6th December, 2010

It's really cold and the snow is thick on the ground. The main roads have been cleared and the A9 is open, but the trains and buses are still unreliable. Our weekend group (40 people) had to cancel as did all events during the week but one (children's christmas crafts). Even the Council of Management was cancelled for tomorrow as people are having trouble digging their cars out! The intrepid Glynnis still made it from the back of beyond into work last week and this, so it shows what can be done with a lot of determnation and a four wheel drive. Still, more chance to catch up on admin as emails aren't snow reliant and the post seems to be working fine. A great big thank you is due as we have received quite a few donations as a result of Iain's appeal at the BU assembly. This is really encouraging as we realise how much support and goodwill towards us there is out there. Next year's weekend bookings are filling up nicely, but there's still plenty of room midweeks, so if you have a midweek conference or holiday in mind, please think of us.

It looks like we won't have the new boiler in for Christmas, as we're still waiting for a technical certificate before it can go through building control, but it's in process, which is  good. Please pray for Hugh, our works supervisor, and the different specialists involved as they co-ordinate their plans, ready for the start of work. We've already noticed the chalet is warmer since the walls were insulated, so it's good to see tangible improvements.

22nd November, 2010

Just had a self catering group in from Kingussie for the weekend. They enjoyed attending the church next door on Sunday morning and having the table tennis table up. There were kids everywhere and the church's Sunday Club was very busy - but fun. Last weekend was a ladies fellowship, many of them having come from Africa in the last 5 years, and they were all vegetarian, some even vegan. They really loved the food & said it was the best they had had at any conference centre - lovely vegetarian curry & lasagne - but then Iain had the advantage of the ladies from the Scottish Deli cooking their food. They also appreciated how baby friendly we are, using all our cots at once and happy with all the warm milk etc. we could supply over & above what is normally expected. It's good to see people really enjoying their stay here and leaving with a smile on their faces.

Adult learning has continued to meet every week in various classes during the day and we now have a youth cafe every Thursday night organised by the local council. It's been going quite well so far, although they tried getting a teacher in for street dance classes the last couple of weeks, but  it didn't generate enough interest.
The insulation people have been to do the attic of the main building and the cavity walls on the dining room and chalet so that's the process started. It's exciting to be at the beginning of something new, but a bit nail biting as well, trying to make sure all the t's are crossed and the i's dotted for claiming the grants and satisfying all the regulations. Building control have asked for a few more details which the boiler supplier has to give us, so please pray we are able to give them all the information they need in good time.
A funding committee has been set up to help with the 40th anniversary plans. A lot of groundwork still has to be done before any trustfunds can be approached, but following our appeal at the Baptist Assembly we've already had several generous donations. God is good.

9th November, 2010

We've had snow on the hills and winter is becoming a reality. A bit of an emergency as there was a gas leak at the Centre yesterday. Fortunately  it was just a smell - no explosions or anything. The ladies in the kitchen couldn't cook  though and we retreated to the office & reception with an electric heater until the gas man declared it all fixed.

The  powerpoint presentation at the Assembly went really well & ended with a round of applause. It seems to have put the Centre firmly back on the map again for many people & Iain had a lot of  people coming up to him afterwards with good comments.

We've just finished with the craft fair, which was in the dining room for 2 weeks during which we had B & B. We also had a mountain leadership course staying with us for the week who hope to come back again (They particularly commented on the friendly & helpful attitude of staff) and a relaxed disabled group with their carers for an overnight. The weekend was busy with a church weekend from St Devenick's church & there's another church coming this weekend. We're very grateful that our weekend bookings are looking very healthy even in the off season, and the week bookings are beginning to pick up a bit too. We've just designed a double page advert for a schools magazine and are hoping it will yield good results in the coming year.

The Council of Management are meeting today to see what needs to be done to take the Centre forward and particulary to take forward the 40th anniversary plans for developing  & upgrading the building. Please pray for all the details & decisions.

28th October, 2010

Good news. We now have 100% funding for our heating project. Many thanks to Community Energy Scotland (our biggest funder), Rural Tayside LEADER Programme 2007-2013(we got their largest grant in Perth & Kinross this session!), the Gannochy Trust, Pitlochry Baptist Church and you, who  through your giving, have enabled us to put £2050 of Atholl Centre funds towards this. Planning permission has come through for the boiler & solar panels. We're just waiting for building control now. This means that we can start work with the insulation now and so a firm is booked in for mid November to put cavity wall in the Chalet and thicker loft insulation in the main building.

We've been busy preparing for the Baptist Assembly where we'll have a stall and a  5 minute powerpoint presentation on our 40th anniversary appeal. It was brilliant to have Ken, a business consultant, help us formulate our slide presentation and Ian, an author, stranded at the Centre due to illness, who wrote a fantastic script for us. The printing of the leaflets and newsletters which will go out to the churches at the assembly has gone to the wire due to a broken machine, but they will be ready - just. Please pray for Iain, our director & Allan Berry, our chairman, as they travel there and represent the Centre. Please also support our treasurer Norman McNeish in prayer, who has had to resign due to serious ill health. He has also had to resign as treasurer of the Baptist Union.

We had a good first conference  " A Safe Place"  on mental health in the church on the 16th Oct put on by International Christian College, Glasgow. It was greatly appreciated by everyone who went and a group from the Hub at Queen's Park Baptist, Glasgow, who've been the ones encouraging ICC to go with this, made it into a weekend away & loved the restfulness & warm welcome while staying at the Centre. Someone has already done a write up, so we'll upload it as soon as we get a hold of it.

Highland Perthshire Autumn festival is underway as I write. It's a 2 week affair with the Enchanted Forest son et lumiere display every evening, lots going on in the main street & an art & crafts fair put on by local artists at the Centre.The 2nd week Perthshire Amber, a brilliant traditional & modern Scottish music festival, organised by Dougie Maclean, is also on. We're open for B & B while we have the craft fair in, so please come & enjoy all the autumn events.

7th September, 2010

OK so where did the rest of spring and summer go? It's a long story. As you can see we changed the appearance of our website. We also changed our website provider, but the changeover has not gone as smoothly as we had hoped, so there have been a few months where we had no access to manage the website and have only regained access in the last couple of weeks. A lot has happened since I last wrote. We've had lots of groups coming, and also some B & B which started in July this year. This week we have an ME group with us. This is their second year with us and they really appreciate that we can have so many wheelchair guests at once and that we can make their stay special by making tasty meals, catering for several different diets at once. We also offer the services of a local sports and therapeutic masseuse for this group, who find her work very beneficial.

We've had extra help over the summer with some of our local students, Ewan & Josh  for quite a few weeks and Callum, Eilidh & Catriona for shorter periods, enjoying some paid employment. Julie joined us from France for 3 weeks as a temporary worker and Fatima from Portugal has been with us all summer as a volunteer. It will be very quiet when they have all gone and we wish them well for their futures. Elizabeth, who has been cleaning with us for a few months now, is moving down south so we wish her all the best too. Christine, who has volunteered once a week as a secretary for the last 3 years, is retiring from the Centre. We are very grateful for her faithful support & service & wish her a peaceful retirement.
The plans for a new wood pellet boiler, solar panels and insulation are coming to fruition. We have now received promise of 50% funding from Community Energy Scotland and 5% from the Gannochy Trust and should hear soon about planning permisssion. We are waiting to hear from LEADER (EU Funding) about a further 35% of the total cost. They meet this Friday(10th Sept) so please pray for that meeting. If all goes well we hope the boiler will be installed in November.

16th March, 2010

Well, I'm back. We're into spring now and have had groups from Central Baptist church in Dundee and Abbey Green Family Weekend from Lesmahagow over the last 2 weekends.The families had great fun with their table tennis competition. Any guesses whether age triumphed over youth or the other way round. Today Baptist Minister's wives are arriving for a couple of days. This is a chance for them to share the challenges that are unique to surviving life as the family of a minister and encourage each other in what is often an unsung service to the church.This is where Iain has to do a juggling act with all the public rooms as we try to accommodate our day groups and residential groups at the same time. On Thursday for example we'll have the minister's wives, arthritis care and the WA soup lunch all at the same time. This morning it's TEFL, adult literacy , missionary prayer group and minister's wives committee meeting - and the pump for the heating has gone on the blink. Just as well we're getting it replaced later this year! Meanwhile it's musical portable radiators to keep people warm till the man comes to fix the problem later on today. Chris is kept busy on house and now we have some local girls helping with dishes in the evenings and on weekends.Next weekend it's the Prayer Chain Ministry. The flat is being well used as well and people seem to be quite impressed with it. It's now advertised with VisitScotland and they have given it 2 stars.

  The weather is getting milder and as well as snowdrops we've now got a few crocuses coming into bloom, but I haven't seen any daffodils yet. The swans have returned to the culc (local woodland pond) but they're a bit limited as it's still got a lot of ice on it.It is lovely to see things coming to life again.We're so lucky to have such beautiful scenery and wonderful wildlife here. Hopefully we'll be able to share some of it with you as I hope to introduce a nature/wildlife page to the website soon.

Still moving ahead with the plans for a new bio-fuel boiler & solar panels - we're applying for planning permission now. We recently received a grant to help us get a buildings survey and business plan done, so that can go ahead now. It'll be really good to be able to show on paper how the Centre can move forward. Got to go. Lots of other things to do. Till next time.

25th February, 2010

So what 's been happening since I last wrote... Well, on Tuesday I went to the Newbiz10 conference in Perth. It had a particular emphasis on social enterprises this year - definition of Social Enterprise: "a business with primarily social objectives which uses its profit to reinvest in the business or in the community, rather than making money for shareholders".  Another definition would be a charitable or not-for-profit business. In many ways the Centre fits that description as we don't rely solely on donations to keep going and keep serving our target groups in training, enabling and refreshing, so we are a business as well as a charity and can learn a lot from this newly coined category to help us serve people better. There were inspiring talks from people who had set up their own small businesses and then seminars on Social Enterprises and E-marketing - really useful stuff. There were also plenty of opportunities to "network" i.e. talk to other people in the same boat, share experiences & maybe discover you can help each other.

 This weekend Morningside Alpha are coming (hopefully the snow won't be a problem) and during the week we've had our usual lot of day groups with enquiries from more. The girls from "Food for Thought" have settled into the kitchen about 3 days a week - makes your mouth water - and Clement from France has now gone home, richer for his Scottish experience. We asked him what he had learnt & he said "a lot about Scottish history".Well, we did take him to a display at Perth museum all about the 5th centenary of the founding of the City of Perth and he managed to do a day trip to Edinburgh , doing the city trip and taking in the castle and the Royal Yacht as well as other things. Oh and he had a day - or was it 2 - at the farm of a family who've been living there for 5 generations - I think - a couple of hundred years or so anyway. He made a lovely job of painting the flat (so if you're staying there it's lovely and fresh) and was able to second Chris to get scaffolding up in the kitchen and give the fans a good clean and that part of the ceiling a fresh coat of paint. He was really welcomed by the church folk going to both house groups and the football and being invited to lots of homes for his tea and it was good to feel the church support in looking after him and making him feel at home. We continue to support the church by having their children's and youth work in the Centre every Sunday and various church groups in during the week. Last week in the dining room was the funeral tea for Mary MacDonald, who died aged 87 and whose funeral was a testimony to a life of faithful service both abroad in India and Pakistan and at home through Girl Crusaders.

Through emails we're being encouraged to display our green credentials, so you'll be pleased to know we've been composting our kitchen waste for some time now and now have a rich compost which Chris is using to make a small herb patch for the kitchen (Bob the chef will be pleased!). Perth & Kinross have now introduced a new recycling scheme, so we'll be saved a few trips to the recycling Centre as more will be collected by the bin men. Progress on the new boiler is still slow at this stage, but we're looking forward to our new heating and hot water system which will vastly reduce our carbon footprint. Did you know the waste from the new boiler (woodash) can be used as fertiliser? If you want to know more about the boiler or how we got help to find a greener solution to our energy needs please email us - we're happy to help.

5th February, 2010

2010 and I'm getting round to the blog again at last. Sorry for the delay. Happy New Year! Well, Christmas was quiet with a few families self catering at the Centre and most of our day groups off for the holidays - not the church of course - that would be weird. Now we're well and truly into the new year and have had a few residential groups in. Reality Scotland training (teenagers) had a great week last week. They did a huge walk to Killiekrankie - makes you jealous they're so fit - and have enjoyed lots of other outdoors activities.This week it's ministers'  in-service training (if that's not a pun). I think they'll mostly be stretching their brains rather than their muscles - not that the two are mutually exclusive. Teaching English as a foreign language has started up again and adult literacy, mental health and other regular day groups. Last week Perth & Kinross Council's adult learning had an open day in the Centre dining room with various activities on display from wii sports and dance mats to photography and family trees. The church supported this by providing soup and sandwiches, so it was a successful excercise in teamwork which was rewarded with a lot of interested visitors. Talking about co-operation, a local deli is using our kitchen to prepare their food 3 days a week at the moment, which is added income for us when we are not using it all the time and when we have got small groups they prepare food for us as well. Our newest arrival is Clement from France who is volunteering at the Centre for 3 weeks and hoping to improve his English in the process. He was able to get a slot in the English teaching lessons, so was very pleased and has already gone to church football and survived to tell the tale.
The quest for a new boiler is progressing - rather more slowly than we had hoped - but it was the tortoise who won the race in the end, so not to worry. Initial sketches have gone to planning and then they tell us what to do next. It may take some time to process, but it will be great when it all comes through. Meanwhile we're busy fundraising to cover the cost. Any ideas from you? Actually I'm looking back and wondering how much I've told you about that...not a lot on a quick scan. OK, so our  gas boiler is very inefficient and very old so we think "let's get a new one". When we start asking we find out that not only can we get a much greener boiler if we go renewable biofuel, reducing our carbon footprint to use jargonese, and generally being more responsable with our planet, but we can also get a lot of government help on this. After a lot of investigation and meeting with very helpful people we have decided on a wood pellet boiler supplemented by solar panels for the hot water. So now we need to get everybody's agreement to go ahead and everybody's money as well, since it's not cheap. Good news is that we are already likely to get a sizeable grant towards it, so now we need to raise the other 10 - 15K from other places.