Federal Way, Washington.
Eight years ago, single mom Marlene Davidson was forced to leave a good job to flee an abusive husband. Homeless after arriving in Federal Way, Washington, she was given a fresh start by FUSION (Friends United to Shelter the Indigent, Oppressed & Needy). Easing her transition was the organization's founder, Peggy LaPorte.
Soft-spoken Peggy--mother, designer, arts supporter, fashion consultant, former Pan Am stewardess, model, and bed and breakfast proprietor--never expected to add founder of a nonprofit to her résumé. But in 1993 when she toured a homeless shelter that was about to close, "it became evident to me that something had to be done," Peggy recalls. "I called my friends, and we organized a fund-raiser around my kitchen table." Soon she founded FUSION to provide transitional housing to women and children until they could acquire the skills and income to move into their own permanent homes.
FUSION now owns 10 condos, four houses, and an apartment that provide beautifully furnished and well-equipped housing. It also raises funds so that children can participate in camps, athletics, and the arts. So far 85 percent of the 157 women and 225 children it has helped have moved into their own permanent housing.
One reason for its success is that FUSION contracts to provide case management for each woman, including weekly meetings to assist with job training, child and medical care, financial planning, counseling, and anything else needed for self-sufficiency. A shining example is Marlene Davidson, the single mom who now has her own home, a good job, and daughters thriving in college. "FUSION was my lifeline," she says. Her next goal is to buy a house to give to FUSION, thus passing it on.