This fall the Crieff Hills Retreat Center is asking for help.
Like so many churches, businesses and community groups, Crieff Hills has been dramatically affected by the pandemic. When the COVID-19 crisis began, they were forced to close all programs and accommodations. Although now open to individuals and very small groups as of July, they face a longterm disruption with bookings down 80%. “When the province told us to close our doors, we were devastated. Welcoming people is at the core of what we do,” says the director, Kristine O’Brien.
Normally, the retreat centre draws thousands of people to the area each year, hosting conferences and retreats on their historic property. Now they are facing long-term cancellations and extra costs due to stringent cleaning protocols. Add their usual slowdown in the winter months, and it is easy to see why they are struggling.
During the month of October, the centre will take to social media and writing to churches across the country asking for help to sustain them until 2021. They hope to find support from those who have fond memories of time spent there, as well as those who value local history. O’Brien explains that they work hard “to be good stewards of the historic land and buildings entrusted to them years ago by Col. John Bain Maclean” but keeping several historic homes and a barn in good repair requires constant upkeep and significant fixed costs.
Maclean was born in the village of Crieff in 1862 and went on to found Maclean Hunter Publishing in Toronto, including the Financial Post, Macleans and Chatelaine magazine. He bought three adjoining farms and kept them as a vacation property until his death in 1950. The log home (1845), barn (1856), stone house (1864), and schoolhouse (1874) are all still in use today.
Anyone wanting to contribute can visit the website crieffhills.com/donate. Tax receipts are offered for donations over $20.