So we're at the end of the month and the chalet's still not finished! It was time for plan B when we realised it wouldn't be usable when the elderly lunch club from St. James, Pollock arrived this Monday as very few of them could manage the stairs. The staff bedsit became a twin bedroom. With it's own en-suite shower that made a good option. The TV room also became a twin bedroom for the week, so there's been a lot of furniture moving.
You'd be surprised how flexible our accommodation has become over this period when the chalet has been out of use. When not needed for meetings the conference room was set up as a bunk room and beds have been changing rooms to accommodate the changing needs of different guests from night to night during B&B. We've been much busier than previous summers due to a combination of our new website grabbing attention more on search engines and putting some of our rooms on booking.com. The desktop booking system which it was Xander's first task to source, install and populate has finally gone on line and so individuals & families can book B&B through our website now as well. We're asking larger groups to phone or email in their bookings as normal as there are too many configurations (requirements & prices) to make on-line booking practical for groups.
We've been surprised how often we've had to come to the rescue this year as well. Not only the odd backpacker or two finding Pitlochry fully booked when they come - a couple of girls were all set to kip in the Episcopal Church doorway when they were redirected to us - but a pack of 43 German scouts flooded out of their camp. They had planned a walking, camping and canoeing holiday in Scotland and only had a support van for transport as they were using public transport for longer journeys and otherwise walking. They hadn't planned on the tail end of Hurricane Bertha causing landslides and widespread flooding. They couldn't canoe because it was too wild and they couldn't camp. Their tents were sodden and so were the children - soaked to the bone. Iain, Jim (who was staying in the flat) and Alastair (local trustee) ferried them to the Centre in a combination of private cars and the community minibus and got them warm & dry with hot chocolate & a carload of chips from the chippie. The girls then camped in the conference room and the boys in the dining room, enjoying hot showers and clean, dry clothes - our washing machine & tumble drier came in handy. We got in touch with the local scouts who agreed to put their tents to dry in the Scout Hall and they had room to park their canoes there too. They ended up staying for 3 days to recover and wait for the weather to improve. Meanwhile as well as us being an answer to prayer for them, they were an answer to prayer for us too as they helped out with housework, freeing our guys to paint more and a small group of scouts also helped with the painting - a pity we didn't get a snap of them in their protective bin bags:)
So the chalet is mostly painted now and the builders are saying they should be finished today and it will then be up to us to clean, put the carpets down and curtains up - was sewing a pair yesterday:) and get the furniture in. It's looking as if it will be ready to use on Monday when the ME group comes, which is just as well as a number of them are in wheelchairs. Hopefully they will have finished installing the community generator by then…We had a surprise on Monday when a bunch of electricity guys arrived on the doorstep. "We're here to install the community generator" they said. After the 2013 storms when power was off for several days in the winter we had said we would be willing to be a community emergency centre as we would only need a little electricity to kick start our woodpellet boiler and to operate the pumps. This means that with a small generator we can provide heat & hot water throughout a power cut and cook on our gas stove. Hence the generator. Still working on it today. Meanwhile our current guests have been very understanding, having to come in through the church on Monday as the path was completely blocked, which wasn't ideal when they were all arriving with their suitcases and zimmers!
Emilien returned to France after a busy and fruitful month where he not only helped with the day to day running of the Centre, but wrote an excellent intro to the Centre in French for us to use with French speaking travel agencies. Michael is with us till the end of September and still going strong.
This month we also held our AGM. It was encouraging to remind ourselves of how far we have come in one year. In 2013 we completed the office & staff bedsit & we were still far off target for the rest of the project. In 2014 the Enterprise Ready Fund said Yes to the majority of what we needed for the chalet and disabled en-suites (the remainder having already been promised by other Trusts) and suddenly we were accepting tenders and starting the build, putting out job adverts and recruiting our new marketing development officer. It has been a steep learning curve, but looking back it’s obvious how much God has blessed the Centre, so at the AGM we gave thanks and are grateful to you too for your support as you read this and pray for us.
Next target is the downstairs conference room. We still have a long way to go there, although this month we also applied for building warrant, which is a step in the right direction. We also have to find more money to cover extra costs to do with the chalet build, so please help us raise funds. Why don't you try out easy fundraising (http://www.athollcentre.org.uk/support_us/easy_fundraising.html) or have a fundraising tea party, swim, run or even bungee jump. We'd love to hear your ideas,so please get in touch. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01796 473044.