February 13, 2019

New Award to Celebrate a Career of Distinction

The new award is named in honor of retiring
Housing Choice Voucher Program Director
Sharon Fairburn (center). Celebrating with 

Sharon are Managing Director of Community 
Outreach Mike Hawkins and Executive 
Director Susan Dewey.
She will retire in February after working at VHDA for nearly 40 years. But her legacy will live on, in the form of an annual award that bears her name.

It’s called the Sharon Fairburn Housing Choice Voucher Award for Excellence, and going forward it will be presented to an agency in the VHDA Housing Choice Voucher program that best exemplifies the characteristics she has exhibited during her career – professionalism, innovation, collaboration and client advocacy.

The inaugural Sharon Fairburn award was presented in October to the Rappahannock-Rapidan Community Services Board, which provides a variety of programs and client services to residents of Culpeper, Fauquier, Madison, Orange and Rappahannock Counties. The award included a $1,000 check for staff professional development.

Housing Choice Vouchers are financial subsidies that help low-income households, including those with elderly or disabled members, who are seeking a safe, affordable place to live. Vouchers are distributed by VHDA in partnership with local housing agencies such as Rappahannock-Rapidan Community Services Board. Renters can select from a wide range of housing options – not just apartments, but also single-family homes and mobile homes – instead of residing in a designated housing project. They pay their landlord a percentage of their monthly income, and the voucher subsidizes the remaining rent.

As VHDA’s Housing Choice Voucher program director, Sharon Fairburn has worked with 31 agencies that provide vouchers to more than 9,700 households throughout the state. Looking back, she counts herself fortunate to have found a career so compatible with her academic training (she holds a bachelor’s degree in management, housing and family development from Virginia Tech). She’s seen the Housing Choice Voucher program grow and evolve over the years. And she’s come to appreciate the intrinsic value that vouchers offer to people who are struggling to keep a roof over their heads.

Fairburn believes the inaugural award recipient to be more than deserving. “We wanted to select an innovative and professional agency that exhibits strong knowledge of the voucher program and that applies its guidelines consistently,” she said. “Rappahannock-Rapidan Community Services Board is all that, and they also act as strong advocates for their renters in ways that help them succeed.”

Which is exactly what Sharon Fairburn has done, for just short of 40 years. Having an award created in her honor is a fitting tribute to a long and noteworthy career dedicated to helping Virginians attain quality, affordable housing.

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