5th Sept (August Blog)     
What a difference a month makes!  The extension is up and the roof covering is due to go on. We’re still on track to get it finished in October, with the aim of having the dining room re-floored and up to size again by the end of September.

The new extension takes shape
As a continuation of our July thrift shop volunteer Daisy managed to sell a few items on ebay and raised over £300 last month. We're very grateful to have also had donations through both Stewardshsip  and MYDonate (which is the on-line donations platform we use on our website. We're linked with Easyfundraising too.) We were also awarded some more grant funding to help with the conference room. Just as well as there are always unexpected surprises – which usually cost money – this time the old roof has given us some problems. We need to install more skylights in the old roof to give enough natural light as that area is now enclosed, but it turns out the old roof was not designed to have new holes cut in it, so that will be expensive to resolve. So do keep on praying & giving. It’s not over till the fat lady sings. 

Daisy at Soldiers of Killiekrankie - they had a dressing up tent!
Ani & Sally dress up too

We loved having Ani & Sally with us in August and were sad to see them go so soon. They gave us a lovely friendship bowl in memory of their stay with us. A couple of weeks later Kasanya came just for a week followed by Hannah, both from Belarus and Hannah's settling in just fine. She's off to Glasgow today to do some training with Stand International & will be back afterwards. We were also sad to say goodbye to Erik & Damian who left at the weekend to return to university in Poland. They both worked so hard & have been a great help over the summer. Damian hopes to come back again next year though, so we're looking forward to that. Paul is still with us for a little longer. It’s been brilliant having our own little international community over the summer and we’re so pleased the sun has started to shine again for them. They were beginning to believe it rained all the time in Scotland
Ani (right) & Sally (left) say goodbye giving us a friendship bowl
Erik (right) & Damian(left) say goodbye too giving us a new mascot Martha the hedgehog
August has seen a lot of B&B including many international guests & the flat has been well used too. We continue to see quite a few vulnerable people using us for personal holidays, so please pray as we take the opportunity to listen, offer support and witness to God’s love. September will be mainly groups - we have the annual holiday for people with  ME with us just now and then a disabled group from Aboyne, Ruchill church, Going Solo and Stand International (disabled folk from Eastern Europe), so please pray for each group. October sees a return to B&B with a great opportunity to reach many new people as they come for the Enchanted Forest.
                                      The ME group helped us make this video last year

Our community garden is blooming thanks to Destiny Plus, one of our mental health groups. We won a next stage certificate from It’s Your Neighbourhood - a tribute to the progress we have made over this last year - and David put together our new picnic table set which makes the garden even more user friendly. We're trying to get more people using the garden as well as hoping to create the sensory area when the building work is finished, so if you're interested we'd love to hear from you. 
David makes up our new picnic table & chairs set
October is Wellbeing month designed to highlight all the things in the community people can get involved in to make new friends & keep healthy. We’re planning 2 events at the Atholl Centre on the 7th & 28th October from 11-3, so do pray as we organise these that they will be a great success in bringing people together and inspiring people to get more involved in their local community. Many of our community groups take a break over the summer and they are gradually beginning to start up again. It was Pacer's first day back today and we've just learnt we're getting a drop in literacy and IT through the council starting in October. We're working on more provision for foreign workers in Pitlochry at the moment, so please pray as we put in  funding applications  and talk to potential providers. We've also now met Perth & Kinross's social prescriber. Lots of ideas. Lots of possibilities. Please pray for wisdom as we find out what part we should play in developments in this area of our community.
  Tues  26th July 2016 (June & July blog)
The new conference room.
 Foundations in.  Walls going up

"When God calls you to be involved in something exciting that you really care about, you don't have to be pushed - the vision pulls you."  

We’re really excited that work on the new conference room started in mid-June. The foundations have now been laid and the walls are going up. Exciting! Thank you so much to everyone who has prayed & donated over the past months (and years) to make this happen. Your faithful support is amazing. God has also blessed us with grants great & small from a number of Trusts as well as Scottish and European government funding (LEADER), a loan from the Baptist Building Fund to help with cash flow and a bequest which made the timing of this build come together.If it were not for this bequest we would not have made the deadlines for securing match funding and would have lost a good deal of the money we had been promised! We continue to fundraise to cover unexpected expenses, so don't stop yet - we already had to have BT in to move a telephone pole- and our Thrift shop last week raised over £800. So a big thank you to everyone who donated and helped out.
Our Polish volunteers: Paul, Erik & Damien

Ani & Sally from Georgia
2 Polish lads, Erik and Paul came to  volunteer with us in June and have been a big help with painting & decorating.The TV room has had a makeover! Damian also from Poland joined them in July and a couple of weeks later Ani and Sally came from Georgia through our contact with the Christian charity for the disabled Stand International. Celia our French intern has now returned home. She really enjoyed her time here and she & the boys were a big help preparing for the wedding.
Tea & scones to say goodbye to Celia
What wedding? I hear you say. Iain & Anne's son Callum married Daisy (芝) in PItlochry Baptist church on the 2nd of July  and they used the Atholl Centre as their wedding venue. The bedrooms were filled with family guests (including Daisy's parents who came all the way from China), the foyer took on a Chinese theme, and the dining room was transformed (with the help of Make I Do and lovely friends) into a sparkling wonderland. Nel did a wonderful job with the catering and local band Ballinceol made the ceilidh go with a swing. Iain & Anne took 2 weeks off to get everything ready & clear up afterwards!
Callum & Daisy chat at their wedding meal

Having fun at the ceilidh

But that was just one weekend ! In June we had 3 church groups: YF, family & OAPs plus B&B for the Rob Roy way Fundraising Challenge weekend and as well as doing B&B, July has been a MECOPP month (Minority & Ethnic Carers) with Gypsy travellers and 2 groups of UK based Chinese as our guests, but the first group after the wedding was Persona counselling course  who had a graduation ceremony at the end of their week. 

The first Mental Health Training Day for Scottish Christian Centres took place in July too. Iain's brainchild, it was led by Kathleen Shearer who runs 1 of our 3 mental health support groups and was attended by 12 delegates from Christian outdoor & conference centres across Scotland. What did they think? "A most informative & interesting morning" Emily, Ardgour   "Most useful &  a good reminder of  the basic principles of caring for people with complex & varied issues." Andrew, Abernethy. Now to plan next year's!

Jenny from Destiny shows off her produce

Another of our mental health groups:PLUS Pitlochry (now renamed Destiny) has transformed our growing area. What a harvest this year! And they gave us a brilliant write up in their last newsletter. It's Your Neighbourhood (from Beautiful Scotland) came to judge our garden, so our brilliant volunteers came to the rescue again with a quick paint job for the raised beds and a busy weeding party to help Alastair our gardener make everything look spick & span. Thanks to Andrew Walker from Arran Baptist we now have some tree slices for the kids to sit on or use as stepping stones or as their fancy leads them. So the garden's looking great - in spite of all the construction work - and we're now making concrete plans for the development of the sensory garden once the outside work for the build is complete. In fact we hope to do a bag pack at the co-op to make sure we have enough for that project so keep an eye out on facebook for the dates.
Children's play area

Painting the raised beds. Look how they've grown

                                                Mon 30th May 2016
Life at the coal face
What an amazing month of sunshine we've had. Such a lovely change after snow in April! Suddenly nature has come to life and Pitlochry is looking gorgeous.
bluebells in May

Our first guests of the month were the See Hear Deaf Conference. It was a very special event as they were celebrating 43 years of meeting here at the Atholl Centre - one of our first ever groups! They reminisced about how the Centre had looked when they first came (and how some of them had looked as young people), the way Watson & Kathleen Moyes had first welcomed and encouraged them, and all the changes which had taken place since. They saw the first development of the Centre and were there before the main block was built and now they are seeing the new developments. This year was a turning point. The current leaders are retiring and as everyone is getting older they felt the present incarnation of See Hear had to come to an end. There were sad farewells at the door & promises to visit just for an ordinary holiday. Moves are afoot to see about another deaf holiday or conference in the future with the hope of attracting a new generation. 
                                       Outgoing & past leaders cut the anniversary cake
We had perfect weather for this year's Etape Caledonis Cycle Challenge. 5,000 cyclists  riding through 81 miles of stunning Highland Perthshire scenery and bringing their friends & families to cheer them on. The town was hotching! As usual the start & finish was right outside and the Atholl Centre was at the heart of the event hosting the HQ, the motorcycle marshals looking after safety on the road and the massage team helping out with those tight muscles both before & after the race. Event commentary took place in the carpark and the church joined in by handing out free tea &
cake to competitors & their families at the church gate.
 raising money for cancer care
  church folk welcome the cyclists
coming up to the finish line
Scottish Kids with Heart Disorders also had a sunny weekend. The Centre was full with 50 guests: 25 adults and 25 children (7 of whom stayed in their caravan at Faskally ). The kids enjoyed our new play area and the new tipi was set up as a wee den in the dining room for them.  They said, "We had great fun, great company and great weather. We managed to cycle, swim and put, along with a visit to the new park and the caravan. The children even had fun making arts and crafts and playing games while the adults chatted and played some games upstairs.Thank you to all who came and made the weekend relaxing, joyful and special for all who attended." They gave us a lovely thankyou card saying how great the food was and how they had had brilliant time in Pitlochry yet again.
                                     SACHAD families pose for a photo at the new park
                                                Playing games in the dining room

Lodging house mission for the homeless thoroughly enjoyed their respite week and then it was an Autism support group from Edinburgh here for  the first time on the following weekend. We've also had a few B&B and self-catering apartment guests including folks walking the Rob Roy Way, so it's been a busy month.

We're glad to say Celia, our French intern arrived safely & is settling in to the Centre well, She says Hi. Please make her welcome when you see her.

Breaking new ground
We had our first conference room site meeting this month. It's so exciting - it's really happening! We took the opportunity at the Retired Baptist Minister's away day to capture a historic moment as Watson Moyes, founder of the Atholl Centre, Alan Berry, Chairman of the Trustees and Iain Walker (Director) poured over the plans. So we're aiming for work starting on Mon 13th June (please pray for no more delays - one of our funders is having IT problems and we can't start without them). We're trying to keep disruption to a minimum, so we're happy to say the dining room will still be in use for most of the build,
                                       Watson, Alan & Iain - from the past to the future

The garden is growing. As well as getting a tipi for the children's play area we are please to say that PLUS Pitlochry (People Like US mental health support) have started planting up our raised beds and will be meeting at the Centre twice a week to chat & to garden. Anne attended an It's your Neighbourhood event in Stirling to talk about our garden as part of training new assessors. They loved our video & wish us well for our hopes for growth. It was good to hear about other gardening projects too. She also went to see a project called Happy n Healthy in Rutherglen through our local Social Enterprise Network - it's so good to hear other people's experiences and to learn from them.
I'll leave you with our garden video from last year. Enjoy.

                                                     Tues 26th April 2016

April's Thrift shop
A big thank you to everyone who helped out at our 2 weeks of Thrift Shop – first week for the Atholl Centre conference room appeal which made £800 & 2nd for the refugees (Red Cross & MSF) which made £600. The leftover goods went direct to the local Red Cross shop at the end which will surely raise the refugee total substantially as the room was choc-a-bloc with goods. It is brilliant to have so much support from our local church & community both in donating goods to sell and manning the thrift shop.

Garden toys in the play area
The children’s area of the community garden is now open for use. The sand pit is up and garden toys are in the toy store. This area is particularly suitable for younger children and we hope to see it well used by kids from church & Centre alike, but it’s snowing again! We have a group called Plus Perth (therapeutic gardening for mental health) interested in helping us develop our garden and getting more volunteers involved, so we're looking forward to seeing the garden filled with busy people.

The new sandpit

Red cord card in our disabled loos
This month has been busy with conferences and breaks covering all our bases, starting with a ladies conference, then UFM missionary society, East Kilbride Girls brigade, Persona Counselling here now and finally the Deaf Christian Fellowship to come next week. I’m sure the Deaf Fellowship will be impressed with our new deaf alarms. As well as being linked in to our fire system these flashing & vibrating alarms can also be used as alarm clocks.  We’re also pleased to have received a bunch of review cards and red cord cards from Euan’s Guide, a guide to accessible venues set up in 2014 by inspired individual Euan Macdonald from Edinburgh who was diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease in 2013. His disabled access review website & smartphone app is really successful & giving people with disabilities the confidence to move beyond their comfort zone and visit new places.
The new deaf alarms

Nel laden with groceries
Over 90 people attended the UFM weekend conference. All the meetings were here, our accommodation was full and others stayed at local B&Bs or just came for the day. So it was a busy but happy time & had a great buzz. We've needed to replace the vinyl in 3 of our new en-suites already as there have been issues with the quality & then a leak was found when the vinyl was taken up, so it was a huge rush to get it all finished before the Girls Brigade arrived. They wrote "All the girls and leaders of the 7th East Kilbride Girls' Brigade wish to say a big thank you to Iain and his staff for another fab weekend. They looked after us well and the food was great too." It’s great to have Nel our cook back with us after a spell down south & she’s come back with lots of new cooking inspiration too. Sunday saw an amazing new veggie option with lentils, peanuts & coriander which smelled delicious.

David K. our electrical volunteer has been working hard to improve the coverage of our wifi, so trust it to be when the counselling course need internet connection that we were still having problems.Praise God Angela & Richard fixed it yesterday afternoon. Just in time. Thanks guys:)

The food bank continues to be needed too. WA soup lunch has its last meeting at the end of April and then on the first Friday of May there will be a taster session for local ready meals for the elderly. If you’re local feel free come along and try them out.

Leaving the best till last, we have really good news. We’ve just heard we now have enough funding to go ahead with the extension to the dining room to make the new accessible conference room with AV & deaf loop on our ground floor. We have still to set a date for work to begin, but hope it will be no later than June. Thank you for all your prayers. God is good. Now you can pray for the architect’s team and builders as they plan for the start of work.

 May is set to be another busy month. Celia from France will be arriving in mid May for a 6 week internship. Please say hello & make her feel welcome. As well as praying for God’s blessing on our community groups and those who visit us for rest & training, please pray for strength for staff over a very busy period, especially with the build coming up.  

Happy Easter!
Hope you had a great Easter weekend. On Easter day we celebrate that Jesus overcame death - the final frontier - so Easter is a celebration of new life.and new hope. Pitlochry churches celebrated Good Friday with an early morning meditation walk carrying a cross round the town and Easter day with a joint garden communion as well as Easter services in each church. 
Do you like our Easter garden?
Just like the Alps, Above Loch Erichty
There were lots of Easter egg hunts for locals and visitors alike and local restaurants were crammed with family get togethers and hotels & B&B with visitors. We had a few ourselves. However the school Easter holidays are still to come & just about to begin. The good news is the Atholl Centre is open for B&B for the first 2 weeks of April so we can share our amazing scenery and green space with you. Did you know that scientists now recognise there are tangible health benefits from experiencing nature? Here are some pics taken on a lovely walk last week on a beautiful blue sky day not far away at Loch Erichty. Why not book now & enjoy a breath of fresh air at the Atholl Centre.
A beautiful view of the loch
10th anniversary cake
We've been making plans to make the most of the  Atholl Centre community garden too. Anne went to a Trellis conference (starring Jim McCall of the Beechgrove garden) who encourage & support therapeutic gardening. She picked up quite a few contacts & ideas to make sure our garden is used to give our local community hope & delight. A mental health charity called PLUS Perth has shown an interest in helping us take things forward.

Jim McCall plants a tree to celebrate Trellis' 10th anniversary
We've had a few groups to stay this month too. Prestonpans & Lesmahagow Youth Groups both had a fantastic time self-catering and enjoying the great outdoors. A group of elderly Chinese carers came from Edinburgh for a mid week holiday too. Their trips included a Highland Safari and a visit to Blair Castle. They were so happy to be here and touched to be greeted in their own language (We learned  a few words in China at our son's wedding). Baptist minister's wives have just arrived, so it's all go. Just in time to join in with the Welcome All soup lunch. I was hearing recently this lunch club has over 80 locals on their books, so it's brilliant to see a community group using the Centre so well.

We're also waiting with bated breath for the results of recent funding applications. It's looking very hopeful the ground floor conference room will get off the ground soon - possibly even in May - and these final requests will help us implement the plans in full so please pray for success. We continue to fund raise in the community and we have a Thrift shop running for 2 weeks (4th - 14th April) The first week is to fundraise for the conference room - this is the last push to make it happen - and the second is to help support refugees living in desperate conditions through the Red Cross and Medecins Sans Frontieres. So please bring us your spare stuff (toys, bric a brac, CDs etc) and remember to come & see if there's anything you'd like to buy too.

  Thursday 25th Feb 2016

Did you ever get that feeling the weather just can't make up it's mind? We've been having beautiful sunshine here for the past week and today it snowed again. It's wonderful to see the spring flowers begin to bloom - snowdrops, winter aconites & even catkins.

 And Pitlochry community has been emerging too with Lent meetings hosted by Churches Working Together in the run up to an early Easter this year, a Big Hearted Valentine's Day Ceilidh to raise funds for refugees and a packed NHS consultation on how to improve out of hours provision in rural areas.

More community groups have got going here at the Atholl Centre too. Madcaps music & drama and Art classes started up again this month, both led by ladies who have worked hard to serve their community, but who have had a series of health knocks over the past wee while, so praise God they're on the mend now. Fiona Johnstone, community liaison for PKAVS, another lady who gives endlessly for the community is ill just now. Please pray for her. And talking about illness, Eve (English as  Foreign Language teacher) who had to give up due to ill health hasn't yet been replaced. So that's another thing you can pray for as a fresh surge of foreign workers will be arriving in Pitlochry soon for the tourist season.

Staff here have been affected by the nasty colds /flu going round too so maybe it's just as well we were less busy at weekends than we anticipated with just 2 weekend groups this month - Persona Counselling training & Dundee Central Baptist Church. 2 day conferences also took place this month and we had a small retreat group  in the Chalet and a personal retreat in the flat. 
Ben Y Vrackie from the top of Pitlochryn

There is plenty of availability for self-catering in the flat & the chalet coming up so do recommend us to your friends. We'll shortly be putting them on booking.com to ensure they get used, so get in now before it gets busy. You can book on our website or at bookings@athollcentre.org.uk or call us on 01796 473044.

 We'll also be open for B&B at the Easter weekend and in the first 2 weeks of April to fit in with the school Easter holidays. I read an interesting article recently about a scientific study pinpointing how nature promotes well-being and we've plenty of nature here, so come & enjoy it & tell your friends.

We're holding 2 Thrift shops over the Easter holidays too. The first week (4th-9th April) is to help us raise funds for the new conference room (see below). The second (9th- 14th April) is to help raise funds for the Red Cross and Medecins Sans Frontieres to help out with the ongoing refugee crisis, so please donate goods & come & buy too.

This month has seen plenty of activity from our Trustees with a Council of Management meeting looking at last year's accounts and making future plans. We're pleased to say we're really making  progress with the plans for the new Conference Room. We were 3 grants away from complete funding, but we got a phone call yesterday confirming a grant of £7,500 from the Northwood Trust, which is excellent news, so now only 2 to go. We're presenting a complex application to LEADER, who meet in April for a crucial chunk of funding and also have an important application in to the CMH Trust who meet in March. We're getting so close to finally building! Please pray. 

Last blog I showed the Nick Vujicic book for sale here at the Centre. Here's a video to whet your appetite and make you smile:)

 Mon 1st Feb 2016

Happy New Year! - I'll just squeeze it in as this is the first blog of 2016, but already January is over and we're into month 2. So here's your catch up:

Christmas with the African Children's Choir
December was unusually busy with a 10 day visit from the African Children's choir on their Christmas break. It was lovely to have them again & great fun was had by all, with a surprise appearance from "Santa" in the form of Brian Downs. Pitlochry Baptist also enjoyed  hearing them sing when they came for the service on the Sunday before Christmas. Thank you to everyone who gave them gifts & presents.

January has been a quiet month on the residential side with the flat & chalet being used over New Year, but otherwise no groups to stay. This has allowed us to smarten up the upstairs bedrooms and corridors with a fresh coat of paint and a new carpet in room 11. Our new volunteer John has been a real star & he & Chris have done a sterling job. However this is a good time of year for ministers to come for retreats & short breaks. We had Eder & friends from Brazil (via Edinburgh) and today Grant arrived to stay in the flat. "Just finishing day 1 of a retreat in Pitlochry. I came here hoping to hear from God and I am not being disappointed. The weather is crazy outside but this has been one of the most peaceful days I've experienced in a long time."

Our community groups have started up again however and it's nice to have a constant stream of people most days and to feel appreciated and supported by those who use us. Iain & Anne were kindly invited to the U3A annual dinner - a lovely gesture by one of the groups who use us frequently. And they were invited to show photos of their recent trip to their son's wedding in China at the WA soup lunch. So wonderful to feel part of a bigger family and to have so many people interested in our lives. So the Atholl Centre family feel works both ways - supporting & encouraging our users, but also being encouraged by them.

January has also seen a rise in those using the foodbank. While we're glad to help, it's sad this service is needed.

New books for sale
What would you like to read?
This month we also took the opportunity to refresh our bookstall and have about 40 new titles to stimulate heart, mind & soul. What are you searching for?

We had a day conference with the Scottish Government and the Community Planning Partnership with delegates from all over Scotland last week . They were really enthusiastic about us as a venue, saying, "We wanted to bring people somewhere more ‘human’ than the usual corporate type venue and the Atholl Centre proved to be exactly the right choice. The importance of a personal touch was a theme in our conversations about how to improve public services across Scotland and the way you both took the time to look after us was much appreciated." So again this was a huge source of encouragement.

The other day we thought hardly anyone would turn up to WA soup lunch as the rain was horizontal and the wind was blowing people off their feet. But come 12  o'clock the wind had died and the sun come out & over 30 people had turned up! However the following day  there were supposed to be folk in the flat, the chalet and in for a committee meeting from different parts of the country, but snow and high winds  saw all those cancelled.

Earlier in the month we had flooding in Pitlochry as well. The Dam was overflowing spectacularly, the co-op was flooded and many shops on the main street had flooding in their basements. It's at times like this you realise just how many burns (streams) there are in Pitlochry. Compared to other places we have got off lightly though.

Winter weather's not all bad news as the snow on our beautiful countryside here looks absolutely stunning and there have been some lovely photos taken, especially of local mountain Ben y Vrackie. The fishing season opened on schedule and the ski season has been going well. Winter Words is on at the theatre too.
Winter words on at the theatre
So if you can get here, do. There's plenty of availability in the flat and the chalet and also, since 2 weekends in February (12 - 14th & 19th - 21st) were cancelled in January we have late availability for group bookings in February. Get in there while you can. We've been amazed how many organisations book their conference speaker before they have a venue and then experience problems with last minute venue bookings, as like us many venues are booked up at least a year in advance. So do take the opportunity to book for next year too. Just give us a phone (01796 473044) or drop us an email (bookings@athollcentre.org.uk).

We'll also be open for B&B at the Easter weekend and from the 4th - 15th April, so book now & get in at the head of the queue.