The inception of The Sophia Way can be traced back to the enduring passion and vision of an extraordinary woman – Helen Leuzzi. Many philanthropists donate money or inspire others. Helen took the idea of sheltering and supporting women experiencing homelessness from an inspiration to a full blown social service agency, with hundreds of volunteers, staff, community, government and foundations supporting and meeting the needs of women in crisis. The Sophia Way is a living-breathing legacy of Helen.
Helen’s involvement in social causes has a lengthy history. She served as the Outreach Chair at Bellevue First Congregational Church (BFCC) from 2006 to 2011 and spearheaded a grassroots group that saw a need to serve women without a home on the Eastside. As this effort took root, first becoming a day center and then a night shelter, Helen assumed the role of executive director of the night shelter, the genesis of what is now The Sophia Way.
Under her strong leadership The Sophia Way matured from a small nonprofit to an organization that today serves hundreds of women daily as they transition to stability and independent living. Helen worked tirelessly, without compensation, doing absolutely everything needed to support women experiencing homelessness, listening to their stories and adapting the services offered based on their needs.
Helen was an outstanding advocate for women in need. As the Executive Director and founder of The Sophia Way, she was instrumental in changing and improving many lives – not only the lives of the women The Sophia Way serves – but thousands of people who knew her and have been inspired by her undying passion and perseverance.
Helen passed away in August 2016.
Today, we live Helen’s legacy. In continuing and expanding on the work that Helen has started, The Sophia Way strives to further Helen’s dreams of providing shelter and services to women in need.
We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of our founder, Helen Leuzzi.
Through the course of our lives, we often hear about people who have made a real difference in the world by helping others, but it is rare to actually meet and know such people personally, to get to see them in action, to be inspired by them.
Helen was one of those people.
When I first met Helen, she told me how distressed she was when she saw women going through the dumpsters behind office buildings in the late evenings. And she told me how angry she was when she began raising the issue and was told there were “no homeless people on the Eastside.”
Helen was a force of nature. She refused to ignore the women and she refused to be ignored. With equal measures of passion, energy, creativity, charm, persistence and compassion, she started The Sophia Way.
In the years since, we have gone from eight mats on a church floor to the organization we are today. We have helped hundreds of women, thanks to thousands of supporters. But without Helen, The Sophia Way would not exist.
Helen did something truly remarkable. Because she was remarkable.
In the days and years to come, all of us at The Sophia Way will honor her memory, and all she accomplished, by continuing to do our very best, every single day, to help the women we serve.