Humble Homestrech Head Honcho, Taxson, Stepping Away

When asked of her Aug. 1 retirement from Homestretch after 16 years as the Falls Church non-profit’s first and only ever executive director, Nancy Taxson invariably turned the topic of conversation over to her organization.

In an interview with the News-Press, when discussing her particular part in Homestretch’s legacy of service, Taxson seemed so allied with her organization’s mission that she eschewed all personal recognition and reinforced instead the collective working power of Homestretch.

The mission of the organization has been so deeply invested in her mind that when she is in the office, she doesn’t consider her departure with regards to her own future. And when discussing her departure, she wanted to avoid the word “retirement” at all costs. It alludes to a sort of backing down or retreat, something that a woman of Taxson’s tenacity would never accept.

    Homestretch is the largest provider of transitional housing in Fairfax County. In 2005, it received the Innovative Community Collaboration to Prevent Family Violence award by Family and Children’s Trust Fund and throughout the past decade has been the recipient of numerous others.

    It has been inestimably encouraging for over 800 families in its 16-year career, and continues to administer a combination of housing-based and supportive services geared towards the eventual goal of completely self-reliant living.

    The organization’s mission statement focuses on breaking the cycles of destructive habits and replacing them with an overarching model of self-sufficiency, a permanent solution to the array of crises that plague today’s living environment.

“A family can be homeless for multiple reasons,” said Taxson, mentioning factors of unemployment, marital crisis and substance abuse, to name just a few.

After over a decade and a half of direct experience, Taxson has played a pivotal role in planning and maintaining Homestretch’s long list of self-help programs. Her devotion and leadership skills have broadened the services Homestretch offers to families from its inception. “If we could think of anything else to do, any other program to develop, we would do it,” stresses Taxson.

Leaving to pursue other aspirations on earlier this month, Nancy Taxson is proud of the legacy she has established as founding and only executive director at Homestretch, although she avoided taking full credit for it.

“It’s very exciting to see families change,” she says, affirming her organization’s most important ambition. “Our ultimate goal is to try to break cycles of domestic violence, substance abuse, and poverty.” Through Homestretch’s wide-ranging, aid-based legacy, families are given a chance to reemerge with pride, independence and confidence in today’s often stifling, exclusive working and living environments.

In this context, children are reminded of the hard work and spirit of perseverance that are integral to managing life’s infinite obstacles, and are taught vital blueprints of responsibility and conscientiousness that help them navigate the tributaries of the rest of their years.

The families who have, with Homestretch’s help, rescued themselves from financial ruin and social displacement exist in an ever-widening circle around the Northern Virginia area, which is a testament to Homestretch’s pervasive influence as an organization of self-help and lasting self-reliance.

A colleague of Nancy Taxson’s, Brenda Wilkes, cited Taxson’s extensive experience and dedication as integral parts of Homestretch’s ongoing, aid-based legacy.

“She is a tremendous leader,” said Wilkes, “and we will certainly miss her when she’s gone.”

Her charisma, approachability and wealth of knowledge in all aspects of the services Homestretch provides have made her an outstanding leader among her colleagues and clients both, Wilkes said. Moreover, her keen insight and willingness to understand a given family’s situation secured her position as the cornerstone of the organization throughout her long stay with Homestretch.

As for Taxson herself, she is immensely pleased with the ground Homestretch has covered since 1990. “Homestretch is continuing to develop; we had no idea when it started that we would touch as many people as we have,” she said.

In the upcoming months, Taxson hopes to satisfy her wanderlust by traveling the country in an RV and taming the elusive and ever-alluring West.

Confident in the capability of her successor, Christopher Fay, she nevertheless plans to continue to work in the community to alleviate the pressures and stigma of homelessness and will “absolutely” stay in touch with Homestretch in the weeks and months to come.