Tuesday 13th December (Catch Up)

"So you're back," you say. "What happened?"
A lot. Anne writes: "I was in the middle of writing September's post when I was called to provide emergency care for my brother in the States. I returned when he was allowed to drive again but soon after I got home he took ill again and much to our shock passed away." As our main communications person Anne's absence for several weeks left a big gap. However she had already completed her main remit: to raise enough money so all the ground floor alterations could take place - an incredible success story - so the trustees had already confirmed her contract was to end when she had to disappear to the States. So we'll be saying farewell at our Christmas meal next week and she'll leave to begin a new chapter. We'll all miss her at the Centre and wish her well for the future. Here is her final blog:

Art therapy in full swing
October was Wellbeing month  - designed to highlight all the things you can do to keep yourself well both emotionally and physically. At the Atholl Centre our focus was very much on making friends and trying out new activities as social isolation is a big problem here, both for the elderly and for those with mental health problems, so we collaborated with Highland Perthshire's Care Co-operative, Perth & Kinross Council's social prescriber, Plus Perth (the mental health charity who have been using our garden to grow veg this year) and the WA soup lunch to put on a taster event at the Centre on the first Friday of October.  As well as lunch we had massage, art therapy, creative writing, garden crafts, a  Care Co-op stall, a listening post and  a community activities display.
All set to make seed bombs in the garden
Although the lunch was well attended as usual, visitors were a bit more shy about visiting our taster events. Here is what one older lady wrote on the theme of being alive: "Nature helps me feel alive. There is not enough love.  I find it difficult to get motivated. I never used to have any bother, just since I became ill." Others talked about the importance of love too and creativity, and those brave enough to try something new said the things they tried did help. We hope the Centre's new  inclusive facilities will enable more people to try new things, break out from loneliness, find a loving community and unleash their spirit and their creativity - find fullness of life.

Anne manned an Atholl Centre stall at the Wellbeing launch event in Perth too - both to promote our new conference room and to advertise our accessible residential facilities for group holidays & conferences and for personal & family short breaks. It was a great opportunity to talk to other caring charities & organisations and quite a few  new people showed interest in what we have to offer. A new group who have had their first meeting here as a result of Wellbeing outreach is called Care after Cancer.

Enchanted Forest
October is Enchanted Forest month - Pitlochry's Son et Lumiere event, which has become internationally renown and this year had over 70,000 visitors, with tickets sold out early in the month. So most of our month was hugely busy with B&B. However we still had 3 weekend conferences (2 churches and a U3A from Edinburgh) and the annual Pitlochry 3 week craft fair, which had to be held in our upstairs conference room due to the build. Craft fair enthusiast Dee held court with a sample stall in the foyer to direct people up to the main display and make sure no-one got lost. So just as well Damian, Kasia & Anya were here to help out. They left with our  grateful thanks at the end of the month. Iain thoroughly enjoyed meeting so many of you at the Baptist Assembly at the end of  October where he had a stall to help him share our news.

Dima hard at work
In November Dima (short for Dimitri) arrived from Belarus. Another Stand International intern, he'll be with us till the Spring. He's very chatty and loves to keep busy. He's already joined in with football at the Leisure centre, Men's Curry Night with the church and helped out at the theatre in his spare time. This late in the year it was great to have 4 residential groups: Wholeness Through Christ Retreat, Baptist Union Next Stage Ministry, Friends International students and Chinese Christian Fellowship (Edinburgh). The last 2 were self-catering, giving our staff the welcome relief of weekends off. We  had a couple of day conferences too (Spina Bifida Scotland and Scottish Churches network) and are grateful to the church for letting us use the sanctuary when it's been too messy or noisy to use our own rooms.

WA soup lunch is meeting right up till Christmas but has had to have a few of their lunches in the church over the last few weeks as the build began work on the dining room. Other community groups have already stopped for the holidays. We received a lovely card and chocolates from the Autism support group. "Thank you for being so lovely & helpful." they said. Pacer (mental health craft group) said a sad goodbye as they have been offered  a free NHS room for their meetings. We'll miss you and your creativity!  Destiny (Plus Pitlochry) have started tidying up the veg plot for the winter with plans for fresh outreach to therapeutic gardeners in the New Year. Art class met today in the newly floored dining room even though the painter & AV people were working away in the other side of the room!

 Our Blysthwood shoebox Chrsitmas tree
We took part in the Pitlochry Christmas tree festival with a Blysthwood shoebox tree rhis year as we are a collecting point here, and last week Iain went to school to officially receive on behalf of the Trussel Trust and our foodbank  food donations the kids had collected (Well done guys!) together with a cheque from the TSB. This month we had one day conference - John Muir Trust - and the Scottish  Junior Orienteering Squad came for a self catering weekend, finding their way through the Black Spout Woods as part of their trail on Saturday.

The build is reaching its conclusion slowly but surely. The new conference room will be finished by Christmas­čśŐ - the AV has just been fitted, the partition is due to arrive on Monday and the carpet will go down next week. Work will begin on giving the corridor & foyer a face-lift next week too. The outside  work however will not be finished until after the New Year,

A big thank you to everyone who has put so much work in to getting this finished and to our funders who made it all possible  - from drawing up the plans, tendering & getting permissions through to the build itself:
Installing the new AV

LEADER Scottish & European Funding, the Community Innovation Fund, the Goodnews Scotland Health Trust, the Northwood Charitable Trust, the Gannochy Trust, the Rank Foundation, Santander, the Robert Barr Trust, The Tay Charitable Trust, the Garfield Weston Foundation, Kola's Trust, the Jimmy Cairncross Trust, the Thomson Trust, the Fargher Noble Trust, the Tillyloss Trust, the Alexander Moncur Trust, Miss ME Swinton Paterson's Charitable Trust, the James T. Howatt Trust, the Enchanted Forest Community Fund, the Burrows Charitable Trust and of course all our supporters - individuals, churches and community groups - who have donated to our building fund over the past couple of years and  during our crowdfunding campaign last year.

Above all we praise God. What a wonderful provider we have! May He empower us to serve others and change lives for the better well into the future.

Here's a video to wish you all a wonderful Christmas. God bless & keep you now and in the New Year.

Iain, Anne, Wilma & Chris

 Thursday 13th October (September blog)

Life is full of ups & downs & the Atholl Centre is no exception. 
The bad news:The new conference room is running well behind schedule. 
The good news: The roof problem has at last been sorted out and the section of the roof which was giving us problems has now been completely replaced.

Half of the old dining room roof is replaced

The new roof lights finally go in
The Bad news: This unexpected eventuality has cost us over £10,000, so we have had to cut back on updating all the electricals in the foyer and corridor. So - no new lighting, no new power points in those areas, meaning the approach to the new room won't be as bright and well presented as we'd planned.
The Good news: The conference room will still be amazing with lots of natural light, well insulated for both sound and heat, with the loop and built in AV (including bluetooth technology) as planned. Choosing the carpet now. The dining room floor will also be updated as planned with new lighting and a new wooden floor. There will be a smooth & level transition when the soundproof partition is open allowing the 2 rooms to be used as one when greater space is required. So that part is all good.

We're currently fundraising for new curtains and chairs. This is primarily because the old conference room will not be transformed into 3 bedrooms in the immediate future, so that furniture will still be needed there. We are taking a break from big transformations for the moment, now we have achieved everything we had aimed for on our ground floor, and are going to be concentrating on consolidation now i.e. focusing on doing what we do best - serving you and encouraging even more of you to use our new & improved facilities.
However there is the small matter of the roof... Iain will be at the Assembly at the end of this month with all the details.

 In September we had a mixture of familiar faces and new groups coming to stay.
Pony therapy
The highlight of the ME group's stay must have been the pony therapy as local riding display group Riders of the Storm brought in Dainty the Shetland pony to say hello. Art therapy and physiotherapy (massage) was also part of the  week's programme. How could we help your group to enhance their stay?  Ruchill Church & Going Solo also brought well kennt faces. New this month was a visit from the Aboyne disability centre and the month ended on a high as Stand International brought a sizeable group of disabled young people from Eastern Europe for 10 days with wheelchairs whizzing up & down the corridor & lots of fun & excitement. As they are a self catering group  Atholl Centre staff made the most of the opportunity to take a well earned break after their busy summer.

The weather has been glorious and we  are enjoying a beautiful autumn with gorgeous colours. The month began with fantastic weather for Pitlochry Highland games. Great to see the bands parading through the streets.

Our last volunteer of the Polish trio, Paul (Pawel), left before Stand International arrived, but Hannah
...and it's goodbye to Paul
(interning  here through Stand Int.) was pleased to see all her friends again. Paul hopes to go on to Mexico next, but only a couple of weeks after he left his little sister Kasia  arrived,
keeping it in the family. Damian came back with big smiles & hugs - it was so lovely to see him -  with new girl Anya, also from Poland, to help us out in October. So we praise God for sending help at the right time keeping us going strong over the busy summer & autumn.