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.
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.