Sorry it's been a while - a whole month in fact! I do have an excuse. For the last 3 weeks instead of my usual job I've been writing a draft business plan and pursuing quotes for a building conditions survey and a consultant to help us make the business plan properly. This is following advice from a funding clinic at Perth and Kinross Voluntary Services. Hopefully we'll get help with covering these 2 sets of professional fees and will end up with the basic building blocks for assuring funders that we are worth giving money to. When you get caught up in all this background stuff, it's essential to remember that we're doing all this so we can serve better through training, bridge-buiding and refreshment, so it's great to still have our regular groups coming in e.g. adult literacy, English as a second language, four ways mental health etc. as well as having quite a few people using the flat (including a group of Students from Queen Margaret's in Edinburgh preparing to go to Malawi). Bob has been in the kitchen making Christmas meals and there have been negotiations for the kitchen to be used by a group for training adults with learning difficulties how to cook. 2 local nativities have used the Centre to practice in and both went down a treat Having angel costumes on the coat rack makes you feel really Christmassy. Still having people coming in and needing our help helps us focus on the real goal of making a difference in people's lives even when we have to do the planning and the background work to keep the building going and take the work forward.
Anyhow have a great Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Mon: Iain & Anne went to Battleby today to a conference put on by Visit Scotland called connect to compete. It was all about different companies and organisations talking to each other and combining their strengths to help each other, strengthening their local community. There were a lot of useful points to take home and think about and a lot of good examples of co-operation enhancing enterprise. On top of that we learnt more about what kind of funding we might be eligible for in our search for a greener source of heating and hot water. So, all in all a good day to be digested carefully.
Tues: Iain went to a Pitlochry Partnership meeting tonight. This is a group of local businesses who are trying to see what they can do together for mutual benefit, including presenting a joined up picture of Pitlochry to prospective visitors. Really it's beginning to put into practice what was talked about on Monday. The lift repair people came today and actually did the right job this time. So £700 down but a lift in full working order at last!
Wed: Today was an encouraging day with lots of people wanting to make bookings for the winter months. We've now had our third company coming to give us a quote for the boiler, so things are progressing. Also we had the gas man in to service our current boiler - £800. No wonder we want to change to a new fuel! The "University of the Third Age" (senior citizens education) met here today and had a lecture from Visit Scotland (very busy people!)
Thurs: Today the printer got fixed. Yey! this is important because our photocopier has crashed and while we wait for an in-budget replacement we are having to photocopy by scanning and printing. The WA (church women's group) is in today in the dining room with a local retired consultant as their speaker and a Leprosy Mission stall and Four Ways (mental Health) are in the TV room.
Fri: How's this for resourcefulness? A singing group from Holyrood Abbey are coming today for a self-catering weekend. Because they are quite a small group most of them are staying in our self-catering apartment (sleeps 4) and are using that kitchen to cook their meals. The rest of them are sleeping in bedrooms in the main Centre. This keeps their prices low and frees the Centre kitchen up for other groups to use. One of our bank chefs is planning to use the kitchen to cook ready meals for sale over Christmas - very enterprising of him and extra income for us.
Sat: Time to breathe for the staff. Self-catering is quite low maintenance so staff can have some time off. It's been in-sevice at school this week making for a long weekend, so Iain & Anne are glad to have some family time.
Sun: Today the church is making full use of the public rooms with creche, Sunday Club and MAD (Making a Difference - Teens) group meeting in the Centre during church. Sunday Club are looking at the story of the Philippian Jailer this week and the concept of freedom.
Mon: Today we had a long wait for a local tradesman to come in and measure up for the woodstore we'll need if we get our woodpellet boiler. We're itching to get going with it but need a number of estimates before we can proceed to request funding. We also had an estimate for insulation, so it looks as if that stage can go ahead soon (making sure the building is as heat efficient as possible).We'll also need planning permission for the woodstore - hence the need to find out how big it needs to be.
Tues: Today English as a Second Language is teaching all day. They're also preparing for and HMI inspection next week, so lots of nervous tension floating around. However, they got a really good report last time, so hopefully they'll find their new premises in the Centre an asset. Adult literacy is also meeting today.
Wed: Today we had a surprise visit from Health and Safety inspectors. Fortunately they were generally pleased and sometimes even impressed by the way things are at the Centre. They did however uncover that a repair to the lift we thought had been done had not been completed. The workmen who came had done another job instead! Unfortunately that means another £700 for keeping the lift functioning, but it shouldn't take long to get the work done at least..
Thurs:Today was the annual Blythswood Christmas shoebox appeal. Volunteers from the local churches came and had a bring and share tea in the dining room then went upstairs to pack and label about 100 shoeboxes for Roumania. Afterwards the church/Centre liaison group met to discuss the proposed new heating and hot water system.
Fri: Today Crew 2000 (drug counselling) have arrived for the weekend. There's lots of laughter going on at coffee break. Dave, one of our "on call" chefs is cooking their main meals for them this weekend and taking into account some special diets too. Iain's been busy with a huge shopping list.
Sat: So, we're really busy this weekend looking after the group, sorting out any multi-media stuff they need, cooking top meals, keeping everything clean and pleasant, advising them where they can go to have fun in their free time and generally making sure they have everything they need. It will be an important time for them this weekend as they share, learn and relax together. Please pray for them.
Sun: Today the church will be using our premises for their children's work. Creche will meet in the reception lounge and Sunday Club will be in the TV lounge this week as Crew 2000 are using the main conference room upstairs. It might be a bit of a squash as some weeks they have had over 20 kids. We'll make the bottom of the dining room available to them too for their craft work. The teens group is meeting at a local cafe as the Centre is full this week.
For the last 2 weeks at the Centre we have been open for B& B while we hosted the Atholl Gallery and Craft Fair in our dining room. The Gallery is a display of various works by local artists and also crafts and cards for sale. Over the 2 weeks this artists co-op not only hope to make a little money for themselves but to raise money for charity. During the sale we ran a cafe and between the cafe and money donated by the Gallery we raised about £475 for our subsidy fund which helps disabled and disadvantaged guests come to the Centre at a discount.
Mon: Iain went to Arbroath to visit the Windmill Centre. The Windmill Centre is a very large former hotel taken over by local churches and run as a charity to provide accommodation for groups wanting a getaway to study the Bible together. It has been in need of massive refurbishment and recently installed a new heating and hot water system based on a wood pellet boiler and solar panels. We are eager to learn from their experience as we are having to renew our heating system and are actively investigating eco fuels.
Tues: This morning we have the Living Bible fellowship meeting in the TV room. This is a group of ladies from the adjoining Baptist church who meet fortnightly to study the Bible together. Also during the day we have people coming to learn English as their second language and an adult literacy group. These groups are very pleased with the training facilities we have to offer and we are pleased in turn to be serving our local community in this way.
Wed: Today is a quiet day. Iain's taking the opportunity to have a day off but Chris will be around to take phone calls and carry on with daily maintenance.
Thurs: "Four Ways" mental health group meets today at the Centre and the church's "Women in Action" group has a talk about the Bethany Trust's work amongst the homeless.
Fri: It's another quiet day guest-wise, but the office is busy. Time to catch up on admin and look to the future. Anne will do some work on fundraising and marketing today and we'll also be planning the next steps as we look into replacing our heating system. Chris will be preparing rooms for B& B tomorrow.
Sat: Today we welcome a group of singers who'll be performing at the Perthshire Amber festival. The festival seems to be as popular as ever this year in spite of the credit crunch. At the theatre they have a display of beautiful photographs from a new book of scenes from around Scotland inspired by Dougie Mclean's songs. Worth a look. We'll also be open for B& B tonight so if you fancy a trip to Pitlochry for the festival or for any other reason, why not stay here?
Sun: Today is Armistice Day. There will be a procession down the main street to the war memorial and then the Armisitice Day service is at the Baptist Church next door. Their creche, children's work and youth group meet in the Centre. Could be kind of busy with all the uniformed organisations as well!