The battle is won, but there's still a war to win for Leuchie
Leuchie House was marked for closure in 2010 but was saved following a prolonged public campaign.
Some clients enjoy playing Scrabble in the lounge at Leuchie.
Campaigners load up East Lothian MSP Iain Gray with petitions against the closure in 2010.
ONE year ago this month, hundreds of people across the UK breathed a huge sigh of relief.
While such collective happiness is usually the result of a national event such as a sporting triumph or a scorching heat-wave, this delight was much more personal.
It was joy at the saving of Leuchie House, near North Berwick -
a charity-run health service that was described as a "lifeline" to those who used it.
The future of Leuchie - which provided the only multiple sclerosis
respite care in Scotland and northern England - was threatened in June 2010 when the MS Society, which had run the facility since 1998, decided to withdraw from the centre.
The decision provoked outrage among users and communities across northern Britain and, following a length campaign that reached the debating chamber of the Scottish Parliament, an independent charity was set up to keep the much-loved facility open.
Last week, staff and guests at Leuchie marked the anniversary of the charity's founding with a small celebration.
Though last year's charity launch marked a brave new dawn for Leuchie House, the fight has just begun, as its chief executive Mairi O'Keefe explained.
"We've won the battle but we've got a war to win," she told the Courier.
"We want to get our service back to where it was - being a centre of excellence with top grades.
"It's the sustainability of Leuchie that's the challenge now - if we don't make it sustainable, it will close.
"We need everybody's support. Once we are over the next few years, we will be fine, but it's just now that it's extremely delicate financially."
Walking into the scenic surroundings of Leuchie today is like walking into a normal family home. . . though a grand one at that!
Guests at the facility are spread throughout the ground floor - from the large dining room to the even larger lounges where they will gather to chat, enjoy some quiet time or sample the regular entertainment put on at Leuchie.
Elsewhere, staff are busy going about their business - with administrative jobs like marketing and manning reception, to serving clients breakfast.
Upstairs are the 23 bedrooms, while the basement is home to a corridor of modern rooms for physiotherapy, exercise, massage, beauty therapy and even hairdressing.
All of this is leased to the charity by house owner Sir Hew Hamilton-Dalrymple for just £1 per year. But there are other costs on top of that - costs which totalled about £1.3 million in the last year.
The charity raised £700,000 during that same time, and that is where the "delicate" financial situation arises.
East Lothian Council also approved an aid package of £500,000 last May, which trustees can "draw down" from at their discretion over the next three years.
That is not to say that Leuchie House's role in the local and wider community is dwindling.
Leuchie House is an important player in the East Lothian economy; of the facility's 71 staff, 92 per cent live in East Lothian.
The charity has also increased the number of 18 to 24-year-olds it is employing, as well as its volunteer base.
But it is also a much-needed national resource which sees visitors from the outer Hebrides, Shetland, York, and - this summer - one from Geneva, Switzerland.
The centre accepts couples who want a break together, and people with any manner of long-term conditions.
"It is the family of Leuchie - it's a real family feel," said Mairi.
"I can provide staff that are really well trained, and they have a good attitude, but the real [benefit] of Leuchie is what the guests get from each other.
"They phone each other up when they get home, they come back together - lasting friendships and support mechanisms are made at Leuchie."
Jackie Paterson, 51, from Alloa - who has MS - times her visits to Leuchie to coincide with those of 64-year-old Jane Campbell, from Glasgow, while she has also forged a friendship with Anne Thomson, 59, from Aberdeenshire.
Jackie - on her sixth Leuchie visit - said: "I think that it's nice to be able to just go away from all your daily cares and everything that happens in the home, come here and not have to think about doing anything.
"In your general life, people don't really understand what MS is.
"When you come here, everybody is in the same boat - it's like an instant connection with everybody."
Said Anne: "This place is a lifeline.
"You know you'll be well cared-for, the food is beautiful, as are the people and the guests.
"Where would I have gone if this place had gone?"
The alternative would have been nursing homes - where, Jackie says, "very few places even have a respite bed" and "you are very limited with where you can go".
While for Jane, Leuchie provides a freedom she may not get elsewhere.
"Leuchie means to me that I can leave the house, shut the door, and come in here and be away from all the daily routine of home," she explained.
"I don't think you would get a better service if you were staying in a five-star hotel."
The challenge of keeping Leuchie House open is still very apparent - not least for those who depend on it.
But the charity is moving forward: it has linked with Edinburgh's Caledonian Hotel - with a large delivery of luxury furniture from the hotel expected at Leuchie in the coming weeks - and other partnerships with the Hamilton-Dalrymple family, Queen Margaret University and East Coast FM continue to flourish.
Leuchie House has also been supported by the likes of the Scottish Government, East Lothian Council, and various trust funds and benefactors, as it launches its own outreach home-visiting service, and training for carers.
"We are looking forward to developing for the future and for us to be a centre of excellence again, providing short breaks which are innovative and flexible," Mairi added.
"We want to develop a country house ambience - a special one looking after people with long-term conditions with 24-hour nursing care.
"It's fantastic to be independent - but the transition is very painful."
Mr Hamilton-Dalrymple paid tribute to the charity's first year. He said: "It's quite remarkable, because they had to start really from absolute scratch.
"The house is full and it is wonderful to see it up and going again and doing such splendid work. They've got off to a wonderful start."
Charity chair Sir David Tweedie added: "Leuchie was saved by the generosity of Sir Hew, his family, many donors and local institutions.
"Above all it was rescued by the fierce determination of Mairi and her exceptional, caring staff.
"We're not out of the woods yet and funding remains an issue but Leuchie has made a great start."
This article appeared in East Lothian Courier 13 Jul 12