Ten years ago, a small group of young, professional, enterprising men and women from both sides of the Bay and all walks of life came together to create an organization. Their goal was to make a difference in the lives of young people, to level the playing field so to speak. The energy this group brought to the table was palpable. Their mission was to have an impact and to do it impressively. There was a wow factor then, as there is now, with a sense of inclusiveness that works like a magnet to attract the best and the brightest to their ranks.
From the start, Fuse Project’s motto was, “If it’s not WOW, it’s not worth doing!” Today, Fuse Project has the same esprit de corps and has honed its efforts from supporting organizations all over Mobile and Baldwin counties to focusing on things that will have the greatest impact within the low-income communities in which they work. When asked what motivated them to create Fuse Project, co-founder and board member Brie Zarzour responded “Our goal with Fuse has always been to provide an opportunity. We strongly believe that your zip code should not be an indicator of life expectancy or life success.”
Six years ago, Linda and I were invited to attend a Light the Fuse dinner held in a vacant lot next to the Mobile Downtown Alliance building. Tables of five couples each were given a specific topic to discuss and then report each table’s thoughts on how best to address each topic. It was amazing to see, hear, and be part of the hour-long dinner process that resulted in helping Fuse Project sharpen its mission focus.
Today, Ann-Brooks Morrissette serves as Fuse Project’s executive director. Five years ago, just after the Light the Fuse dinner, she reached out to the board of the Fuse Project to see how she might get more involved. Bringing her professional accounting career experience and five years serving in an after-school college student mentoring program for low-income communities at the University of Alabama, she felt it was the perfect marriage of her accounting education with her relationship-building ability.
There has been a lot of evolution in the last ten years. Fuse Project has grown and has raised over $3 million for area grants. Their “fun” raisers are creative and successful. They have opened the Fuse Factory in downtown Mobile, an innovative co-working space to share with other non-profits as well as for-profit organizations. They believe in partnering with other nonprofits to help solve issues and to help avoid “mission overlap.”
Fuse Project established Order of Fuse, a take on a traditional Mardi Gras organization (started in Mobile, right?) but with the mission to break the cycle of poverty that is pervasive in low-income communities. This group is limited to 100 members that gather monthly to network, socialize, and volunteer. There are also honorary members whose contributions are used solely to fund the annual Order of Fuse grants.
When Covid curtailed group activities, Fuse Project held Light the Fuse Week, a series of mini-events where they partnered with local businesses to promote their mission. The Fairhope Inn and The Scout Guide hosted a dinner. Old Majestic Brewing Co. launched a Fuse Project beer. Bienville Bites hosted a Mobile food tour. They are collaborating with other non-profit organizations like the Cookery Project, which teaches cooking classes, gardening projects, and educational food literacy, and Flourish, which is a new non-profit in Daphne, Alabama that is a center for teen girls. This fall, Fuse Project is launching a K-3 program focused on high-quality early learning as part of the Historic Avenue Foundation in Mobile.
Fuse Project’s founders don’t consider themselves “young” anymore as they are raising families now. They are always recruiting the next generation of movers and shakers to join their cause. Their goal is to take what they have learned- what works and what doesn’t- to local communities utilizing the “holistic” approach to make a difference in the lives of children throughout the Gulf Coast.
Stay tuned for upcoming Fuse Project events. November 3-11 is Light the Fuse week and will include plenty of ways to engage in the community and get plugged in. Their annual Lip Sync Battle will be held on Thursday, April 27, 2023. Put a team together and compete before a panel of local judges. You don’t have to be able to sing to win! Just put together a great costume, and some fun friends, and get ready for a good time!
Let’s help grow the Fuse Project so its “Cradle to College” pipeline flows throughout the Scenic 98 Coastal area! Learn more here; Fuse Project.