New Zealand's first ever Curtain Bank celebrating 26 years
In 1995 our fledgling charity started an innovative project that hadn’t been seen in New Zealand before: A curtain recycling service resized and gave away donated curtains to low income households so they could keep their homes warmer. What started with a modest 150 curtains sets grew exponentially and now, twenty six years later, we are helping hundreds of households each year with close to a thousand sets on the shelves to choose from.
Rising housing costs have not been kind to low income New Zealand. We regularly hear about families not turning the heating on for fear of an unaffordable power bill at the end of the month especially in winter. And as double glazing is prohibitively expensive for many, curtains become an essential tool to keep the warmth from disappearing out the window. But even good quality curtains are out of reach financially for low income households. And that is where the Curtain Bank has filled a void. Good curtains that are thick, double-layered and generously fitting can play a key role in making homes significantly warmer.
Since 2010 our Curtain Bank has helped more than 6,000 families with curtains. That is an estimated 16,000 people having warmer homes. And we can only guess how many cubic metres of fabric that has saved going to landfill; it will definitely be many truckloads. In fact the project has been such a success that the concept has been replicated all over New Zealand with more than ten other Curtain Banks set up since we started our Curtain Bank.
In 1995 the Curtain Bank started with an EECA grant. These days the Curtain Bank is supported by some very loyal and generous sponsors, including Genesis Energy, Lotteries and the Christchurch Casino. But CEA itself also contributes to the running of the Curtain Bank.
We have more than enough curtains to give away. However, increasing storage and staff costs means CEA plugs a financial hole year after year. We are still giving curtains away for free but we ask people to give donations where possible to keep the service running.
In 2020 we were meant to celebrate 25 years of the Curtain Bank but due to the lockdown our Curtain Bank staff were instead working to clear a substantial backlog for most of the year. So this year we are very modestly celebrating 26 years of the Curtain Bank. Although we are not sure whether we want to call it a ‘celebration’ that this service is still so desperately needed in the community. We do know from the hundreds of letters of appreciation and thanks that we are making a difference and we will continue to do so as long as this service is needed.