Tiumpanhead Community Association and Aignish Cemetery Committee were two of the biggest local beneficiaries of Point and Sandwick Trust recently, receiving £9,250 and £3,500 respectively. In the cemetery committee’s case, the money will be given annually.

Although Point and Sandwick support a wide range of causes throughout the Outer Hebrides with the profits from their community wind farm at Beinn Ghrideag, they have always made sure to support good causes on their own doorstep, in Point and Sandwick.

Therefore, they were happy to help Tiumpanhead Community Association with the costs of improving the kitchen at the community centre, which will enable the community association to launch a cafe and do some outreach as well as providing a social hub.

The cafe will be held on the last Saturday of every month — from around 10am to 3pm — and is being organised to raise funds for the community association. This will help with the costs of maintaining the community centre and the rest of the site of the old Aird school, which the community association bought last year.

For those who don’t know, the community centre was attached to the back of the school before the school was demolished. The association are considering options for how best to develop the site for future use — and welcome all suggestions.

However, they have the opening of the cafe to look forward to in the not-too-distant future. It will be run mainly by the association committee and will open for the first time on Saturday, March 31 — the Easter weekend — and provide light meals such as soup, paninis and toasties, as well as tea and coffee and cake, and child-friendly options.

Point and Sandwick Trust gave the community association £9,250 to help them upgrade the kitchen to cafe catering standards and to meet the costs of food hygiene training.

Committee members will do most of the catering themselves although there are a number of designated ‘friends of the association’ who can be called on to help when required.

Association chair Grace Smith said they were relieved not to have to pay for the food hygiene courses — as “that costs quite a lot of money”.

The bulk of the money, though, is going on equipment including a gas cooker, coffee machine, grill for paninis and toasties, a dishwasher, double sink to replace the single one and some pieces of crockery. More electrical sockets are also needed.

Although the community centre kitchen was decent, Grace noted that “it was never intended as a catering kitchen” and had needed “a few tweaks” to bring it up to scratch.

They received the money before Christmas and are now sourcing best value purchases.

The cafe, to be held on the last Saturday of every month, is to be trialled for a year. It will be held “once a month initially to see how it goes”.

While the cafe is open, the association also hope to have some activities on in the hall — crafts, for example, and starting with an Easter egg hunt on opening day — to entertain the children and further increase local engagement.

The association hope the cafe will get public support and help “raise awareness” of the community centre itself, as well as raising funds for maintenance and development.

“We want the community centre to be used more, definitely,” said Grace. “We want people using it and being more aware of its presence, basically, so that when we do develop there, they will want to come and use it and spend time there.”

She added: “We want the community to come and tell us what they want built on the site. It’s got to be something that they’ll use so we’ll need the community to start integrating into the hall and using it more. We’re hoping the cafe is the first step in that.

“There’s a big thing about the elderly being isolated but we also want to get the children involved. They are the future of it. They’re the ones who will be taking over from us eventually and running a sports hall or whatever else we build. We want them involved from the start so they’ll take a pride in it.”

Grace described the grant as “fab”, saying: “We couldn’t have done this refurbishment without it. We couldn’t have afforded to buy all the pieces of equipment without this.”

She added the application process had been “very straightforward” and the money was received within days of being approved.

“PST were very helpful when it came to the grant application itself. There was no jumping through hoops at all. They were very good.”

She said she was “really, really looking forward” to the refurbishment and launching the cafe. “It’s going to be good. It’s going to be so nice to have a kitchen with everything that we need and we couldn’t have done it without the grant.”

Aignish Cemetery Committee also received a much-needed cash injection: £3,500 to allow them to peg their lair fees — and the money will be given every year as revenue.

Donald Nicholson, secretary of the committee, said the grant had saved them from having to put up lair fees by 25 per cent.

The fees had been £20 for around eight years but that was no longer sustainable. The grave digger had not had a wage rise for five years and other improvements were needed.

Lair fees are the cemetery’s only source of income, bringing in nearly £18,000 a year. The committee had agreed to put them up but the PST grant means they will no longer have to.

Dating back to around 1870, Aignish is one of the few remaining community-run cemeteries in the Outer Hebrides. The cemetery received £7,500 from PST previously in 2017 which went towards maintenance costs, such as fixing fencing and new equipment.

Donald Nicholson said the committee were “extremely grateful for this additional support as our principal income is almost entirely the annual lair dues which cover our costs but do not really allow us to maintain and improve the cemetery to the standard we would like.”

He added: “We now have an active maintenance committee working closely with Norman our grave digger and there are things we would like to do. The committee decided last year that a rise in lair dues was appropriate so that was set at £5.

“With this annual grant from PST this is no longer required and that proposed rise stays in the pockets of our lair holders.

“The grant not only benefits us but pretty well the whole of the Point area and really demonstrates the huge impact that PST are having now with the windfarm revenue.

“The maintenance committee are already looking at a project to have as many of the old fallen headstones raised and I would also like to see some form of historical project mapping the cemetery section by section.

“No doubt we will be back to PST shortly!”

• The picture above was taken at Tiumpanhead Community Centre during the community association’s Christmas lunch for the older folk in December.

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