Pulling the curtains closed each night is a simple task most of us take for granted. But not everyone has the luxury of thermal-lined curtains to keep their homes warm and dry.
In fact, a shocking number of Rotorua homes have no curtains whatsoever, and for those who live in a caravan or garage, it’s another thing to add to their long list of priorities.
That’s where Rotorua’s Curtainbank steps in.
This charitable organisation refurbishes second-hand curtains donated by the public. Rips are repaired, stains or mould are removed, thermal linings are sewn on and they are professionally cleaned before being given to a local family in need.
“It’s all about insulation and warmth,” explains Curtainbank Trustee Heather McKechnie. “It’s a cool climate here in winter and there are lots of bronchial and respiratory diseases, especially among our children and elderly residents. Having curtains up helps prevent damp occurring, reduces heating costs and improves people’s health.”
Curtainbank began operating in Rotorua in 2009 as part of a Government drive towards more energy efficient homes. But when the local contract for services changed hands several years later, the Curtainbank was disbanded – much to the dismay of passionate volunteers.
Two years ago the organisation was re-launched by four local women (Heather along with Betty Bayley, Judy Gregor and Crystaline Bennett), and is now a registered charity in its own right.
About 10 houses are fitted with refurbished curtains each week, and no window is left untouched.
“We’re interested in the whole house. People are vulnerable and shy about asking for what they need but we want to do every single window in the house including any glass doors.”
Curtainbank is now part of the Western Heights Healthy Homes Service Development Group. Other members, as well as local medical providers, Plunket nurses and home insulators, refer residents to Curtainbank if there’s an apparent need. People simply need to take their window measurements and refurbished curtains will be supplied.
Supporting Locals In Need
The reasons for having no curtains in the first place might vary from being unable to afford them, to landlords not wanting curtain rails installed in case walls are damaged.
“We often go into bat for tenants,” Heather says. “There’s such a housing shortage here that people are often frightened of challenging their landlords so we can talk on their behalf.”
Curtainbank is now based at a new community hub at Te Arawa Racecourse. Hundreds of pairs are stored on site, ready for new clients to choose what colour and fabric they’d like.
“We try very hard to give them colours that will appeal to them. People are so grateful and so happy when they come and see how much there is to choose from.”
Demand has been so high of late that Heather has resorted to using a large box of thermal and calico off-cuts to line curtains because money for new material had run out.
Thankfully, BayTrust has granted $6890 towards operating costs which will help pay for Curtainbank’s rent and new supplies in the coming months.
“I’ve been working with a large box of off-cuts and patching together linings as best I could because we had run out of money to buy new bolts of fabric. Thermal linings and calico are quite expensive so this money has just absolutely blown me away. I can’t wait to go shopping for new supplies!”
Heather says most people don’t realise the level of need in the Rotorua community and new donations of curtains are always appreciated. Curtains can be dropped off at the racecourse, at the Ngongotaha Op Shop, and at the Mokoia Community Association in Vaughan Rd, Owhata.