12th December, 2012

Wow November went fast! For the first time for a November, every weekend was booked. On top of that we had Baptist Ministers as a mid week group, and as well as our usual community day groups there was a poular Amnesty International talk about a local man who had been a political prisoner in Chile, a Silent Art Auction on behalf of Alzheimers Scotland and a wedding buffet (95 people!) for a couple who were married next door at the Baptist Church. We were up early that Saturday buying flowers and picking foliage to decorate the dining room as the wedding had an autumn theme. Take a look at our facebook to see the photos. Perthshire Youth Brass Band were here for the weekend to get their playing up to scratch before entering the Scottish National Brass Band Competition.
Wholeness Through Christ and Still Point were 2 retreat groups and we also had the Ladies Scottish Hillwalking Club here for the weekend to enjoy an expanded AGM and  local walks.

December has been quieter, but still every weekend where there is no residential group we have community events. During the week we had a Winter Warmer event. It was a joint undertaking between Perth & Kinross Council and the emergency services designed to help people be winter aware.

With tips for keeping warm and keeping safe it was a one stop shop for good advice. This was the first of a few community events to be set up by the two Fionas from P&K Voluntary services, who have been using the Centre as one of their bases as they fulfil their new role as community co-ordinators for the elderly and they're becoming familiar faces at the elderly lunch club held here fortnightly by the Baptist Church. This weekend was a Christmas Craft market designed to tie in with Santa & his reindeer (courtesy of the Cairngorm herd) who came to the main street in the morning. As well as encouraging local artisans it was a chance for us to raise more money for our disabled access improvements. We had our own  thrift stall and tea & cakes & made  £295.

Camille our  newest French intern arrived last weekend. From our twin town of Confolens, Camille is studying accountancy and is on placement with us for 3 weeks to improve her English and get work experience. We're glad she brought thick jumpers and winter boots as we've had quite a bit of snow - but it does make for fantastic winter wonderland photos. It is nice to have her around at Christmas time to introduce her to some of our Christmas customs.  As well as seeing Santa & his reindeer on Saturday, she came with us to the advent  craft fair at Corbenic ( a local residential place for adults with leraning disabilities)the week before, she's been to choral singing in Blair Castle and Pitlochry Baptist Church's children's nativity is taking place this Sunday (they've been practicing hard in the Centre for the past couple of weeks), so we're really looking forward to that. Pitlochry Festival Theatre has just opened "White Christmas", running til the 23rd December. Two of the musicians are in our flat for 6 weeks. People are saying it's really good - so a great reason for coming to visit. 

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. God bless.

29th October, 2012

It's the end of October, the autumn colours are wonderful and we've even had snow (a dusting which was gone the next day). It's been a busy weekend with Crown Terrace Methodist church from Aberdeen in residence for a church family weekend and Iain away to the Scottish Baptist Assembly in Dundee. For Iain the Assembly is a great chance to network and catch up with everyone. Joined by some of our Trustees he manned an Atholl Centre stall, sharing what we've been doing in the last year and what we've managed to achieve, and gave out hundreds of copies of our autumn/winter newsletter. You can read it here.Lots of people were asking how things were going and glad to hear we are making such good progress. The Assembly itself was well attended with over 400 delegates and the talks were thought provoking and informative, the worship inspiring and the chat encouraging.

Pitlochry is an amazing place to be in October. Not only do we have stags rutting & salmon leaping & wonderful autumn colours here with swathes of deciduous trees covering the hillsides, but we also have the Enchanted Forest, a fantastic son et lumiere presentation on every night over most of October at Faskally woods in Pitlochry followed by Perthshire Amber music festival in venues throughout Highland Perthshire just beginning now. East Kilbride Girl's brigade and Fairmilehead Church of Scotland  Youth group both enjoyed a trip to the Enchanted Forest this year as part of their weekend at the Centre. So did quite a few of our mid week B&B guests, especially the families, as we took in B&B again for the October holidays.

We held another Thrift shop in the first week in October making about £600 for our disabled access improvements -  a big thank you to everyone who donated and manned the shop - and then the Atholl Craft fair was on for 2 weeks. With the town so busy with folk for the Enchanted Forest this year they did a roaring trade. We were able to raise a further £230 from teas and coffees during that and the summer craft fair, which is fantastic.

We were sad to say goodbye to Glynnis this month who has been our part time secretary for the last 2 years. Following her husband's retiral they are moving to Fife and hope to set up a small self catering flat as a retreat in part of their new house. We are very grateful for her cheerful presence, bright ideas & businesslike phone manner which have made her a great asset. (She's also a dab hand at the sewing machine!) We’ll miss her, but wish her well in her new venture. Wilma, who came to volunteer with us in the summer and has stayed because she likes Pitlochry so much, will take over from Glynnis for at least the next few months. Just before she came here Wilma completed a course in admin & IT at Dundee college, so we're very lucky to have her.

28th September, 2012

So it's time for another blog. Bravehearts (young adults with heart disorders) arrive today for the weekend.The sun may  not be shining (yet) but we hope they'll have a relaxing and fulfilling stay nevertheless.  It's a chance to get together, share & learn from experiences & have fun together in an atmosphere of acceptance & understanding.  We've just waved goodbye to 6 Circles, a mixed group of disabled & disadvantaged folks rebuilding their lives. Again acceptance & a home from home atmosphere are important to them & it was great to see so many smiling faces. People wonder: what's the point of group holidays - isn't it just a bit of a jolly? What most people don't realise is that group holidays are valuable because they are a focal point for nurture and development of relationships and can be a transforming influence in people's lives. Going solo ( a nurture group for single, divorced & widowed people)and the ME Holiday (self explanatory), who  also came this month,  find great encouragement in their holidays & always look forward to next year.
We  were enriched musically this month by visits from Irish Youth Pipe band taking part in Pitlochry Highland Games - great to hear them practice here - and the African Children's choir ( yes, the same organisation who sang to the Queen for her Jubilee) who came for a rest week after arriving from the States & before going on tour. They sang their thanks and a blessing on us as they left - quite an emotional experience.They wrote," Thank you kindly for all the ways you have cared for us this past week and helped us to get on our feet. Your flexibility, generosity and good pleasure have been a gift! The food was delicious and the rooms were comfortable and warm. It has been a pleasure getting to know you." Check out their tour schedule here.

Superb Choice (an offshoot of SU holidays for adults) came for the day last Saturday. It meant catering for 80, something we haven't done for a while, but it all came together well as our team of young weekend helpers (usually only there in ones or twos) came in numbers and together with Nel's expert cooking  successfully served a wonderful lunch and evening meal.It was great to see them all sporting our new Atholl Centre T-shirts & looking very professional :)

 Achievements - a successful fire inspection, a profitable conference learning about business practices, a post ex-project visit from LEADER who part funded our wood pellet boiler and solar panels - very impressed that we're not only benefiting from the eco heating, but building our eco profile through double glazing as well,  & the figures for the business plan completed at last (following brief crash course in Excel).
Coming soon - another Thrift Shop in the first week of the October holidays (8th - 12th). Please bring your bric-a brac, old clothes and books for sale. We can also recycle mobile phones (with charger & instructions), empty brand name print cartridges (except Epson) and CDs & DVDs (in original boxes with artwork intact). Pitlochry Arts & Crafts sale on at the Centre  from 14th - 26th Oct and we are still available for B&B  - Oct 8th - 11th, 15th, 22nd- 24th, 29th & 30th.   £25.75 pp ( child discounts available).This is during the Pitlochry autumn festival which includes The Enchanted Forest (son et lumiere at Faskally) 5th - 27th Oct and Perthshire Amber (Scottish Traditional & contemporary music festival) 26th Oct - 3rd Nov -  so well worth a visit.
PS The sun just came out - Welcome Bravehearts:D

7th September, 2012

Apologies for writing the August blog in September. How time flies!  August has been a busy month with many day groups starting again after the summer, the summer craft fair, the thrift shop and 2 full weeks (midweek and weekends) of residential bookings. The last week was lighter allowing us some much needed time off and now it's back into the fray for another 2 weeks solid of one booking after another.

The Craft Fair went well (possibly due to people looking for things to do to escape the rain) and there was a huge variety of crafts and paintings to browse and buy. However B&B during that period was slow, so it made a lovely change to have the Waddington Street Centre stay for a week. This was a group of adults with mild learning disabilities from Durham - it was their first time here- and they loved it. Then we had Perthshire Youth Brass Band for a weekend away. What an amazing rich sound they made as they practiced!  Unexpected guests were a Christian performing arts group called Heartbridge from Youth with a Mission. Hosted by Pitlochry Baptist Church they've been staying in the Centre whenever there's been space for the last 3 & a half weeks - they just left this morning. As well as a performance of the Prodigal Son in the Town Hall they spent a lot of time at all the local schools performing and taking workshops in hula, street dance, flamenco and Korean drumming.

The thrift shop was a great success, raising about £1,400 for the Centre. One friend commented "It gives so many people so much pleasure - those who give are motivated to have a good clear out, those who buy get something to brighten their day and those who man the stalls (some of whom were elderly & disabled) get a chance to do something of  real value." So a heartfelt thankyou to everyone who helped. We also raised money for 2 other charities who gave us goods to sell on their behalf, so it was good to share.

We've recently launched publicity for our new residential Creative Holidays due to start this autumn. With watercolour painting, choral music and festive crafts there's a great choice of activities to brighten up your autumn and  3 brilliant opportunities to meet new people and make new friends. Click here to read all about it.

As the thrift shop did so well the fundraising dinner was postponed, but will still happen at some point. The business plan has gone through rigorous checks and just needs some final touches to the financial pages to be ready for use. We hope to begin applying to Trusts in October. Last week we also had a visit from a business adviser who is willing to visit regularly to advise us, which is great news. So the wheels are turning behind the scenes. Thank you for your prayers.

29th July, 2012

As I'm writing the couple in the flat are just going off for the day, the sun is shining & the day is looking promising. They are so enthusiastic about the flat & the Centre - how central it is, how they love to visit the theatre & just walk everywhere instead of having to take the car, how one has fond memories of the centre from visits with Fife youth orchestra when she was young. "We'll definitely be back" they say. The craft fair has had it's first week of a 3 week block and have had a good week with lots of visitors and purchasers (due to the rain?). We're open for B&B but it has been slow this year - all over Pitlochry and especially this week we suspect Pitlochry is feeling the Olympic effect - so there is plenty of space for last minute bookings, reduced today to £25pp. Fancy a visit? Just get in touch.

For the last 2 weeks we had Free church camps at the Centre - the first for primary kids, the 2nd for secondary girls. They come on a self-catering basis and really enjoy their time here, so much so that they have become one of our regular groups.  Having a hands off group has allowed Centre staff to have a summer holiday, so everyone benefits and we've all come back refreshed. Cloe, our French intern, returned to France at the end of June and Wilma, our summer volunteer, will be with us til the end of August.
We were pleased to have a well attended AGM at the end of June and the Council of Management has been busy since then further developing plans for the future. We're planning 2 fundraising events for August - a thrift shop and a fundraising dinner. Follow us on facebook (see the box  at the side) where we'll post details as they are finalised. These are both aimed at raising the architect's planning fees due in over the next couple of months. Please pray too for the appropriate final touches to be applied to our business plan & presentation as we begin the process of applying to major Trusts for the different stages of the build.
We're still looking for a plumber to help us with our office refurb, planned for September but this may end up pushed back. If you can help, please let us know.

26th June, 2012

Well it's Tuesday & English as a Second Language (ESOL) & Adult learning are here as usual. In the dining room we have the Rotary Club Young Artist of the Year Exhibition featuring pictures and 3D work from the local primary and secondary schools (5 - 18 years). They had their prizegiving  on Saturday, although I felt it was a shame more people couldn't get prizes as there are such a variety of styles - how can you compare? Some of the Higher and advanced Higher work was stunning and there were works of real promise & creativity in all the age groups. Cloe's favourite is the hat from Alice in wonderland - a second year creation made of playing cards and sprouting white rabbit's ears. Both this one and the previous exhibition are on our facebook so why don't you take a look for yourself. The exhibition was on display all last week and so the elderly lunch club holiday from Arbroath Town Mission had some of their meals in the midst of it. They felt it was like being in the middle of an art gallery and wanted to know if any items were for sale. They enjoyed a restful holiday with lots of daytrips and managed to get away with a few sunny days in this rather disappointing summer.

Wholeness Through Christ ( a retreat organisation) is a group who have just rediscovered us after many years of absence & were delighted with their weekend. One person wrote "Dear Atholl Centre Humans, Thank you so much for a brilliant stay. You could not have done more from making sure I had a right room for my needs to the last morning. May the Lord bless you and all you do, as a centre and as people." Kalhan. It was a small group of 12 but they made their presence known with good singing voices.
 The previous weekend we had another small group called Friends International who are students from different countries all over the world & come every year for a get together. It's nice to meet old friends as well as welcome new faces  when groups come year after year.

We've also been open for B&B but haven't had many takers so far. Most hotels and guest houses are experiencing the same slow start to the season as people are put off with the poor weather and attracted south to the Olympics. Although, lets not malign the weather too much because actually in Pitlochry we haven't done too badly compared with the general forecasts, as being in a valley we seem to get the best of both East and West coast weather and are often dry and even sometimes sunny when others are grey and wet.

You'll be pleased to hear that on Friday the automatic door opener for disabled users was finally installed. We'd hoped it would go in when Graham and Aggie  were still here (they stayed for 2 weeks), so they could do a grand opening. Unfortunately Aggie was ill throughout their stay, so get well soon Aggie & we're looking forward to seeing you back  in September.

Cloe's blog
It is my last week at the Atholl Centre and in Scotland and I've learnt more in 6 weeks here than in 8 years of English classes in France. The Atholl Centre has given me the opportunity to do work and to gain experience in every type of work from administrative  tasks to  setting the tables or cleaning rooms.  I would like to thank them for all the experience they have given me and to everything they have done for me. It is thanks to them that I can do my second year of college.

6th June, 2012

It's the day after the jubilee weekend and everything is back to normal - no more parties, fireworks & concerts, well not to celebrate the jubilee anyway. After a glorious weekend we now have London's cold & rain :( However lots of summer events are starting up. The Highland games circuit has begun - Blair Atholl was 2 weekends ago, Kenmore is in July, Birnam & Aberfeldy are in August & Pitlochry is near the end in September. The Festival Theatre has begun its programme of plays & is having good reviews and as well as all the usual holiday pursuits which are all open now, there are garden tours, art exhibitions, golf competitions & lots of musical events.We are just about to start our B&B season with Wilma from Dundee arriving today as our summer volunteer.We also have a French intern called Cloe from our twin town Confolens, who's training to be a PA. We're trying to give her as broad an experience as possible, so it's good she's come while there's so much going on. She's already been to the Blair Atholl Highland Games and helped build the beacon bonfire on top of Ben Y Vrackie. We've been busy - 2 families are with us at the moment, one in the flat and a couple with disabled needs using a couple of the downstairs rooms. Over the long weekend we had an art exhibition as well - posters by local schoolchildren to celebrate the 150 years of the railway in Pitlochry.They'd painted a wonderful frieze too which is on permanent display at the station. Definitely worth a look. Last week was hectic with a group of 44 Germans (including a Brazilian just so Iain could practice his Portuguese again) staying midweek and then a group of international students at the weekend. Scottish Children with Heart Disorders had a great family weekend with us. It was lovely to see the kids running about & having fun & to see how they had come on from the previous year. They inaugurated their new holiday caravan at Faskally while they were here & had a whale of a time. L'Arche foundation, working with adults with learning disablilities, had a annual get together with people from  3 Centres in Scotland coming to Pitlochry for the day. It was very busy with 68 disabled adults & their helpers to feed & water, with a full programme of worship & workshops & lots of wandering about & requests for help with this or that - but very rewarding.

Etape Caledonia was bigger than ever this year with 5,250 people booked, although due to predicted bad weather, only  just over 4,000 turned up. Fortunately the weather was better than predicted, mostly dry but with a strong wind until lunch time. Then the heavens opened. But by then most people had completed the challenge,having set off at 6.30 am. The race was closed early at about 2pm & those still riding in the rain were picked up by truck before hypothermia set in. Etape set up their control & emergency teams in the Centre again & race martials stayed here overnight. The massage team worked hard at their tables in the dining room both before & after the race and cold cyclists were able to benefit from hot showers here too. This annual event raises huge sums for Marie Curie Cancer Care and cyclists can be sponsored for other charities too. Richard & Rulzion riding for the Centre raised over £1,300 (including gift aid) - amazing. Thanks guys!

It's been brilliant! This month we've really benefitted from community fundraising. As well as funds raised by Richard & Rulzion we received a grant of £300 from the Enchanted Forest Community fund and donations from Madcaps fundraising concert, raising £200 and the WA coffee morning, raising £500. All of these have enabled us to start the process of getting the disabled friendly push button entry system installed in our main entrance. We're just waiting for the workmen to set a date.

25th April, 2012

A big thank you to everyone who has helped with fundraising this month. We made £462.30 at a bag pack in Pitlochry Co-op on Saturday 14th - the last Saturday of the local school holidays, and this was in spite of many families from Pitlochry Baptist church (who supplied the bag packers) away on holiday themselves! The bag pack was to raise money towards putting in the disabled friendly push pad entry at our main entrance. This means we've now raised over £2,000 for this. We're just waiting for news of a grant we have applied for towards this and then we'll be good to go. Richard Underwood from Garioch Baptist Church, who's riding in the Etape Caledonia Cycle challenge for the Atholl Centre, put a page up on Justgiving for sponsorship and has already been sponsored for £200. You can still sponsor him. Just go to this page. Rulzion Rattray, brother of a local man, is doing Etape for us as well. If you want to sponsor him,  just send the money in to us at the Centre. Iain also received donations when he spoke at Auchlochan retirement village. His powerpoint presentation was not only attended by residents in person, but was also televised into the homes of housebound residents, a novel experience - a bit scary, but worth it. All this fundraising effort is for the 40th anniversary project of course - improving our disabled access by bringing the conference room downstairs, creating a new disabled friendly self-catering apartment in the chalet and making all our ground floor bedrooms disabled friendly en-suite, and improving our general facilities by making all the other bedrooms en-suite and expanding & refurbishing the office.We have spent a long time preparing our case to present to Trusts and grant making bodies. We have been updating our business plan and with help from Just Enterprise we now have robust financial projections taking into account all the project costs and effects.The plans are going through planning permission at present, and so hopefully we're now ready to apply for major grants.

Meanwhile it is still business as usual. Every weekend we've had residential groups. Over the long Easter weekend it was an Edinburgh orienteering club who were in Pitlochry taking part in the JK Event, a huge international event set at Loch Tummel this year. Iain set up the conference room so they could get on their computers, relax & catch up with family & news in the evening. Here are some comments from their stay here: " comfortable, convenient, central & well situated, nice & warm, excellent food, flexible service, helpful staff, friendly welcome, a "home from home" base ideal for a group such as ours." So - I think they liked it then. UFM came the following weekend, with a full house of residential guests expanding to 80 with day vistors for their conference. It was busy but good to chat to people who worked all over the world - gave Iain a chance to use his Portuguese, much to people's surprise. Herald's trust came last week and particulalry enjoyed the catering from a local cafe Iain recommended -  Hey,I thought they were supposed to be self-catering! Ah well, it's an easy option & as we weren't available to cater last weekend, it was a good compromise.

Unfortunately the dishwasher broke and we've now been told, after waiting 2 weeks for the pleasure, that we need a new one. After spending a wee while looking Glynnis found a second hand one, but far away. Now she's seeing whether it will be cost effective to get it brought up here or not. But then, full price it would cost about three & a half thousand to replace, so there's always going to be that dilemma: Can we spare the cash up front for new short term? Is second hand going to be value for money long term? Meanwhile our student weekend helpers, scorning rubber gloves, ended up with very pruny hands.

27th March, 2012

What beautiful weather we're having at the moment - the sun is shining, the sky is blue and although it's only 4C at 9am it goes up into the 20s by the afternoon. That'll give the solar panels a good workout! It's been a busy month here with residential groups in every weekend and Baptist Ministers Next Stage training during the week in the beginning of March. We had 2 self catering groups in a row,so Iain took the opportunity to train local volunteer Rosemary to do the welcome & introductions so she could then be available as the weekend contact, allowing Iain to have his days off at the weekend. When we have catered groups Iain works all weekend and so has to try to find time off during the week, which isn't always easy, so it's really helpful to be able to delegate lighter tasks like this, free up time and allow Iain the occasional weekend with his family. However there are perks to working at the weekend - Iain really enjoys being the host and meeting both familiar and new friends. As well as taking pride in serving lovely meals with special diets taken care of, he loves to chat & make sure everyone has everything they need. Last weekend it was the Scottish Christian Women's Fellowship, who have been coming to the Centre for the last 13 years. They were absolutely delighted with the new double glazing and couldn't get over the change in the chalet.  With local kids growing up and moving on to college and uni we could so easily have been struggling for help at weekends outside the holidays, but we've been blessed with new local young people happy to work in the kitchen and house during these bursts of residential activity.
Midweeks have been busy too with community groups. New this month we had a 4 week series of women's cycle workshops for 3 hours on a Thursday evening - everything from riding with confidence to cycle maintenance. Thursday evening is usually the Youth cafe  slot, but that's only on once a month and luckily we had 5 Thursdays this month! This month Disability Information Services in Perthshire started having drop in sessions on a Tuesday afternoon. It's been going really well and so they have extended their stay for another month.

I went to 2 fundraising conferences - both in the same week, which made it a lot to take in. The first one was in London with over 800 delegates. It covered a wide variety of questions from legislation and the new government attitude to charity's place in our society to examples of how to apply for funding and how to show you are doing what you have promised. I attended an interesting stream on faith based charities and was encouraged through being shown how in a society where a faith base is often seen as a disadvantage in the fundraising world, it is respected when we present faith in a positive light and promote it as a reason to care, to show integrity and to respect each individual and give them dignity. The second was in Perth. Small is beautiful.(still 100 delegates!) Only 2 key speakers and then 2 relevant and cutting edge workshops with great food too:). Now to put all that learning into practice!

Iain & the Trustees have been busy doing risk assessment for trustees. It's a major project leading to fresh thinking and new challenges. Please pray as they implement what they are learning.

Richard Underwood and Rulzion Rattray have volunteered to raise money for the Centre by riding in the Etape Caledonia Cycle Challenge in Pitlochry in May. Thanks guys! If you want to sponsor them just email or phone 01796 473044. Richard's going to be setting up a Justgiving account in April as well,so you'll be able to give by card there. If you want to cheer them on, come to Pitlochry on Sunday 13th May. Start time 6.30am outside the tourist office (next to the Centre) and the first will get to the finish (also at the Tourist Office) from 10.30am onwards.

Many thanks to those who have contributed towards the electrics for the disabled entry to our main entrance. We're over halfway there already. Keep up the good work & remember the bag pack in the Pitlochry Co-op on the 14th April to help us reach our target. If you can help with that please get in touch.

28th February, 2012

Hooray the last bit of the double glazing package is going in today. Alex is on the dining room roof replacing our domed rooflights with new triple skinned ones. The new main entrance was installed a couple of weeks ago too, but the electrics for the automatic push pad have been postponed to let us secure funding to cover the extra £3,000 in cost. If you can help us with this please get in touch. Originally we had been told they had to be installed together, but when the electrics people were slow to give us information and I was reminding people we had a funding deadline for the double glazing, suddenly they could be installed separately. It does mean the new door is not just double glazed, but also built to take the push pad when it comes. It opens so smoothly we've had to put a notice on to push/pull gently, as people were almost falling over at first as they expected resistance where there was none.

Computer classes for our local community have been going for 4 weeks now. The first week no-one turned up and the tutors had problems setting up the internet as their Perth College laptops had firewalls not allowing use outside of council run venues. 4 weeks on they've had to move to a bigger room and are wondering if they have enough staff for all the people coming. People coming to the English as a foreign language classes are from all over the world. Many are from Eastern Europe - Poland, Russia, Lithuania, but the other day I chatted to a lady from Ghana who has married a Scotsman and now lives in Pitlochry and there are also students from Bangladesh and Turkey. It makes us quite an international community.

The church (through the WA) has successfully started a lunch club for the elderly, taking place fortnightly in the Centre dining room. An advantage of being in the Centre is that soup can be bought from the firm renting our kitchen and so is served hot and freshly made with a good choice of varieties. This saves time and effort for volunteers and ensures hassle free compliance with food hygiene regs. It has proved very popular and numbers are growing.

Weekends have been full with residential guests at the Centre, although most have been self-catering recently, many groups taking advantage of our no frills option on the flexi tariff, so even though times are hard, we are still able to be of service. In fact there have been a few key weekends that it seems everybody wants. If you're looking for a venue mid weeks are much easier to get and you can still self cater midweek, using the kitchen at the self catering apartment or we can offer half or full board if that suits you better.
We've had a few people expressing interest in the summer volunteer post. If you are interested please apply soon as the deadline is set for Thurs 15th March after which interviews will take place.

We have now applied for planning permission for the proposed improvements to the Centre over the next few years - extending  and dividing the dining room so our conference space can move downstairs, changing the chalet into a disabled friendly self-catering apartment, making every bedroom en-suite and changing the office to give us more space to work and a live-in bedsit for staff. I wonder how long it will take to come through. Thank you to everyone who is praying for us. Remember,you can also support us by helping us to raise funds by setting up events or taking part in challenges. This weekend a young man from the church is running a marathon in aid of CRY (Young people with cardiac problems) This is the kind of thing you could do for the Centre, supporting our ministry to disabled and disadvantaged people by helping us to improve our facilities. Hope you can help.

1st February, 2012

Some things seem to take longer than you think and I've certainly found that there can be huge delays organising workmen. So the new disabled friendly double glazed front door hasn't gone in this month but now at least we have a firm date for February. Similarly the  new triple skin rooflights have been delayed due to illness. I get very nervous as we get near our funding deadline, so please pray there are no more delays and these things are put in this month. Last week was very busy with 3 residential groups in a row and community day groups on at the same time, so it was a chance to see how we coped with quick turnovers without the summer students available. Happily a couple of local young men could help us out and were soon shown the ropes by our cleaning lady, who only helps out herself when we're very busy. It was a real pleasure to have the Baptist Ministers training group for an in-service course. It's a good chance to catch up with churches in other parts of Scotland and to touch base with Baptist Union leaders. They were the first group to experience the difference made by the new double glazing in the chalet and the corridor actually. I believe they were duly impressed! After them was a new group - the History & Politics society of the University of the Highlands & Islands, who had a Burns Night here as well as meetings. Iain played the pipes for the procession of the haggis and our volunteer gardener Alastair, who is also an Am Dram fan, gave a hearty address to the haggis! After that a group of Church of Scotland Elders came for a retreat. It's interesting one of them had been here in the late 70's /early 80s, in the early years of the Centre when Iain was first here as a young man -  just shows, you never know when you'll meet someone again.

Two weeks ago I went to a Christian Conference Centre Managers' conference near Birmingham. It was a chance to meet other people facing the same challenges, to share ideas, to worship together and to encourage each other. It was an eye-opener for me how big some of the Centres are, making their job a different kettle of fish from ours, but also emphasising the benefits of being small, in the way we can personalise our service and get to know our guests as individuals and provide a much more cosy and home from home atmosphere. I also realised how lucky we are here to have the chance to be part of a local church and a local community, because we're not stuck in the middle of nowhere. For some conference centres life can be very isolating, or a bit of a gold fish bowl existance. Anyhow I came back encouraged that the business ideas we have been pursuing are also being recommended for other centres, which confirms we are going in the right direction  and with some new ideas to try out.

We're looking for volunteers for the summer from the beginning of June to the end of August, so if anyone is interested in a summer job in the middle of Scotland's outdoors country, Bed & Board & pocket money provided, or if you know someone else who might be, please get in touch. Please also remember that we need people to help us raise money to improve our disabled facilities and put in en-suites. We're looking for volunteers to set up fundraising events in their local church/area and for volunteers to take part in challenge events and be sponsored for the centre. Go here to find out more. NB. Places are full for the Etape Caledonia cycle challenge in Pitlochry in May, but you can still aplly for the Etape Pennines in October and it would be an ideal opportinuty to do something you love and raise money for the Centre at the same time.

9th January, 2012

Happy New Year!  Hope you had a good time in the holidays.We got back to the office on the 4th Jan but Iain has popped in a few times over the holidays as we had a self-catering group of 10 staying in the flat and a few rooms next to it, the church has used the Centre over the holidays (of course) and Dave, our volunteer electrician, came to do our PAT testing for us between Christmas and New Year. Thanks Dave. Four Ways elected to keep up their meetings over the festive period, so they were in too. Then, just before we got back another family came to the flat for a few days. so the flat's been well used. In the beginning of December we had East Kilbride Youth Pipe Band for a practice weekend. Using our flexi tariff, we gave them breakfast and lunch and they went out for their evening meal, which seemed to suit them fine and they were very happy with their stay. It was fascinating to watch them beat time on the dining room tables with their fluffy drumsticks. It's almost like a dance. That's the 2nd Youth Pipe Band to use us in a year, so it looks like we're getting on their map.

In December we had the bulk of our single glazing replaced with A rated double glazing. It's already made a huge difference to the Chalet - the oldest part of the building, built in 1971, which had those cold, metal framed windows, which gave us condensation problems. Now all of that is gone and the rooms even smell better. The new double glazing is calculated to save us over 6 tonnes of CO2. We've already had the pleasure of seeing a significant reduction in our energy bills over the last few months due to our new heating system and insulation and this should save us even more. This month we're due to have our main entrance replaced. It will not only be double glazed, but also have push button entry for wheelchair users, so it will be a significant improvement. The dining room roof lights are also being replaced with  new triple skin ones, which will be much more energy efficient.

In December I discovered a new free way of raising money. It's called easyfundraising.org. All you have to do is to register on their website as an Atholl Centre supporter (we're already registered with them) and then when you want to do your online shopping you use them as your browser. The store you buy from then gives them a percentage of the sale as a donation, which they pass on to the Centre. They work with  huge number of big brand stores such as Boots, M&S and Amazon. So please give it a try and register with them here now. You could even make it your New Year's resolution!

Did you get one of our fundraising packs? 100s were given out at the Assembly and have maybe got forgotten in the Christmas rush, but now New Year's here, so why not take a look and see if you can help us by setting up a fundraising event in your church. We've given you 100 fund raising ideas from car washes and bring & buy sales to sponsored adventure challenges. See if there's something that suits you & let us know. We'll give you as much help as we can. If you didn't get one or have lost yours, just give us phone (01796 473044) or email and we'll send you a new one.