idea we would still be operating as all-volunteer. I give all the credit truly to the volunteers who have been there from the very beginning and have given countless hours of time. They are truly passionate volunteers who care about our mission. Not only that, it’s the amount of support that we have received from this community of people who donate and come out to help us. It’s overwhelming when I look back over the past 25 years to see the number of families that have been served, the growth.
Where do you see FUSION’s direction in the next five years?
We’re always looking at ways to expand and provide for the needs of homeless families. What’s a concern today is that there is not enough emergency housing for homeless families. We want to work on that problem. I believe it’s a group effort. It’s going to take a lot of work, not just with FUSION, but with other non-profits.
Why does art play a prominent role in FUSION’s fundraising efforts?
When FUSION began, we were looking for a unique fundraiser, like a summer garden party on the lawn — something different than what Federal Way had at the time. It was also important to us to recognize artists in our community. They have an opportunity to be highlighted at the event. They can actually share their gifts and help us. It’s a win-win for both of us.
The annual summer arts festival always has a fun theme such as ‘Under the Big Top’ and ‘Give My Regards to Broadway.’ Do you have a favorite after 25 years?
Each one is unique from the other. We keep thinking, ‘how can we improve on the last one,’ and we always do. This year we really want to celebrate 25 years, and we want to celebrate the volunteers who make it possible and the community, we want to thank them. This is a monumental achievement and we want to celebrate all of that.
FUSION is part of Federal Way’s culture. How did it get that way?
FUSION offers an opportunity for people to become involved in many ways so they can share their gifts. There are many ways of giving back and volunteers can get involved in any kind of work such as sharing accounting skills, or working at the boutique and greeting customers, or working on the board of directors, or working on our housing units, furnishing them and cleaning them, collecting furniture. There are so many ways to be a part of it. That has helped to bring in a lot of different people who have different talents and they find a way to share those talents. That’s what helped make our organization successful. It’s truly the volunteers and the community support.