Starting out

Janice got the Hawke’s Bay curtain bank up and running in 2008 after a need was identified by the District Health Board and a company called Energy Options, whose main focus was insulation. Curtains are an expensive but important furnishing for keeping homes warm and keeping out the winter chill.

“There were a lot of children entering hospital with asthma and respiratory illness. The curtain bank aimed to get them out of the hospital, not in it.

“We got referrals from agencies like Age Concern, and from family centres. Then – and it happened quite quickly – Energy Options was sold. We knew we had to keep going, even though we were living on the bare bones.”

Helping people in need

As Janice was involved with New Zealand Red Cross at the time, she asked if the curtain bank could be taken on as project. This was three years ago. Today,  Red Cross is heavily involved in the curtain bank, and with a team of volunteers, industrial sewing machines and an industrial overlocker, Janice says “we’re flat tack!”

Although the curtain bank team don’t always directly meet the people they’re sewing for, Janice recalls one memorable instance when a woman came to collect her curtains, after losing everything in a house fire.

“She had nowhere to go, and she had seven children. She finally got another house for rent and there was nothing in it. She’d heard about us from a friend. When she came and collected the curtains, she burst into tears.”

Through a contract with the District Health Board, volunteers aim to sew as many curtains as possible, to help make homes healthy. Local Hawke’s Bay suppliers have pitched in to help, giving ends of rolls of fabric and the industrial sewing machines.

“From Wairoa to Takapau, we generally produce curtains for around 150 to 200 houses a year. We’ve had 926 referrals over eightyears,” Janice says, proud of her team’s efforts.

Who can access curtain banks?

People need to be referred through agencies, who identify individuals or families with a need for curtains.

Curtains have been sewn for people with community service cards, renters, private home owners, Housing New Zealand clients and for marae.

Red Cross curtain banks are available in Hawke’s Bay, Palmerston North, Gisborne, Tauranga and Eastern Bay of Plenty – contact your local service centre for details.