“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy…Today a Saviour has been born to you.” Luke 10: 10 -11
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year
Iain, Anne, Chris & Wilma
The Atholl Centre, Pitlochry

 We've got guests in both apartments over Christmas and New Year, but the staff are getting some time off:) Please pray they have a restful time & experience God's blessing as they stay here.

 This month there was quite a bit of progress on the downstairs en-suites and yesterday they came to measure for the new windows, Praise God the Council allowed us to install good quality PVCU frames. Permission for that was one of the delays. The other delay is due to asbestos. Although we had a report from a few years ago, they hadn't noticed everything that was there and thought it was lower grade than it is. So the official asbestos people are coming on the 7th Jan. The place has to be closed off for a few days and then an air quality test done after that. When all this is over there will be a mad rush to get everything else done in time. So please pray for that. Curtains, wetwall & flooring are already chosen so at least that will not delay anything. 

All the community groups have now stopped for Christmas, but we have been inundated with cards & gifts, so thank you for your generosity. Thanks especially to those who have donated to the food bank. CAP, social work and citizen's advice have all been referring over the year. Christmas can be a time of great need at home as well as abroad. 

 Friday 28th Nov 2014
Hello again. No, I haven't been hibernating for the last 2 months. Yes, it's been incredibly hectic - so, sorry I've missed a month. Here goes:

One of the reasons for  our hectic state is that Xander, who had joined us for 9 months to do marketing as a result of a grant from the Enterprise Ready Fund, was so keen to stay in Pitlochry he thought he would apply for other jobs early to make sure he had something to move on to. Much to his surprise he got a job as de facto manager at the Red Brolly Inn in Ballinluig. As it was a permanent post he felt he couldn't turn it down, so he left on the 6th Nov. While we wish him well, it left us a bit stuck.  Fortunately Anne has agreed to work full time to take on Xander's responsibilities as the work he was to do is essential to making the refurbishments work for us and to satisfying our funders their money has been well spent.

Our big news is that work on the remaining ground floor bedrooms to turn them into disabled en-suites has begun! Not only have they started downtakings - i.e. stripping the rooms & removing tiles, cupboards, carpets and even walls, they've also framed the partition which will transform room 6 into 2 en-suites for the rooms on either side and started the wiring. 2 things you could pray about for a speedy resolution: The asbestos cladding around the pipe boxes turns out to be of moderate rather than low grade, so we're waiting for the official men in white suits to get back with a date to remove it. We are replacing the windows with higher spec double glazing, but the council are still deciding if they'll let us have  high spec PVCu frames. If we are forced to use wooden frames (because we're in a conservation area) it will cost a fortune without being any more efficient or long lasting. We haven't budgeted for that.

Meanwhile the chalet is looking good, if I say so myself. The kitchen has now been filled with kitchen furniture & equipment (Thanks to Colin & Norma for their very nice old kitchen table) and curtains and pictures are up too. Do come & have a look. The lounge area has been carpeted and a flat screen TV (thanks to Doris's family) installed on a swiveling bracket so its position can be adjusted.Curtains will go up there soon too. So it's ready to book. Please tell your friends:)

We got some good news about the conference room too. Santander awarded us £5,000 for the AV system and as it's a Social Enterprise Award we can get advice, training and maybe  other help from them too. We were worried we would lose the remainder of our Gannochy Trust funding as the deadline of 31st Dec was approaching fast, but we're pleased to announce they have granted us an extension till July 2015. Please continue to pray the remaining funding will come through. The conference room has now gone out to tender and we should hear next month. I also forgot to say that the Baptist Building Fund are behind us and have authorised a loan to us when we receive full funding so we have no cash flow problems when it comes to the build.

The Centre has been incredibly busy with community groups, including 2 weeks of the Atholl Craft Fair in October and a one day Craft Fair  last weekend. We had our own Thrift shop at the same time and made £600 for our disabled improvements. We've left a Christmas gifts table up which includes Anne's Spiced Apple Jam and there are cards for sale from Tearfund as well. So you 're not too late:) English as a foreign language is picking up and a new story time for parents & children is being developed to encourage people to write and tell stories from their own cultures. The hope is that this, as well as giving people confidence, will help integrate  locals with the overseas workers in our community. In addition Adult Learning is producing another booklet of stories from the community. If you'd like to write one, please let us know and we'll send it on to them. This week there are 2 local consultations, one on library services ( last Tues) and one on elderly mental health (especially dementia) which takes place tomorrow. The rotary are putting on an exhibition of Higher art from 4-6th Dec as it didn't get shown at the Young Artist Exhibition in the summer due to exam changes. Should be well worth a visit.

October B&B was very busy with visitors for the Enchanted Forest - lots of families - and we hear it was highly successful this year with a 16% increase in visitor numbers in spite of the rain (which just made it atmospheric.) Even though our main residential block is now closed for refurbishment at the moment we've had quite a few day groups, including an Alpha group from Balerno and an IPAD for beginners course put on by Perth College. Perthshire Brass band managed to get in before the refurb began  and so did Ignite Youth and the Girl Guide Leaders Mountain leadership training. The flat has been busy too and the chalet kitchen was used for the first time by a man with his disabled daughter 2 weeks ago. 

I wrote last time about a garden project. We've been awarded funds to start a garden in the Centre grounds. We're planning a sensory garden and some growing beds (veg, fruit, herbs) for community groups to use as a resource (healthy living, inter generation working, art....other ideas?). We went to a meeting in Glasgow bringing together therapeutic gardening people from all over Scotland and came back with some great ideas. We'd like to hear what you think too, so please let us know if you're interested in helping get it up and running. Cuttings from your own garden might come in useful as well. So do get in touch if you can help.
Tues 6th October 2014

Autumn is making its presence felt now and our focus for the Centre changes too, with community groups starting up again for the winter. WA lunch club got off to a good start last Friday and currently we're in the middle of Wellbeing week, a new initiative from Perth & Kinross  which coincides with Mental Health Week in the UK and World Mental Health Day to provide an inclusive focus on living active and healthy lives in our communities. The Atholl Centre has been the venue for events in Pitlochry and yesterday we had art taster sessions and today is a community marketplace showcasing different organisations who are here to help. PKAVS have brought along "Depressed cakes" - dark on the outside, but with a splash of colour inside - to show that how we look may not be how we feel, that even when there is darkness in our life, there is always some colour to be found.

The Community Challenge Fund launched at the beginning of this year has led to a few new initiatives, some of which will be meeting in the Centre in the future. Leila Maine, Herbalist will be starting workshops - in November it will be make your own  hand & face creams, Isobel Wilson will be starting R&R relaxation sessions and Dee Bowman is setting up a bereavement group. Some great new initiatives:) WA lunch club is also planning to expand into after lunch activities to extend the benefit folks receive from meeting up together.

Our residential groups are changing too, from B&B vistors (from all over the world) to groups (mainly from Scotland). Michael, our Polish intern, left a couple of weeks ago after a very encouraging summer. He really enjoyed his time here and the new friendships he made and after a short holiday with Wilma & David C. in Northern Ireland he left strict instructions to come & see him in Poland.

 After the hectic challenge of full on B&B, it's a chance for us as a team to regroup & plan the next stage, making sure we make full use of our new resources to grow our reach. Xander has started a marketing course which will be practically one to one advice to help him do his job here at the Centre and yesterday Ian Black came to share his Publicity on a Shoestring presentation, helping us to focus on how we can best reach and help new people. The promotional video wee Ewan made in the summer finally made its way onto Youtube. You can see it on our facebook page or go straight to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AE_u5RLM12A  Please tell us what you think

 The chalet is getting there, although far more slowly than we had hoped. I've learned a new word "Snagging", which means all the wee things which have been overlooked or are not quite right, and there has been a list which is slowly being worked through. While the en-suite bedrooms have been fit for use, the living area & kitchen have been held back with various snagging issues. The living area carpet will finally go down on Friday and the curtains should be ready soon too. We're hoping to have an official opening for the Chalet in November, so please keep an eye out for that on Facebook. Xander & Wilma spent a day in Edinburgh at the Kidz Scotland Exhibition for disabled children to start advertising the Chalet.With its disabled en-suites & kitchen the chalet has huge potential to make respite and family holidays easier and more inclusive for disabled folks. Please pray for word to spread.

Meanwhile we just heard that building warrant has been granted for the next stage of the building renovations and the new conference room will go out to tender in the next couple of weeks. This really is a step of faith as we have still quite a large funding gap to fill to have enough money to start the actual build. There are lots of funding requests out which haven't been replied to yet. Please pray  the funding will come through in time. If we haven't got enough before the end of this year we lose some of what we've already been promised, so there is a sense of urgency to reach the £110,000 needed for the new conference room. Any help from you guys would be appreciated. Why not have a coffee morning for us, or do a sponsored run?

Alastair & David have been working  hard to make our entrance beautiful with plants & flowers & were rewarded with a Silver Award last week from Pitlochry in Bloom. Congratulations guys! Plans are afoot for a sensory garden to be created next year. So watch this space...

                                                  Wed 27th August
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: admin@athollcentre.org.uk or phone 01796 473044. 
   Thurs 7th  August
So, July has come & gone & I'm only just getting round to catching up on this blog - 3rd time lucky:)
Well, as you might have guessed it's been hectic, especially with the chalet now in its birth throes as we try to get it ready for use before the end of this month. It was supposed to be ready by the end of this week but as usual with these things it's running over time and we're keeping to budget by doing the painting ourselves. Hence - paint party! Our interns, Michael & Emilien and of course Chris, our painter in residence, have already made a start, but it would be nice to have more hands - we already have more paint brushes. Want to  join us ? Just pick up the phone (01796 473044). If you're local - any time. If you're from further away phone to book and we'll provide food & accommodation.

Meanwhile we have chosen our curtains & flooring, kitchen units & wetwall & it's all getting rather exciting as it takes shape. Anne had fun playing house when she went to buy items to "dress" the rooms and there have been many discussions about colour schemes. So many different opinions, but I had the final say so we got there in the end.

What's been really brilliant is the way our team has developed: Michael & Emilien our interns from Poland & France, David K our project manager and David C. a local volunteer  have teamed up with Wilma,Chris & Xander & got up to all sorts of fun & games.Then young Ewan joined us as well. He came to have a holiday with his grandparents (his grandfather built the Centre) & they asked if he could do stuff at the Centre to keep him busy. So he spent 3 weeks, 3 days each week making a promotional video for us. He's only 14! So when it was David K's birthday there were 12 of us watching him blow out his candles -& helping him eat his birthday cake:). It feels like an extended family.

During all this upheaval we've still been running our summer B&B and this year it's been busier than ever with folk from Germany, Holland, France and even a party of schoolkids from China. Community groups continue to come too - The Atholl Craft fair is on its 3rd week in the dining room, English as a second language is slowly building up (with Michael & Emilien joining in), Positive Choices continue to giggle their way through to helping chronically ill people and their carers relax and the IT class for September is fast filling up. Four ways continues to meet as regular support over the holiday months is essential for people with mental health problems.

We were at 2 community events recently. The first was a family fun day held by the Baptist Church and the Council together at the school playing fields. Lots of kids & families came to enjoy the fun. Lots of bouncy castles, a display of highland dress & weapons, stalls & activities from the leisure centre & the cycling group, stalls to advertise adult literacy & English, Christians against Poverty debt advice, ourselves, an advocacy service and of course the church stall which looked really vibrant. So well done guys and looking forward to next year.

The second was an event to remember the battle of Killiecrankie (one of the Jacobite battles which took place locally). A historic re-enactment group and local Riders of the Storm horseback gymnasts took part to take us all back to the past with displays of formation riding and weapons and highland dress of the day. It was the first time they had held this event and they hope to put it on the tourist map for the future. A few of the participants stayed in the Centre. Alan, who is a real former soldier disabled in battle, really appreciated our disabled facilities and the 2 lady professors who came to show & tell historical artifacts raved about our home-made jam.

The food bank (Trussel trust) who supplies our own food bank has arranged 2 fundraising events in Perth this month, so please support them if you can. 2 guys are doing a sponsored bike ride on the 23rd August from Perth to Edinburgh and there is an Alastair McDonald Concert on the 19th August at St. Matthew's Church. Contact  info@perthkinross.foodbank.org.uk to donate. 

 Wed 25th June

Well the big news this month is that after interviewing 3 people shortlisted from 7 applicants from across the UK we now have our new Marketing Development Officer. Xander has just finished a degree in history and politics, and completing a Certificate in Management (with marketing as part of that course) and he comes with an impressive record of responsibility in the national student union and in the community council too. Xander is full of ideas and enthusiasm, but very capable with it, so we're very pleased to have such a good match with what we were looking for. Xander will also act as duty manager when Iain is on a day off so that we can be open all week and still have time off, which strikes me as a rather good arrangement and will save a lot of stress. Just to remind you we received 9 months salary for a Marketing Development Officer as part of our Enterprise Ready Award and this is why we have been able to employ Xander this month and until at least March next year. Meanwhile we are applying for more funding to extend his employment for another 9 months to a year and we've already had a phone interview about one of those requests, so we're hopeful.

We heard we've been shortlisted for the Santander Social Enterprise Award, so please pray for success there and we had a good interview with the Baptist Building Fund who meet on the 9th July to make their final decision. This is as we continue to fundraise to make the rest of the project happen. The conference room extension to the dining room is next on our list and then making all the upstairs en-suite. We're working towards building warrant for these next bits now.

Meanwhile the chalet has finally reached the con struction stage (i.e.we're finally seeing the first new walls) after a couple of weeks of de struction or "downtakings" where first all the fittings and fixtures were removed and then most of the walls due to be changed were knocked down or broken through. It's exciting to see the new rooms taking shape and we've even got to the stage of discussing doors and skirting boards:) ... and how much of a "fall" ( gentle slope) we need to get the wet rooms to drain properly and what needs to be done to "sweeten" slight level changes (make a smooth transition). At the end of all this the chalet will be full of "sweetness" & light!  Please look at our facebook to see the photos.

And through all this we're still open for business and busy with guests. We've had a combination of groups and B&B this month, starting with the 2nd week of the African Children's Choir leaving us on Friday 6th with lots of hugs and songs to travel to London to make their recording, then a small group from Bellevue Chapel, followed by various B&B guests (including a 96 year old gentleman who was traveling on to Edinburgh to stay in a Youth Hostel after us! and a group of cyclists cycling to all the Olympic gold pillar boxes in the UK in aid of sport relief,  paralympics GB and Tree of Hope) and now we have the Abroath Town Mission lunch club holiday for the week. They're enjoying lots of sightseeing & day trips - Aberfeldy & Kenmore strolling along the banks of Loch Tay yesterday & Queens View today- the iconic Victorian  highland vista - as well as enjoying each other's company.

Community IT classes come to an end this week for the summer but English as a Second Language is just beginning to build up and will continue throughout the summer, especially as more people from other countries come to work during Pitlochry's tourist season. We had a good number of visitors to see the Young Artist of the Year Exhibition and every participant received a certificate this year as well as first and runners up prizes in various categories handed out at a prize giving on Saturday. Spend your prize money well guys:) Although Youth Club also stops for the summer  Positive Choices (disability support) and 4 Ways (mental health support) continue their vital support throughout the holiday period, so please support them in your prayers.  

                                                     2nd June 2014
May has been a busy month with residential groups in every weekend. It was great to have a full house with families of children with heart disorders and to see them enjoying themselves so much. The weather was brilliant so they got out for lots of walks as well as clay pigeon shooting and other activities. We welcomed old faces and new when the See Hear Conference for the Deaf came. People are now travelling to this conference from all over the UK - but then there are no regional accents in sign language.  Etape was incredibly busy as usual with over 5,000 participants again. The race was a great success as the weather stayed dry and the organising team were really happy with the support we provided. Do look at our facebook to see some photos of the event. The Centre was well used. Not only were we  race HQ, but all the motor marshalls slept here and physio massage took place throughout the weekend to help people prepare for & recover from the race. We ended May with the African Children's Choir. Here initially for a week it was extended to 2 to give them time to prepare for filming for Disney's new Peter Pan movie. Exciting stuff! So they're still with us and having  had a nice relaxing time last week with baking, hide & seek, movie night, lots of football and a mini concert for each other ( they wrote all the songs and sketches and choreographed the dances themselves)  it's back to practice this week. A young family staying with us for a mini break were invited to play football with them.One of the girls from the family made them each a wee friendship bracelet to say thank you. So lovely - we were all touched by these kindnesses.
On the community side the new set of computer classes is going well and English as a Second Language has come back, so we’re really pleased this provision is returning to Pitlochry.  Eve from P&K community learning is taking both classes as well as adult literacy, so she has her work cut out. Art classes finished this month for the summer and all agree that Dee has done a fantastic job. Now we’re looking  forward to next month’s Young Artist of the Year exhibition. Don't forget to come and see the amazing talent of our local young people. Open from the 16th - 21st June.

Renovation of the Chalet roof has been completed ahead of time and attention has turned to the drains. It took some real detective work to sort out where all the new drains should go so we can take the capacity of the new en-suites when they are built, and they had to call in the mini digger when the ground proved too rocky to dig by hand, but we got there in the end. Work starts on the 9th of June on the inside of the Chalet to make it into a disabled friendly self-catering apartment with 3 disabled en-suite bedrooms ( 1 wheelchair bathroom and 2 ambulant disabled) and a disability adapted kitchen/diner.

After the successful funding of the chalet renovation we hoped and prayed more would come in for the conference room. We’re pleased to report that another £5,000 came in from the Robert Barr Charitable Trust last week. We have also been pleased to receive quite a few private donations. More applications for that project have been made this month. Please pray they are successful. We've a visit from the Robertson Trust and the Baptist Building Fund this month re funding, so please pray for good visits. Last Friday Anne went to a social value lab in Edinburgh to help us prepare our feedback for the Enterprise Ready Fund. So the fundraising work doesn't just stop when the funding requests have been sent out, if they are successful there's a huge amount of monitoring to do for accountability purposes - so if we ask you to take part in a survey when you come (or when you've been) we' d really appreciate your help in taking the time to fill it in.

Last month the new post of marketing development officer was advertised (for which we got 9 months funding from the ERF) and this week we hold the interviews. Please pray we choose well.

It's been a time of change for our Trustees. Maureen Russell moves on from being a Trustee at the Centre to become Chairperson of BMS World Mission - a huge challenge. Norman McNeish who's been our treasurer since we re-opened in 2007 has retired due to ill health. We thanked them for their faithful service at the last Council of Management with a wee farewell presentation and wish them both well for the future. Jonathan Innes, a chartered accountant, is our new interim Treasurer and Bill Slack,  a former General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Scotland, has also joined the council. Earlier this year Alastair Dixon from our local community, Derek Murray who used to work in a hospice and Richard Tuckley who is an IT expert came on board too, bringing our Board of Trustees up to 8 people. We hope as the board develops to be even fitter for the challenges of the next few years as we grow the Centre and its work.

Fri 2nd May

 Brilliant News: Work started on the chalet roof on 21st April. As part of this refurbishment the
flat roof is being replaced to improve heat insulation and drainage of rainwater. Take a look at our facebook to see photos of progress so far. It's looking good:) The refurbishment of the interior of the chalet to make it into a disabled friendly self-catering apartment will start on the 9th June. David Killbourn who has been a specialist volunteer with the Centre for a few years is our Project Manager & has been on site a few times already. Work will start on the ground floor bedrooms, transforming them into disabled en-suites on the 10th  November. Meanwhile we have put out an advert to recruit a marketing development officer. This position is integral to our plan for growth - we don't want to hide our light under a bushel - so please take a look and see if it would suit you or someone you know. I f you're on facebook please share the advert (Retweet on twitter). You'll find the full description on our website at   http://www.athollcentre.org.uk/pitlochry_residential_centre/jobs.html .
However we’re not resting on our laurels. It’s all go to get the next project off the ground, which is to extend the dining room to make a fully accessible conference room downstairs.
Thank you to everyone who helped with the Thrift shop last month. We raised £700 for the new conference room. The table fees for the Craft Fair the following Saturday also went to our appeal. We’ve also just heard we’ve been awarded £400 from the Enchanted Forest Community Fund. All of these contributions add to the Trust Fund requests Anne is making on our behalf.  so that God willing if all the funding comes through before the winter weather we’ll be ready to go ahead straight away.

Praise God we have found a new architect & team to take us to building warrant and then supervise the rest of these renovations - and all in time to satisfy another application. It's an exciting stage to be at and as a result of this newest application I have realised that we have now raised over £270, 000 which is over half way to our final target. 

Residential activity in April was mainly Easter holiday guests. Although B&B was slow the flat was occupied for most of the month and we ended April with a huge & highly successful UFM missionary conference. Community day groups have kept the Centre full of life during the week and of course we had a thrift shop & craft fair last month too. IT class has just started up again for 7 weeks, that's a morning & afternoon session, but WA lunch club finished last Friday until the autumn.  The new Creative Care Challenge Fund was launched here on Monday. This is a £10,000 fund to help people in Pitlochry & area to develop innovative ideas to provide support & activities for local people. 8 people came to receive advice & information on how to set up a business or community initiative, which is really encouraging. There's still time for folks to apply. Go to http://blogs.iriss.org.uk/pitlochry/ to find out more. This is the same initiative which got students from Duncan of Jordanstone to come here to do some research on community care and which has set up Pitlochry Forum, which is a group of locals meeting with officials to try to identify areas of care where the community & statutory bodies can work together to improve. Iain went to Edinburgh last week to speak at a seminar about this as part of the Scottish Co-production Conference. It's exciting to see the progress of this work and to be able to share in supporting our community cohesion.

Guests for the See Hear conference for the deaf are arriving this evening for their annual weekend. This group has been coming for over 35 years and now we're seeing adults who were just young people when Iain was last at the Centre in his 20s. It's so rewarding to be part of ministries which are going from generation to generation. Welcome back guys:)
Friday 4th April 

What a difference a month makes! Last time I wrote I was relieved that Anne had finally got a major funding application in and in time for a Trustee meeting deadline. The fantastic news in March is that we were successful! £ 117,343 from the Scottish Government's Enterprise Ready Fund, completing the money we need to start not just the Chalet renovation, but the ground floor disabled en-suites as well. And it includes 9 months funding for a marketing development officer. Watch this space. We're writing the job advert now, so when you see it, if you know anyone who might fit the bill please encourage them to apply.  

This funding adds to £20,000 from the Good News Health Trust, £12,000 from the Hugh Fraser Foundation, £7,525 from the Gannochy Trust and £3,203 through private donations and community fundraising. Praise God for His provision & this tangible confirmation of our work. These refurbishments will make a huge difference to infirm elderly & disabled guests coming to stay at the Centre & the new marketing development officer's job will be to ensure our new facilities are used  to their full capacity by reaching out to people who haven't heard of the Centre yet, and to people who were put off by shared bathrooms in the past. Our goal - to extend our reach and be agents of change in even more people's lives.

So now the next stage of hard work begins. We've appointed our project manager. David Killbourn is an electrician by trade & runs his own business, but he also has good working knowledge of  building & plumbing as he worked as a project manager for the MOD in the past. Please pray for him as this project will be a huge responsibility and for Anne as she manages the funding accountability paperwork. We've had our first site meeting too and agreed a start date for 21st April, so it's all go. 

 The fundraising continues with a Thrift Shop this coming week (come if you can ) and almost every day this week there has been a welcome cheque in the post. Thank you so much for your support. We're beginning the preparations for the next stage which will be making a new disabled friendly conference room (extending the dining room) with built in AV & loop and transforming the current first floor conference room into 3 en-suite bedrooms. This combination is to ensure that we can continue to support financially challenged groups as we minister to disabled, disadvantaged and chronically ill folks by generating income from those who can afford. Please pray we'll find the right architect to take us forward into the tender process.

We've had groups in every weekend in March (and a couple of mid weeks too) moving smoothly from self catering to catering. The local Deli who has been using our kitchen and making the bulk of our food for the past 5 years moved on at the end of February. We're really happy to welcome back Nel who used to cook for the Deli and is now joint running a shop in Aberfeldy, cooking their produce at the Centre and food for our guests too. We miss Mary & Sandy a lot but it's so lovely to have Nel back:)

We've just had a great weekend with URC ladies & their husbands. (The ladies have their conference & their husbands enjoy a weekend away). And before that we had Baptist ministers' wives for a conference and a week & a bit later many of their husbands  here for a Next Stage Ministry course. Mike Bonser commented:
"I have just returned from an absolutely superb "Next stage of ministry" conference, organised by the National team of the BUS, focused on continuing professional development. Thank you."
It's great to see God at work in these conferences and courses.  Spalding Adventures mountain leadership course also came to stay midweek. They couldn't find enough snow for a snow hole but did find some difficult weather conditions to tackle as part of their training.

April is set to be a mainly B&B month. We're open for Easter holiday makers and have taken some bookings already, but there's still plenty of room so do get in touch (01796 473044) if you fancy a few days away in Pitlochry.  

 Thursday 27th February

Wow - What a month!
Sadness - "Brother" Philip passed into glory this month. Funny , perceptive gregarious & wise, we'll miss him greatly. Philip volunteered in the Centre over the last few years, manning reception, serving teas & coffees, scanning our books with an eagle eye and offering good advice. Philip became Brother Philip when on answering an irate caller at reception he told him meekly he was speaking to Brother Philip and the caller's tone changed immediately with an apology for his language! The name stuck. One day while helping at a fundraising coffee morning he decided there hadn't been enough takers and we needed to boost sales. Our French intern was sent to the main street with a tray of cakes and Philip followed, accompanied by Iain & a chair (his legs weren't so good). On arrival he waved & called to all passers by and the cakes were  soon sold out. Such a showman! He was always welcoming, always ready with a cheerful smile or joke, always supportive and always ready to serve. We've lost a good friend. But he's with his heavenly Father now and his funeral reflected that peace & joy.
Relief - Anne has spent an intensive few weeks preparing a funding request for the Enterprise Ready Fund - a huge application form with detailed cash flow projections for the next 2 years. Thankfully the tenders came in on time and we learned about a 19th Feb deadline in time to get the application out  to be considered by Trustees on the 1st March. (This is to complete funding so we can go ahead with the Chalet, turning it into a disabled self-catering apartment, and the ground floor bedrooms, making them disabled en-suite.) Please pray for the outcome of this request.
Busyness - Every weekend in February has been booked. Most of the groups who came were self-catering and we had 3 youth groups in a row (including SU basecamp for training young leaders). We also had Dundee Central deacons (informing us how our daughter was getting on in Dundee) and Niddrie Community church are here this weekend.  Mid weeks have been incredibly busy too with community groups - Adult Literacy, Youth Club, Mental health Support Group, Disability support Group, U3A (University of the 3rd Age - learning for retired folks) Madcaps (song & recital group), Highland Perthshire Cycling ( Bike maintenance), Art Class, IT Class and the Welcome All Soup Lunch put on by the church ladies every Friday - tackling social isolation in Pitlochry as well as the Baptist Church youth & children's groups & prayer & mission group. On top of that we've had Care in the Community (tackling how to get community & statutory bodies working together to provide for the elderly), Growbiz ( helping locals to set up their own small businesses) and  quite a few other day groups.  
Reaching Out - The Atholl Centre became the official local arm of the Perth foodbank last month and today Angela from CAPS (Christians Against Poverty Scotland) is coming to collect the first food parcel and the manager from the Bank of Scotland has also been asking how people can be referred. It's not just a political ploy, it's a reality! In Perth on Monday I saw a food bank collection box in Tesco and a big notice offering advice to people in financial and food difficulty in the Cash & Carry. More & more people are struggling, so we're glad we can play our part in helping out.     
Monday 20th Jan 2014
Happy New year to all our blog followers. God bless you in this new year and hold you in His hands. 
We've hit 2014 running with a busy first 2 weeks with lots of community groups already on the go. The first week was dominated by the funeral of the husband of one of our local Atholl Centre friends. We were privileged to be able to support the family and hold the funeral meal here, with the service at the Baptist Church next door. An emotional week, sad but with happy memories, celebrating the full life of a well loved man. Last week Baptist Minister's training filled the Centre with wonderful singing (much appreciated by our community guests) and lots of chat & laughter. We had the chance to talk Portuguese again as well as one of the ministers is Brazilian!
We've also been working hard to move the chalet project forward. The tender papers are now out to contractors and we hope to have received all our quotes by the 7th Feb. We need the quotes to apply to the Enterprise Ready Fund. Please pray for the success of that application. Praise God we have had a few more donations for the building work already this year, which is very encouraging.
Last Friday Iain & Anne joined other friends from Pitlochry Baptist Church at the launch of CAP  in Aberfeldy. CAP (Christians against Poverty) is a debt relief agency which supports people in debt, helps them with budgeting, renegotiates their debt and provides them with moral support through befrienders throughout the process. John Swinney formally opened the new CAP project which will serve the whole of Highland Perthshire and said that CAP was a valuable addition to existing bodies as the church is present in every community in Scotland making debt relief accessible in rural communities, where travel is a challenge and comes at a cost. He said that although the perception is that Highland Perthshire is an affluent area, he and MP Pete Wishart (who was also there) see many in their surgeries suffering from financial hardship.(In fact we were told in the CAP presentation that 42% of families in rural Perthshire have difficulty in making ends meet.)  He called CAP a devoted and inspired contribution to tackling financial hardship and welcomed the church throwing open its doors to help people. It's really good to hear that Pitlochry Baptist is joining  Aberfeldy Parish Church in supporting the CAP project.  
So, exciting things happening locally.