Top honour for Gina
A Rhyl resident has been honoured at the prestigious Wales Housing Awards for service to her community.
Gina Jones is the Chair of the Marsh Community Association and Co-ordinator of the Phoenix Centre in Rhyl. The nomination, put forward by Denbighshire Housing recognises the commitment, dedication and sheer hard work from Gina in turning around the fortunes of the local neighbourhood centre, which had been in decline over a number of years.
The Centre’s fortunes began to transform when a small group of volunteers, led by Gina Jones starting working with Denbighshire Housing and outlined their plans to turn the Centre around. The Phoenix Centre reopened in Spring 2017, providing a fresh start for everyone. Since the restart, Gina and other volunteers have strived to deliver a Centre the residents wanted, a friendly relaxed environment offering a wide range of activities and clubs. Residents say the centre is always welcoming “the Centre is so much more inviting that it used to be, so more people use it now”.
With the support of Nikki Jones, one of Denbighshire Housing’s Community Development officers and other external organisations, Gina has now extended the Centre’s programme to offer advice sessions and skill development. Residents attending the Centre can now benefit from Homestart courses, Llandrillo College courses, Job Club, Housing surgeries and cooking sessions. The Phoenix Centre has now become a hub where residents can improve their health, wellbeing and their future prospects. One resident commented “it is extremely helpful to have free use of computers and the internet for job searches, and universal credit. I don’t have a computer or internet access at home, so having this so close to home is brilliant.”
Even with limited space Gina wanted the centre to offer something for everyone, not just courses and information. She wanted to create a centre where people would choose to come in and socialise or make new friends. Gina and the volunteers now run a number of clubs and organise trips and social evenings including movie nights, knitting/sewing club, CV writing, coffee mornings, children’s arts and crafts, rock painting, gardening club, community fun days, days out, children’s parties and homework club.
A recent day out provided some delighted local children with their first ever visit to Chester Zoo, but Homework Club is the area that has seen the biggest impact on the children in the community. One child says “I don’t have anyone at home that can help me with my homework, so I come here to get it done and I don’t get into trouble at school.” Another child has said “I have nothing to do after school so I come here instead of hanging around on the street.” Encouraging children to take part in the homework club is invaluable to their education but is also having a positive impact on anti-social behaviour in the community.
Residents say “Gina and the volunteers are approachable and easy to talk to about any problems we have and they’re able to give us advice and point us in the right direction of support. They always have a smile on their face and create such a friendly and welcoming environment”
Councillor Tony Thomas, Cabinet Lead Member for Housing, said: “To be recognised with the Housing Champion honour at the prestigious national awards is recognition of the commitment, dedication and sheer hard work put in by Gina and her volunteers to make a real difference to the quality of life in the area.
“This radical turnaround of the community centre is down to Gina’s vision, hard work, passion, commitment and drive to improve the lives of the people in her community. With the support of Nikki and the help of external partners, Gina has turned her vision into a reality and given her community back their Centre.
Over the last 18 months, Gina and her volunteers have worked tirelessly to turn an unused, unsupportive community centre into a busy, welcoming environment meeting the needs of its community. Due to the real difference that Gina has made to the lives of people in her community, Denbighshire Housing cannot think of anyone more deserving of this award. We are truly delighted and cannot think of anyone more deserving for this award”.