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Tribute to former Voices Chair

Residents and staff pay tribute to Natalie Gardner

Written by Sam

31 Jan, 2024

Photo of Natalie at a Voices meeting

Natalie Gardner

Nat came to her first Residents’ Panel meeting on June 13th 2017, and just seven months later, on 9th January she was elected to the role of chair.

The following month she Chaired the Residents’ Panel Strategic review, planning what work the Panel would be doing in the coming year, a new structure was unveiled, and the Melin Voices was created.

The new structure was aimed at making involvement easier and more inclusive. This involved:

  • The creation of a working group called the Communities Group which consisted of members of the former Residents’ Panel and Melin’s Communities Team.
  • Continuation of the Customer Service Group and their scrutinization of services, working with staff members to ensure that recommendations are implemented.
  • Surveys to go out to residents asking their views on policy implementation and changes.
  • Closer working between the Communities Group and Melin Board members.
  • The motto for this new structure was “Be part of the Conversation”.

Natalie was always keen to work closely with Melin staff, believing that great relationships between resident groups and staff created better services to residents. She encouraged staff to attend group meetings so that residents would have a wider understanding of Melin’s work and be able to ask questions about the impact on residents.

Natalie also led the Customer Service Group, whose members scrutinised the services that Melin provides. Their recommendations were given Melin’s Senior Management Team to implement.

Natalie also encouraged Voices group members to be involved in staff interviews, consultations within Melin, meetings with outside partners such as TPAS, training, conferences and meetings with resident groups.

Natalie was keen to be involved with wider resident engagement; she attended consultation and information events with staff, litter picks, Christmas and Easter events etc taking every opportunity to speak to residents and making their voices heard.

The Voices Group have an annual budget and Natalie was keen to use this budget for the benefit of residents and their wider communities. Some of the projects included:

  • Knowing that some fellow residents were struggling with the cost of living, Natalie encouraged the Voices to support Melin’s food and fuel voucher projects that helped our more vulnerable residents.
  • Supported projects within our Sheltered schemes such as the Only Melin Aloud choir, Pets as Therapy
  • Paid for Christmas selection boxes to go to children within our communities.
  • Supported the GAVO Volunteer awards, understanding how vital it is for volunteers are within our communities to be recognised.
  • Proposed that young carers in Torfaen were given a tablet to allow their studies during the pandemic. This made a huge difference to a lot of the recipients.

Awards

Natalie received a Highly Commended Award at the GAVO Adult Volunteer Award in 2019.

During the pandemic Natalie wanted it to be “business as usual” and worked with staff to make sure that the meetings and work to support residents continued, albeit online.

As a result of this TPAS (Tenant Participation Advisory Service) presented Melin homes and its residents the TPAS award for Maintaining Resident Participation in Lockdown in 2020.

As a result of the continuing work that residents do with staff we were runners up in the TPAS Involving Tenants in Shaping services award in 2023.

Melin Board

Natalie undertook various training so that she would have the necessary skills to become a Melin Board member. When a vacancy arose on the Board Natalie applied and was successful. She joined the Board in Board in June 2021 and was a member of the Quality and Engagement Committee

Natalie was a delight to work with, a very professional, empathetic, and fun person, who placed the interests of residents and staff at the heart of everything she was involved with. She was prepared to positively challenge decisions, making a significant contribution to the Board and Business as a whole. She will be fondly remembered by all her friends here at Melin Homes.

Adrian Huckin — Executive Director of Corporate Services and Company Director of Y Prentis

Natalie made me feel comfortable and welcome when I became a member of the group. She had a way of making everyone feel at ease and she always gave everyone around the table an opportunity to speak and voice their opinions and always considered what everyone had to say. I have learnt a lot from Natalie and hope to keep her alive within the group and the way we make decisions going forward.

Helen Minns — Vice Chair The Voices

As soon as Natalie joined the Residents Panel as it was called then, she was like a breath of fresh air. Her smile and cheeky laugh brightened everyone’s day

David — Former Resident Voices group member

Natalie was a courteous caring lady a great team worker and communicator She always made me smile she will be so missed by the voices group.

Robin — Current Resident Voices group member

She was always welcoming and straight spoken and made sure problems between Melin and Residents were resolved.
Her lasting legacies will the restructuring of the older Residents Panel to become first the 100 Voices and then just the Voices, giving Residents more say regarding Melin’s strategy.
Many Residents will not be aware of what she achieved for them behind the scenes and she will be sorely missed by those who had the pleasure to work along side her.

Dudley — Former Voices group member

Nat was always an active participant in Melin’s activities and would help anyone.
A thoughtful character that progressed through Melin’s business structure effortlessly.
I want to remind everyone of the light that Nat brought into our lives. Her kindness, generosity, and sense of humour will be sorely missed, but we can take comfort in knowing that Nat’s legacy lives on in all of us. Let us honour her memory by spreading thought and compassion wherever we go.
If Heaven needs organizing then someone is at hand to help.

Clive Jenkins — Voices Group Member

Nat was professional and fun all in one

Andy — Voices group member

Natalie was committed to the cause of melin, dedicated and caring towards everyone.

Mark Gibbons — Former Voices group member

Natalie always put others first and will be missed

Edna Lewis — Voices group member

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