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Lawman takes helm of Haven Appeal push; Highland centre will help young people with severe learning difficulties

By Staff Reporter

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A HIGHLAND sheriff has taken over the helm of an appeal to develop Scotland’s first multi-purpose centre for children and young people with severe learning disabilities.

David Sutherland is the new chairman of the Haven Appeal which aims to raise £4 million to develop a
pioneering centre offering a unique resource for the Highlands.

He succeeds Andy Grzesinski, who has stepped down for personal reasons after six years as a trustee. The total raised so far stands at £1.3 million.

While he spends his days dispensing justice in the courts at Inverness and Stornoway and is also a director of the Highland Society for the Blind, the married father-of-fouris keen to turn the vision of a vibrant hub into a reality.

He said he was humbled by the drive and vision of appeal founder Elsie Normington who first asked him to become a trustee.

. Elsie Normington: Vision.
. Elsie Normington: Vision.

She set up the foundation after launching her book The Silent Doorbell, which recounts the story of bringing up her son Andrew, who has a learning disability.

Mr Sutherland said: “I must say I have been so impressed by what Elsie Normington has done – not just her vision but the way she has gone about it. She is a combination of enthusiasm and realism.

“She really is quite an exceptional lady who has brought together a team of individuals who have picked up her enthusiasm to deliver this centre. She is inspirational and quite humbling.”

The Haven Centrewill transform the derelict site once occupied by the Culloden Court Nursing Home until it was destroyed by a fire in 2010. It will comprise respite flats, indoor and outdoor play areas, a community-run café and garden and meeting rooms. Mr Sutherland added: “One thing I want to do, while continuing the endeavour to attract larger funders, is to maintain the increasing participation of the local community.

“I think that is so important in terms of fundraising but also in how the local community views this establishment – this is going to be in the community for the benefit of some of the most disadvantaged people in our community.

“Local people taking ownership of something like this really makes such a difference.”

Although there is still some way to go, he maintains the Haven Centre will be delivered as people identify with the cause.

He said: “People can appreciate just how fortunate they are and how people who are less privileged than themselves need our help.

“If we have our health, it is something we should be so grateful for. We take so much for granted.”

The project is keen to extend interest in its efforts beyond Inverness. Ross-shire woman Rona Matheson recently took on a new role with the group in its awareness-raising drive.

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