Let me introduce you to some of our Highland BlindCraft Heroes. Find out a little about the team and learn how skilled they all are in their work, here at Highland BlindCraft. I’m not the ‘newbie’ anymore by the way; it’s Heather, our new Executive Manager.
My most excellent skill is snoozing, and looking exceptionally handsome, in my very smart pyjamas. But you probably guessed that – right? See you soon.
Highland BlindCraft makes high-quality beds, but that’s not all it does. It’s all about making people feel involved, valued and cared for. As a charity and a business, the employees’ wellbeing is at the very heart of the charities philosophy and practice. The workforce could almost be described as a family – a close family looking out for one another and supporting each other in their individual development and quality of life expectations. Highland BlindCraft is committed to lifelong learning and improving the quality of life for all the people they are responsible for. It’s not all about making beds; it’s so much more.
So, meet some of the heroes of Highland BlindCraft and hear their stories – in some instances, life long support and encouragement from a world-class charity with people at the heart of everything we do.
Meet Heather McDonald
Heather joined the team at Highland BlindCraft in May 2021 as our new Executive Manager. She has many years of management experience, having founded, and managed her own company for 6 years. Before that, Heather worked in finance and virology, equipping her with multiple levels of management knowledge and experience.
Heather was born in Alaska and has travelled extensively but has lived in Scotland for almost 15 years. She has two sons who Heather jokingly calls ‘Scamericans’, Scottish-Americans. In her spare time, Heather enjoys hillwalking and hiking.
Heather is the person to contact if you would like to support the charity, so please don’t be shy – get in contact with Heather and see how you can help Highland BlindCraft keep doing superb work.
Evan started working at Highland BlindCraft in July 1977, when he was 21 years of age. He had attended the Blind School in Edinburgh and then was unemployed for three years before joining the team of mattress makers in Highland BlindCraft. He feels he is one of the lucky ones that managed to get a job, and one that he has been able to remain in for the last 43 years! The difference the job makes to his life is vast as it gives him the opportunity to get out of the house, have something purposeful to do and he enjoys the chat with all his colleagues. He also likes riding Tandem bikes and listening to music in his spare time.
Paul came to Highland BlindCraft in December 2006 on a 2- week work trial which got extended to 4 weeks and then he was offered a full-time job by the factory manager as he was doing so well. He works in the mattress shop mainly on the tape-edge machine, but he has been known to make a mattress from start to finish all by himself – and he can turn his hand to lots of other jobs within the factory. When Paul started, he could not read due to being dyslexic but with years of training carried out in the workplace, he can now read. This has helped him greatly both at work but also at home as he can read those dreaded bills, but can also do his shopping online. In his spare time, he loves to make things like wooden model boats, he also carries out lots of DIY projects at home.
Say hello to Jamie
Jamie started at Highland BlindCraft after leaving school at 16. He is visually impaired and when he joined us, he was not confident going to places or talking with people he did not know. He now travels all over the Highlands and further afield in the delivery van, loving all the remote areas and also the busier cities. He has gained in confidence so much that he is happy talking with customers and making sure they are pleased with their delivery form Highland BlindCraft. He has also learned how to help in the base shop making divan bases.
Christabel started her working life through a youth opportunity scheme with the Western Isle Council working on the switchboard. She wanted to get a permanent job so after meeting with a representative from the Inverness Job centre, she heard of a vacancy at Highland BlindCraft. She took the massive step of moving from the Western Isles to Inverness and stayed at the YWCA. She started in the sewing room, where she still spends most of her working week, but she can also help with making Mattresses and Divan Bases. The thought of making this move when you are only 19 but also with a disability was a daunting step but one that worked out well as she went on to meet her husband and has made her home in Inverness with her two girls. Not only do we have the pleasure of Christabel at work we also have Jade who comes in every day, a lovely black Labrador guide dog who travels everywhere with Christabel.
Allan was born and lived in Morar near Mallaig on the West Coast. He had worked with a social worker from Fort William and went to Preston for a short while to try to find a job after leaving school, with no formal qualifications, but ended back in the small village of Morar.
At the age of 17, he was sent away to Inverness to live in the Red Cross house which housed people with a disability and he learned lots of life skills which were invaluable when he finally got his own flat. They also helped them to find employment, and in the next 10 years he did lots of different odd jobs like gardening, shop work, woodwork, working in stores, and he completed some of the jobcentre schemes.
In Jan 1991 Allan was offered a job at Highland BlindCraft as a cleaner. Since then he has done various jobs in the factory including going out on the van delivering beds and working in the stores, but now he spends his time making mattresses and Bases. Allan loves taking photographs and when he was last in Morar he took these great pictures of the beach and the sunset.
Kirsty is our newest team member of the Highland BlindCraft family – she starting working with us in February 2020 after spending some time looking for a job that suited/accommodated her chronic health conditions and being unable to work long hours because of her various health issues.
At 16 Kirsty developed type-1 diabetes which affected her school work, making it difficult to achieve the grades she wanted for university – on top of all that, Kirsty has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome which affects her mobility making it unfeasible for her to work long hours without pain. But Kirsty is very brave and just gets on with it.
Working at Highland BlindCraft gives Kirsty the opportunity to develop her skills in a flexible and relaxed employment manner. As our social media marketing assistant, she runs our social media platforms and writes our blogs for our website. In her spare time, Kirsty enjoys reading, photography and watching movies.
When Geoff left school, he trained to be a fabricator welder and ended up working all over the UK earning good money. He bought himself a cottage in his hometown of Cannich and was enjoying life. Unfortunately, when Geoff was 26, he had a very bad motorbike accident which resulted in him being in hospital for several months – followed by some time at home. The accident left Geoff with some short-term memory issues and slight problems with his mobility.
Geoff came to Highland BlindCraft in 1995, and during that time, he has learned many skills and jobs but now he is the team member who makes most of our headboards. He can make these to any size, shape and cover them in almost any fabric to suit the customer. While being at the factory, Geoff has had some training on how to improve his short-term memory, but still, he prefers his ‘little black book’ where he writes down all his important information. By having a job at Highland BlindCraft, Geoff has been able to continue to live independently in his cottage.
When Geoff isn’t at work, he enjoys the odd pint of lager, but he is also very involved with his local community – helping with artwork for parties at the hall or helping keep the village tidy by collecting litter. Keep up the excellent work, Geoff.
Thomas joined Highland BlindCraft in 2016 to work in the Base shop and has learned how to make all our different base product options over the years. He can make our fabulous storage beds, insert drawers at the customer’s request and can make our great mobility beds – which are very popular.
Before joining us, Thomas worked in a sawmill at Boat of Garten, but he found this work too physical due to a previous medical condition which resulted in him having a below the knee leg amputation.
Thomas lives in Granton on Spey but is happy to tackle the long drive for work, as he enjoys the banter with his colleagues here at Highland BlindCraft.
Thomas is a passionate football fan and (before the restrictions on supporters at grounds) he would attend as many matches as possible to support his team. To keep himself fit, he has taken up boxing which he is really enjoying. He is also a proud dad to a two-year-old who keeps him very busy when he is not at work!