Meet Mel We have been featured in the Bedfordshire Chamber of Commerce magazine this month. There is a great interview with Melanie Hawman, our CEO. Take a look at the magazine online. And here is the full text of the interview: Q&A with Melanie Hawman, CEO of local charity, The Disability Resource Centre Q - Pitch The Disability Resource Centre as you would in a fundraising meeting. A - Every month we help thousands of disabled people, people with a long term health conditions, carers and friends and family to get fair access to funding, information and services tailored to their needs. Without The Disability Resource Centre then people across Bedfordshire would not have local access to support with finances, work skills training, free advice, a disability equipment centre or many other heavily-demanded services. You can help us by providing vital funds, no matter the size, to create a safe, welcoming and fully accessible service for disabled peopleacross the area. Q - What are your goals? A - One key goal is to boost bookings for our meeting rooms and conference facilities. They are a popular choice for many local business owners and organisations, but we are only at 40-50% capacity. We are just about to launch an easy way to check room availability and book online with our new website and partnership with meetingsbooker.com. More dynamic pricing and special offers for last minute bookings are two new options open to us. I hope we can get to some sort of ‘tipping-point’ and regularly being 90% full on most days. If you’ll please excuse a little ad, then please do contact me when you are next looking to hold a meeting/mini-conference since our meeting rooms cater from 2-50 people. Just mention that you read this interview and I’ll try to find the best meeting room (with free tea and coffee for all delegates, of course) and at a great rate too.Sales pitch over! Q - How do you see The Disability Resource Centre changing in two years, and how do you see yourself creating that change? A - I’m working with our Trustees on the medium and long-term plans for our charity. Right now we are working on identifying our USP (Unique Selling Proposition) with workshops and surveys with staff, customers and the wider community. Necessity creates change; as needs change then I will work to bring together a partnership that will facilitate the way in which the DRC can be instrumental in bringing about the best result for our users and customers. Q - What Were Your 3 Biggest Accomplishments in 2017? A - 1. We had a brilliant fitness machine for disabled people installed here at Poynters House. Many physios and other healthcare professionals attended our launch event and we are seeing disabled people able to exercise safely with the help of this machine. 2. Our meeting rooms, therapy rooms and community rooms got a complete refurbishment. They all look stunning. Now we are really proud to make them available for hire. 3. With the help of our new website and social media campaigns we won £34,908.41 to help fund our programmes for disabled people from the NatWest Skills and Opportunities Fund. This is allowing us to run our "Managing My Money" project, which offers truly individualised support packages to people affected by disability and health conditions, within Luton and Bedfordshire. Q - Tell us some things you really like and things you really dislike about your job. A - I really do love coaching my teams to achieve their very, very best. And when I hear from clients as they progress and become ambassadors for The Disability Resource Centre it is really encouraging. For example, Vanessa, who won the "Disability Smart Award" is now being a Nordic Walk leader for our wheelchair users (Every Wednesday at 9.30am from The Disability Resource Centre from February). What I dislike is the reduction in funding we are experiencing and the constant short term-ism, making it challenging in a rapidly changing landscape. And we sometimes struggle with problems with the building; floods, wind-damage, ice and snow, anything that causes us to close the centre. Q - Teach me something I don’t already know. A - I may look like a pussy-cat – but I am a Lion! Q - Did I read that you have recently taken up cycling? A - Yes. It’s true. I can hardly believe it myself, but my family did take a trip to Marston Vale. And I came back hooked. The fully accessible bikes make it a great option for many disabled people. And it’s a lot of fun riding around on a four-wheeler too. Q - What fundraising events have you got planned for this year? A - A healing and pampering fayre, a music night and a summer ball. Q - What type of new partnerships with local businesses are you hoping to createthis year? A - One of the main areas that we work in is making employment accessible for disabled people. We provide training to employers on recruiting and retaining disabled people and will include condition specific advice to those who would like to offer a chance to a person before they offer employment. We often look for employers to interview our clients in a preparatory interview situation. Q - And what’s your perfect holiday? A - Warm, dry and sunny, not overly hot – beach and mountains – if it wasn’t for the weather requirement, it could be Wales!