18th Dec 2015

Wishing you a joy filled Christmas 
and a happy & blessed New Year

from all of us at the Atholl Centre

Iain, Anne, Chris & Wilma
                                                     Sat 28th Nov

It’s the first weekend of advent and Pitlochry is hotching with people at Pitlochry’s first Christmas Festival which includes 2 craft fairs and the Church of Scotland Christmas tree festival. Our Christmas tree was on the theme of mental wellbeing and we worked together with Pacer to make the decorations. Christmas is a time of great pressure for people suffering from stress, depression, ill health and bereavement and they need our prayers and support to help them through. That’s why the support groups here are so important. A pocket guide to coping through Christmas has been published by Plusperth & will be available at reception.

It was a great shock to us all to hear that one of our regulars Fred Smith passed away suddenly last week. Fred wrote books here with the help of Jim from Adult Learning and at soup lunch last Friday he had been telling everyone that his latest book had just been published. We’ll miss him greatly. Support worker Pam wrote, “You (at the Atholl Centre) had all become one of the cornerstones of his life: keeping a friendly, watchful eye on him and treating him with the great respect that he deserves.” 

The terrible events in Paris have affected us all and this month we have heard from 3 of our French interns. Clara says “I miss you”. Camille says “Thanks” (for our support) and Alexia says “Pray for France.” Michal has also been in touch from Poland. He is settling in well to his course and produced another new video with footage he took while he was here. Amazingly it features Fred. 

We took advantage of the launch of White Christmas to open for B&B this weekend, the only one this month where we have not had groups. We have had 5 residential groups this month including youth and elderly, able bodied & disabled, church groups & community groups. In the quieter mid weeks Iain & Anne have been to a number of training & networking events to improve what we do here. Iain went to the Scottish Conference for managers of Christian conference and outdoor centres and attended one of the Perth Business Week seminars. Anne went to a seminar about “The future of the Web”, a funding networking evening and a workshop on filing on your computer. She also picked up an award for our community garden at an “It’s Your Neighbourhood” presentation event in Stirling.

Generous donations of apples supplemented the first apples harvested from our garden so we could make apple crumble for our guests and Spiced Apple Jam (available here for a donation to our building fund). Talking about donations, the fund for our conference room has continued to grow and more grant applications have been sent out in the hope of reaching our total in the new year. Please pray for their success. After much deliberation we have ordered the AV for the new room (which had to be organised before year end due to grant restrictions). It will be installed when the new room is built.

Fillers for the Blythswood shoebox collection here were sent off at the beginning of the month and people have continued to give to the food bank. Christians Against Poverty held a special lunch in Aberfeldy where they shared how they had been blessed and been able to bless others through helping people out of debt and supporting them on that journey. They’re aiming to raise another £2,000 before year end to complete their funding. They use our foodbank as emergency aid and Iain picked up a fresh supply of their books and leaflets, so if you want to know more, do pick up their literature at reception.

Mon 19th Oct
Thank you to everyone who gave during our crowdfunding campaign. In the last week with additions to both on-line and off-line donations we jumped from  £2,330 to £6,638. That is amazing. And even better, we discovered that when this was added to the donations to our building fund since April this year, we have raised over £10,000 through private giving. That is incredible. What brilliant supporters we have & what a brilliant God. This means that aiming for our conference room target of £110,000 to start building we have now raised £89,800. We're well on our way, but £20,200 still to go, so please keep on praying. PS. Wow - another £150 arrived this morning! Thank you so much.

This week has been the second of 3 weeks of the Atholl Gallery craft fair which is held twice a year at the Centre. Local artists & crafters use this opportunity to sell their hand-made goods, with 20%  of their profits going to charity each time. It's a great encouragement to local folk whether their crafts are a hobby and people buying their work gives them pleasure & confidence or part of their small business giving them a new shop window and it's good to see people working together for mutual benefit. Our latest video goes behind the scenes at the Gallery & The Rotary Young Artist of the Year Competition as the Atholl Centre promotes creativity in our community.

Also this week we've been busy with B&B as Enchanted Forest gets into it's stride.This year's show is called Flux - yet more fascinating creations in light & sound to delight audiences. The story telling Yurt is there again & a graceful acrobat dances in the air above the loch.They're anticipating 55,000 visitors this year and it fairly extends the "season" in Pitlochry. 

The fact that as well as residential groups & community groups we do seasonal B&B helps us play a part in the town's tourist industry - Pitlochry's main economic identity. Participating in Pitlochry Partnership we network in our local business community where it's good to help each other out. Did you know 2 local coffee shops offered vouchers for coffee & cake to add to our crowdfunding campaign? And when a primary school ski trip threatened to go belly up last year due to the snow gates being closed it was the local fish & chip shop who knocked on our door for help. Being in a tourist area also means when you come to visit for your conference or holiday as well as being surrounded by beautiful countryside you're never stuck for something to do. So hope you can come & see us sometime.
We’ve just been taking a trip down memory lane, looking at past Centre newsletters. It’s incredible to see how God has both used & blessed the Atholl Centre to His glory.
The letters start from June 2008 and have continued twice yearly since. You can read them for yourselves on our website. Just go to the “Support Us” heading & find newsletters in the drop down menu on the right hand side.
Developing our vision
In 1969 the Centre was founded with 3 charitable aims: (abridged version)
To promote Christian teaching & discipleship, especially amongst young people
To build up young people to serve in society
To serve the disabled & disadvantaged in society by bridging the gap

8 years ago when Iain  became manager his aim was to stay true to the original aims of the Centre with one difference – In  the first & second aims, instead of being mainly for young people, education & training leading to spiritual growth & good citizenship  was going to be for all ages.
To make these easier to grasp we created a vision statement (also in “support us”), which distilled these aims into 3 areas: training, bridge-building & refreshing.

Training - Serving the church – both local & national
Throughout these years Pitlochry Baptist Church has enjoyed the Centre’s facilities having church lunches, fundraising events & packing shoeboxes for Blysthwood in the dining room.  The children & young people regularly use Centre rooms on Sunday mornings throughout the year and the WA soup lunch has progressed from fortnightly to weekly meetings from Oct – Easter. Mission Possible also meets here monthly.
The Baptist Union of Scotland has used the Centre regularly for Baptist Ministers’ training. May 2011 says a powerpoint presentation at the Baptist Assembly put us firmly back on the map, and use by Baptist Churches & support from Baptist Churches has grown since. We are also used by Christian groups of many other denominations, for alpha groups, church family weekends, youth groups and leadership weekends and to support Christian social ministries. About 68% of our residential groups are run by Christians and 56% are some form of training
Training - Volunteering
As well as volunteers from our local church who encourage us immensely, we have had other local volunteers and a lot of foreign interns to help us in the summer, both through Baptist networks abroad and taking interns from our twin town of Confolens to help with their college courses.  Michal first came as a tourism intern, but we discovered he was a skilled video maker when he showed us videos he made for his church in Poland. He writes "
One of the better-known benefits of volunteering is the impact on the community. The Atholl Centre offers gardening, housekeeping, maintenance, office work but also general help around the place. We have volunteers of all ages, nationalities and abilities, helping out with the smallest tasks and making a real difference to their lives and the people they meet." I hope you enjoy this week’s short video on volunteering.
Bridge-building - serving our community
 This is one of the places God has led us – to the heart of our local community, supporting & encouraging in Christ’s name.  May 2010 comments on how busy we are with adult literacy, English as a second Language, U3A,  pain-management, disability support, Amnesty International & Madcaps – and we now have over 15 different community groups meeting regularly here. Our good reputation has spread through Perth & Kinross Council and Perth & Kinross Voluntary Services, so we are being recommended for community initiatives in Pitlochry (hosting new support groups for mental health, carers, bereaved folk & building a community garden as well as being the venue of choice for health & wellbeing events)

Iain with Angela from CAPS
We are also the official emergency Centre for Pitlochry with a generator point to use in the event of power failures or bad weather events and we are the local food bank, used by Christians Against Poverty debt counselling in Aberfeldy as well as referrals from citizens advice & social work. As we are known locally as the Baptist Centre, the positive impact we are having in our community is seen by the town as part of our local church’s outreach
Bridge-building - Supporting the disabled & disadvantaged nationally
43% of our residential groups are for the ill, the disabled or those in social need. The See Hear deaf Group & Children with Heart Disorders have been regular Centre users for many years and although we have been able to have a number of other groups in this category including asylum seekers, children’s home holidays, alcoholics anonymous & ex-convicts & drug users, it became clear that in order to grow this aspect of the Centre’s ministry our disabled facilities would have to be improved. The 40th anniversary project was born.

Praise God for the successful funding of our new disabled facilities, allowing us to build our service to disabled users. Deputy First Minister John Swinney, who opened them last June commented “The Atholl Centre is not just fulfilling its potential in its locality but reaching out to people from other localities, surprise guests & to people in need, which is at the core of the Christian mission.” (Spring 2014)  Iain & Anne were missionaries in Brazil for 3 years with the Baptist Missionary Society (BMS World Mission) working in church related social work and always had a heart for practical Christian love, believing strongly that healing the hurting is as strongly at the core of Christ’s ministry as teaching about the Kingdom of Heaven and that the 2 have to go hand in hand.

Here’s a quote from Autumn 2011: We accept people for who they are and where they are. We’re both for people who believe and those who don’t yet believe, people who are healthy and those who struggle with illness, people who are part of the crowd and those who are marginalised. We are open to everyone in the name of Christ. We hope they will in return respect us as “works in progress”, followers of Jesus and running a Christian centre.
In spring 2014 we wrote, “Praise God for His provision & this tangible confirmation of our work” The last section of our disabled improvements is the conference room, and although on-line crowdfunding has stuck at £330, off-line we are now just over £2,000, which is wonderful. 

find out more
Refreshing  - B&B & respite
As well as being a charity, the Atholl Baptist Centre Ltd was also set up as a Company ltd by Guarantee because it was recognised that from the start the Atholl Centre had to be sustainable and the practical way of doing that was for the vast majority of folks using the Centre to pay for their board & lodging and use of meeting rooms. 
The Centre has always supplemented income from groups with both donations and B&B in order to be there & be affordable for core users. But B&B isn’t just a “filler service”. “Holiday makers come here for B&B from all over the world and enthuse about the warm & friendly service and relaxed atmosphere. We promote a gentle Christian presence, supplementing our caring service with a Christian bookstall for people to browse, Bibles and leaflets inviting visitors to local churches. We are "always ready to give an answer to those who ask the reason for our hope” 1 Peter 3:15.” (May 2011)

There are God opportunities in conversations, or when different guests meet, like when an alcoholic was helped to turn his life round by us and one of our regular Christian guests, or when a family from a difficult background made friends with the kids from the African Children’s Choir & experienced mutual acceptance & respect when they came, or when German holiday makers were so impressed that a group of adults with learning difficulties were sharing their breakfast table as equals. Then there are the times when Atholl Centre comes to the rescue – Last year a school ski group stuck on the road when the snow gates were closed in January and a German scout group (who turned out to be Lutherans) flooded out of their campsite, the kids having got dangerously cold and wet, in August.

We’re excited that the new disabled bedrooms & chalet allow us to promote respite short-breaks & B&B, and our recent stall at the Kidz Scotland disabled living exhibition showed there is a lot of interest in what we have to offer. So it's onwards & upwards:)
Have you ever seen leaf cutter ants at work – David Attenborough commentating on how they cut and manoeuver leaves many times their size, scuttling through the undergrowth to carry their burdens safely to the nest so that their young can be fed & nurtured –  feeding them a fungus they grow from the leaf mould I think.
Two weeks into crowdfunding & I must admit it’s been a slow start & I’ve felt discouraged. However as I was thinking & praying about this a picture of a leaf cutter ant came into my head. The ant stumbled a couple of times under its burden, almost dropping it but then continued gamely to the end, finally delivering its leaf to the nest. The platform is up for another 4 weeks, so please donate & help us make this accessible conference room happen.

As I’m writing a guest comes up with a donation. How’s that for encouragement! Thank you so much. While our on-line donations are at £255, off-line donations now stand at £1,300 so progress is better than I thought, but we’ve still a way to go, so I hope you too can offer us some encouragement & support.

Last week we were busy getting ready for a big exhibition in Edinburgh called KIDZ Scotland. It was all about disability living for families with a disabled child & was attended by over a thousand people and about 50 different exhibitors, including Anne & Michal manning a stall for the Atholl Centre. Over 90 people expressed an interest in staying at the Atholl Centre for a respite holiday and among them was at least one disabled school and a few local authorities and charities looking for places to recommend, so overall a very successful day.
Then on Friday it was Anne Pool’s funeral, from Pitlochry Baptist, & as well as  having some of the guests staying at the Centre everyone dropped tools to muck in & help prepare the funeral tea here. It was such a lovely occasion & a fitting tribute to Anne, who we remember dearly.
Going Solo group filled our weekend with friendly chatter & companionable meals & now we’re back in the office on Monday ready for another week. 
Here's our newest video - about the garden. Just one more reason why we invite you to support us. Hope you like it:)

                                             Friday 11th Sept 2015

I’m sitting here eating birthday cake while I write. We’ve got Persona Counselling training from Stirling University in this week & one of them had a birthday, so it’s nice to celebrate together & not be too serious as it’s been quite an intense week for them & I think they’re looking forward to a rest at the end. We’re looking forward to a bit of a break too as it’s been back to back groups for the last few weeks. Thankfully our hard work in the kitchen has been much appreciated as we’ve been catering for a variety of dietary needs, which has involved a good deal of imagination & juggling.
The ME group, who’ve been coming for a few years, were really pleased last week with all the changes we’ve made to our accommodation – the colours, the convenience of en-suites and the way they are ideal for folk with mobility needs were highly commended. “I’ve been in many hotel rooms which were supposed to be accessible, but none of them are a patch on what you have got here.” one lady commented. And in between those 2 we had Montrose C of S Youth Group !

 August began with B&B, meeting loads of new people from all over the world. These included a young English couple on holiday with her Chilean mother. They had never been to Scotland before & couldn’t believe how green and beautiful everything is here. “You are blessed” their mother commented. And then there was the small group from the Black Watch highland dancing group, Canada. They came to see Highland dancing in its ancestral home & Iain was able to help them enter for a local competition (where the girls won a couple of medals) & take part in our local Highland night. They thought it was awesome & thanked us by dancing for us at the Centre. You can see the video on our facebook. They also loved our homemade jam, which has been on sale in the foyer for our conference room appeal.

Then the wave of residential groups began. First came a group of vulnerable adults, here for a relaxing short break from the Waddington Street Centre and straight after them we had Stand International which operates exchange visits for disabled groups from Eastern Europe & Scotland, so we had fun with disabled folk from Romania, Ukraine & Belarus, & as well as doing touristy stuff they visited disabled facilities round us and in Glasgow & Edinburgh. You’d be amazed how fast some of these young things wheech along the corridors in their wheelchairs!

When Persona leave it will be B&B for the Blair Atholl Horse trials which is so popular rooms are booked out a year in advance, and accommodation can’t be found near the time for love nor money. This year it’s not only gone international with an estimated 100,000 people booked to attend, but it also clashes with Pitlochry Highland Games so the whole town will be heaving with visitors this weekend.

During all this Michal & Anne have been preparing for our crowdfunding appeal. We were so happy to get the platform up & running, and we were wondering why so few people had noticed when we realised that 2 of the links in our last letter hadn’t worked. So much for technology! Please use this button to go to our crowdfunding page & we hope you do feel able to support us. Every donation counts.

Meanwhile our work hasn’t stopped. As well as writing updates & spreading the news, we’ll be releasing cameo video stories at intervals throughout the campaign to help you understand what goes on here at the Atholl Centre, and today’s video features last week’s ME group as they talk about their holiday in our accessible accommodation. I hope you enjoy it.

Today's the Day!
Today our crowdfunding campaign goes live. The culmination of weeks of preparation we're so happy to finally get it up & running. Take a look at:

We really appreciate the way you all support us
...and there are many ways people support the Atholl Centre:

Volunteering  - thank you. You help with daily tasks or offer specialist skills such as gardening, electrical, plumbing, DIY, baking and illustration.
Using the Centre Thank you. Some of you make a point of using the Centre for your group event or personal holiday so you can help us support vulnerable people.
Telling your Friends Thank you to all of you who tell your friends  & colleagues about us
Training Thank you to all of you who give us specialist advice & training & help us network
Prayer Support Thank you to everyone who prays for us & for the groups who use us
Fundraising Thank you for taking part in challenges such as marathons or cycle events, or holding coffee mornings, helping with bagpacks or putting on music & drama performances.
And Yes - some of you donate and have been doing so for many years. Thank you too.

So what's different about this appeal?
Well, first of all it's largely on the internet.
We were awarded a grant from Santander to pay a social media intern for 3 months and after quite a few applicants & 2 sets of interviews we appointed Michal

 Michal caught our attention because he was very enthusiastic about telling stories through video as a way of interacting with the public and drawing new people to our cause as well as  enthusing our current supporters. So as well as making the main video on our crowdfunding platform he plans to make a series of cameos telling stories about the people who come to the Centre. That's another way some people have helped us, by the way - by being willing to be interviewed & tell their story. 3 of our cameos have already been released,2 of them filmed & edited by Michal and one filmed by amateurs & edited by Peter Murray from the Media Trust. We hope you enjoy diving into Centre life throughout this campaign.  Here's a wee taster:
 A big thank you to some of the ladies from Pitlochry Baptist Church WA:) You were brilliant!

A huge well done and thank you to Jim, John, David and Iain for sharing this amazing story with us:) “Emergency Scout Rescue summer 2014.”

Atholl Centre - bringing people together.A quick introduction to what we do here. Thanks to Peter Murray from the Media Trust for editing our first attempts at video making.

Secondly, on crowdfunding platforms you receive rewards and are publicly acknowledged for giving donations
This is a way of saying thank you for supporting our project and showing you we appreciate your support. 
Now we know that a good number of our regular supporters might be uncomfortable with this, as you believe strongly that giving should be done quietly and promoting someone else's well-being or happiness is a reward in itself. But don't worry, if you prefer not to be publicly acknowledged or not to receive a reward just email us at admin@athollcentre.org.uk when you have donated and we will thank you privately & adhere to your preferences.

So please go to www.crowdfunder.co.uk/atholl-centre-pitlochry and have a think about how you would like to support us.

If you do wish to donate please donate soon.
Statistics show that if folk who already know a project & have already been inspired by the enthusiasm & dedication of those who are running it donate early in a campaign, it encourages donations from folk who hadn't heard of us yet but come across our project on the internet. So if you were going to donate anyway, then can I please ask you to donate at the beginning of the campaign to inspire others.
Thank you J

 Mon 24th August

Get involved. Help us share the news.

2 weeks to go till the launch of our crowdfunding appeal & I’m feeling nervous. Have we managed to attract your attention? Are we getting you on board? It’s all so nebulous I’ve got butterflies – that reminds me of the story of the storm butterfly which just by  fluttering its wings can influence the formation of a hurricane several weeks later (chaos theory). Did you know there is a social media tool called Thunderclap, that if you can raise 500 followers you can use thunderclap to repost all Twitter& Facebook posts to spread the news? So this campaign starts with each one of you in your small corner – and we are asking you to help us spread the word about the Atholl Centre and this crowdfunding campaign. Can you help?

So why do we want you all engaged? Because that’s what crowdfunding is about – drawing a crowd. And what do we want you to be excited about? The new conference room we really want to build this year. And we’re so nearly there – this is the last push!
Here it is:
So what’s so exciting about a conference room?                                                Well, for a start it’s the last piece in the jigsaw for making the whole of our ground floor into a fully accessible holiday & conference complex with meeting rooms, a place to eat, en-suite bedrooms and even a fully accessible apartment. We’ve achieved so much over the last couple of years. This would make our ground floor complete. Those of you who have stayed here in the past will know how important it is to us, and to you, to offer equality of access to all the groups who use us.

But for the locals who use the Atholl Centre as a community venue it’s just as exciting because such a high percentage of folks here in Pitlochry are retired (25%) or have a disability or chronic illness (22%), so mobility problems are widespread & the current conference room upstairs has been largely useless for them. This new room will not only be easy to get in to (and out of), it will also have built in AV & loop meaning that the significant number of hearing aid users will be able to join in properly to whatever is going on, and when they meet for U3A or WA lunch club for example even videos & presentations will be accessible because the loop will be fully connected to the AV.

Thirdly, this new room will help to make the Atholl Centre more sustainable. How? First it will save us money because having our accessible conference room on the ground floor will mean no future lift costs – either to maintain the lift (~6K per year) or to buy a new one. Second it will make us money. We intend to open up a new income stream in commercial day conferences so we can earn money with this room when the community and residential groups are not using it to balance out the discounts we give to vulnerable & community users, meaning we will no longer have to rely on donations to keep us going.

Now do you see why it’s exciting? Please support us by telling your friends. Share this blog through your emails. Follow us on social media & share/retweet/repin for us.
Thank you J


                     Fri 7th Aug 2015

July was a combination of rest & very hard work. While the Irish Scouts had a great time on their self-catering break Iain & Anne were on holiday and Michal & Lucas our summer volunteers arrived from Poland. Immediately after that we opened for summer B&B. We’ve had a variety of guests from many countries and have had a few chances to practice our foreign languages, with quite a few guests from France & even a family from Brazil. The weather hasn’t been very welcoming, but it’s surprising how many people from hot countries like the cool & the green. We’ve also had folk in the flat and the chalet. It’s good to see the chalet come into its own as an accessible apartment and as accessible B&B. 
A recent guest commented," Our room was the best disabled room ever - you wouldn't get that even in a top hotel and the colours are gorgeous."

A couple of weeks ago we had a Free Church girls’ camp, again self-catering, so our staff  had some time off & a chance to be refreshed & ready for the next lot of B&B guests. The girls had great fun visiting the Highland Wildlife Park & Landmark amongst other things & it was lovely to hear them singing as they did their chores first thing.

Pitlochry Arts & Crafts sale is on again  in the dining room and 20% of sales go to local charities. This is a great place to do some very early Christmas shopping and a good rainy day activity! Open Monday to Saturday 10am to 4pm Sundays 2 to 6pm, on till 15 August in the dining room.

A big Thank You to everyone who gave and helped with our Thrift shop. We raised over £700 and then a further £800 arrived from the Fargher Noble trust fund. Then we got news we had been awarded £6,000 from the Rank Foundation and another £500 came in anonymously. All this will help towards the new accessible conference room we hope to build this year.

We’d like to create a new conference room downstairs by extending & dividing our current dining room with a movable soundproof partition to create 2 large rooms, each seating 60, or when the partition is opened one enormous room, ideal for very large conferences & ceilidhs. The extension will have built in AV to bring our conference facilities into the 21st century and a loop system for the deaf which in combination with it being a ground floor room will make it as accessible as possible for all abilities. Having a completely accessible conference room will be a boon both to our residential and our community groups and we hope having up to date AV will also help us to generate more income through day conferences, making us more sustainable & enabling us to be there for those in need.

Currently we have raised £81,000 towards this project through grant funding & community fundraising. We still need a minimum of £29,000 and as well as waiting for news about a grant request for £20K we hope to raise the remainder through crowdfunding. Crowdfunding is where we reach out to people through the internet using social media like facebook, twitter etc. to publicise what we’re trying to raise money for & ask for donations. We will also be running local events to help us reach our total e.g. the Thrift shop here in July. Could you put on an event where you live to help us raise those last few thousands? We’ve a whole list of ideas if you need some inspiration…

Our big news is that we have at last recruited a social media intern to help with our crowdfunding campaign too. Thanks for your prayers. We had 7 applications and 2 people came for interview, but Michal impressed us with his creativity & video making skills & his understanding of how to get people engaged. Thanks to Michal we're now on Pinterest, Youtube and Instagram as well as Facebook and Twitter, making the Centre much more visible online.
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